Google gives Web developers a leg up with App Engine

Looks to make it easier for more people to get started developing, and to scale their apps.

Google is giving 10,000 developers the chance to create and run their Web applications on its infrastructure with the launch Tuesday of a preview release of Google App Engine.

"The goal is to make it easy to get started with a new Web app, and then make it easy to scale when that app reaches the point where it's receiving significant traffic and has millions of users," said Google product manager, Paul McDonald in a blog post.

"Google App Engine gives you access to the same building blocks that Google uses for its own applications, making it easier to build an application that runs reliably, even under heavy load and with large amounts of data."

The preview is available for the first 10,000 developers who sign up, with plans to increase that number in near future. It is open to developers from around the globe, and the preview release, at present, is just in English.

In the preview phase, "applications are limited to 500MB of storage, 200M megacycles of CPU per day, and 10GB bandwidth per day", said McDonald.

He said the development environment includes features such as dynamic Web serving that supports common web technologies; persistent storage (powered by Bigtable and GFS); automatic scaling and load balancing; Google APIs for authenticating users and sending email; and fully featured local development environment.

Page Break

Early review of Google's App Engine were mostly favorable. Mark Hopkins, a blogger at Mashable, noted after working with the system that it has the promise of being "game-changing" in the cloud computing business. He did note, however, that the offering does have some weaknesses, though he predicted that they won't keep it from quickly becoming a major player in cloud computing.

First, he noted that the Google App Engine requires developers to use Python as the development environment, which some will not know. Hopkins added that the platform is different from Amazon.com's Elastic Compute cloud offering in that Amazon provides developers with an "a la carte" menu of choices of what to put in the cloud, such as a database, code or videos.

The Google App Engine, however, is designed to completely house a developer's service and to easily integrate with Google services. In addition, the App Engine requires a Google Account for users to access an application.

But, he predicted that the service is likely to be reliable because Google is known for being nearly immune to widespread outages.

"Who's the big winner here? Google, hands down," he added. "Unlike the Amazon cloud, developers don't appear to be asked to pay anything to host their apps here, but the trade-off is that all your users are going to need a Google Account to use your application."

Phillip Lenssen, a blogger at Google Blogoscoped, added that Google might also have an eye on standardizing Web applications in their favor in the future with the App Engine.

"Using the App Engine, it's only a small step to use the integrated libraries to switch to a Google Account for authentication for your site," he noted. "And the more sites make use of the Google Account, the more powerful that account will become. Maybe in future releases of the App Engine, using other services by Google - like their advertising framework - will also be made temptingly easy. Instead of just being one of the Web's most successful players, perhaps Google continues trying to manufacture the board game itself."

For access to the preview, developers need to sign up here.

(Heather Havenstein contributed to this report.)