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Google's new App Engine aims for the cloud

It wants developers to run their Web applications on Google's infrastructure

By Heather Havenstein
April 8, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Google Inc. launched a preview release of its new Google App Engine yesterday, touting it as a way for developers to run their Web applications on Google's infrastructure.

Google App Engine is aimed at giving developers access to the same building blocks that Google uses for its own applications, thus making it easier for developers to build an application that runs reliably, even under heavy loads and large amounts of data, Google said.

The App Engine development environment will include dynamic Web serving, persistent storage, automatic scaling and load balancing, Google APIs for authenticating users and sending e-mail, and a full-featured local development environment, according to Google.

"In the same way that Blogger made it easy to create a blog, Google App Engine is designed from the ground up to make it easy to create and run Web applications," said Kevin Gibbs, technical lead for Google App Engine in a blog post. "Google App Engine packages those building blocks and provides access to scalable infrastructure that we hope will make it easier for developers to scale their applications automatically as they grow. This means they can spend less time dealing with system administration and maintenance, and more time building and improving their applications."

Every Google App Engine application will have up to 500MB of persistent storage and enough CPU bandwidth for about 5 million page views a month, Google said. In the future, developers will be able to purchase additional computing resources as needed, Google added. The preview version is available for free to the first 10,000 developers who sign up.

Early reviews of Google's App Engine were mostly favorable. Mark Hopkins, a blogger at Mashable who has used the system, noted that it has the promise of being "game-changing" in the cloud computing business. He did note, however, that the offering has 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 Inc.'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 users to have a Google account in order 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.

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