Google App Engine: Launching a startup gets even easier

This is pretty cool. Google launched App Engine, which lets you write code for a web application, then Google takes care of the scaling/failover/logistics-type issues. You can store your data in a Google Bigtable using the Google File System (GFS). There’s a bunch of App Engine APIs to simplify things like sending email and fetching urls. Your application can authenticate users that are using Google Accounts, so you can avoid the whole “ask your users to create a new account” issue if you want.

The official blog post makes it clear that this is a preview release, so Google will be adding more functionality over time but they’re opening the program up now to start to allow real-world applications and to get real-world feedback. The first 10,000 developers to sign up get to play with it now.

My favorite part is that the usage model looks pretty solid:

During this preview period, applications are limited to 500MB of storage, 200M megacycles of CPU per day, and 10GB bandwidth per day. We expect most applications will be able to serve around 5 million pageviews per month. In the future, these limited quotas will remain free, and developers will be able to purchase additional resources as needed.

I checked out my pageview stats for the first three months of the year. If you subtract out a couple posts that got hit by digg, I’m running at about 500,000 pageviews a month. So you can scale your web app up to be ten times more popular than my blog (which is relatively well-trafficked) before you’d be looking at paying for storage/CPU/bandwidth. By then, you’d know that your start-up idea was on to a good thing.

At this point, you might want to consider going to Google I/O, which is Google’s two-day developer event on May 28-29. If you’re a student or teacher it’s only $50 and there’s a bunch of different subjects on the agenda. Check out some of these sessions:
- Painless Python for Programmers
- Building Scalable Web Applications with Google App Engine
- HTML5, Brought to You by Gears (taught by Aaron Boodman of Greasemonkey fame)
- OpenSocial, OpenID, and OAuth: Oh, My!
- Building an Android Application 101
- Hands-On Maps API: Basic & Advanced

I believe that App Engine will make launching a startup easier than ever. At this point, you could build up a pretty killer startup incorporating technologies as simple as Gmail or as powerful as App Engine.

23 Responses to Google App Engine: Launching a startup gets even easier (Leave a comment)

  1. And for your regular users (non-developers) you should mention that they can play around with applications built with GAE at http://appgallery.appspot.com/

  2. Manuel Lemos

    This project could have potential interest as an alternative to Amazon S3, but I suspect that will not gain significant traction until popular Web programming languages like PHP and Java are supported.

    If you think just about PHP it is very cheap to get PHP shared hosting that does not have Google App Engine restrictions. For instance, in PHP shared hosting you can always have access to MySQL databases and be able to write to files under your user account directory.

    If you want to get better infrastructure Amazon EC2 servers get you a Linux Virtual Dedicated Server with full root access for less than $70/month. There are even cheaper VDS solutions but not under Amazon infrastructure. I wonder how much cheaper Google will be able to provide similar level of application hosting services in a market that seems Google is arriving a bit late?

  3. Looks like the first 10,000 spots were taken up within a couple hours :-)

  4. You say that a website can scale up to 10 times your blog equivalency before needing to pay.

    While I like the core idea – the comment is probably not true for most website start-ups.

    I am presuming that you use a caching plug-in for your blog so that hits to the database etc are minimised. However, the latest web 2.0 style sites tend to be database heavy – and as there is a “200M megacycles of CPU per day” limit, you might find that the scalability isn’t quite as clear cut.

    To be honest, 200M megacycles of CPU per day sounds like a lot anyway – and as I am plotting a new startup at the moment, I shall watch this development with interest.

    It’ll be nice to see if they offer a method of averaging the traffic load over a period of time so that sites can absorb huge traffic spikes without falling over due to a daily limit – which for me is the biggest advantage of cloud style hosting.

  5. It’s a good idea for first time developers or others who don’t mind putting all their eggs in the Google basket. Personally I’d be hesitant to use this for fear of how Google could use the combination of ALL this data.

    By the way Matt, you might find the link in the URI field interesting. It’s about the Huddlechat demo app.

  6. so if the start up takes offf how easy is it to port to your own hardware /software.

    Looks interesting how are you handeling security issues (in particular CC data) as anything serious developed in this is going to need integration to payment systems.

    isnt there a risk of locking into google abit like when people used to rent evrey thing from IBM.

  7. After just coming back from a trip visiting some Y Combinator startups (like Disqus and Clickpass), here are my thoughts on what companies like these will be able to do based on GAE:
    http://humani.st/how-google-app-engine-affects-startups/

    I really think GAE could completely change the way the web startup industry works. And change it for the better, for both Google and the startups. This is an exciting announcement.

  8. TechCrunch and Scoble attempted to guess the announcement yesterday.

    This took all the bloggers by surprise.

    How was it decided WHO got invited.

    Many high profile Bloggers were not. It was for Developers, but HOW where they selected?

  9. Matt -

    What does this, from the TOS, mean:
    =====
    By submitting, posting or displaying the Content on or through the Service you give Google a worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such Content for the sole purpose of enabling Google to provide you with the Service in accordance with its privacy policy. Furthermore, by creating an Application through use of the Service, you give Google a worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such Application for the sole purpose of enabling Google to provide you with the Service in accordance with its privacy policy.
    ======

    -OT

  10. Sam Daams, I’ll pass that feedback about HuddleChat on. I suspect that folks were more trying to give the App Engine a workout and see what it could do than to cause any issues. About your comment, remember that you’re writing Python, so you could take your code and go elsewhere. The main reason you’d want to use Google is if you wanted to build off of some of the APIs for logistical stuff that was less fun — that would let you concentrate more on your core area. But my guess is that you could write abstractions for anything that you used on Google so that if you wanted to go independent later, you could.

    Oliver Taco, I’m not a lawyer but I don’t think it means anything serious. It sounds like you’re give Google a license to run the application so that Google can provide you with the service that you wrote. I don’t think there’s anything untoward there.

    * Miss Universe, I’m not sure how they selected who to invite to the Campfire, but my guess is that they asked several folks who are already known as developers.

    Hart, I think they’re going to keep adding more developers over time, so I’d just sign up now and then people will get notified when they can start playing.

  11. I think I need to report this as a sponsored posts anybody have that URL ;-)

  12. graywolf, I was getting excited about it so I decided to write it up. No need to be cynical. :)

  13. Hmmm

    @Oliver Taco & Matt

    Interestingly, Gizmodo (http://gizmodo.com/376396/adobe-relinquishes-ownership-of-photos-uploaded-to-photoshop-express) and Mashable (http://mashable.com/2008/04/05/photoshop-express-eula-revised/) just reported about a similar EULA from Adobe’s Photoshop Express, and how it was just changed.

    Adobe was recently forced to change/clarify the TOS, to make it a little less harsh on their users. I expect Google will have to make similar changes to the language. Google’s current TOS is worded almost identically to the former Adobe one (reproduced in the Mashable article).

    The lawyers who write these TOS’s aren’t exactly Techie people, so they’re only looking at it as simply a CMA (cover my a**) issue. ;-)

    Once the dust settles, and more folks take a harder look at the TOS, Google will probably take a more appropriate stance on the IP rights — just like Adobe did.

  14. Hmmm, it seems like there’s a long history of people asking about “If I post my content here, does company X own my content” TOS issues like that and there not being a negative intent there by company X. Normally company X is just trying to make sure that they’re legally covered. Oliver Taco, the person who originally asked about this, also asked about the Google Docs TOS a couple months ago: http://promote-my-site.com/index.php/141-Google-Docs-Perfectly-Horrible.html and that didn’t get much traction. To my (untrained, not a lawyer’s) eyes, you’re giving Google enough rights to your doc/code so that Google can provide the service you requested. I don’t think there’s any untoward intent.

  15. Hmmm

    “TOS issues like that and there not being a negative intent there by company X. Normally company X is just trying to make sure that they’re legally covered.”

    Ya, that’s kinda what I expect from the lawyers. ;-)

    I seriously doubt that Google (or any company with a similar web service) would use anything in an ill intended way. If they did, it would simply be suicide for the business, as everyone would cancel their accounts ASAP and migrate everything elsewhere.

    Adobe’s changes to their EULA included a more simplified TOS, which boiled down to a line where the user grants them the right to manipulate data in mission critical ways — only so far as is required for the App to function properly.

    I’d expect the same from most any App — Cloud-based, or otherwise. :-)
    But worth addressing — for peace of mind reasons.

    Cheers! And I’m looking forward to getting my hands dirty with some Engine work soon. :-D

  16. This is a wonderful idea…. unfortunately I not out of first 10,000 developers so waiting for my turn !!

  17. >No need to be cynical

    You new round these parts? ;-)

  18. matt, interesting offer and well positioned against that S3. nonetheless very limited, I second Manuel Lemos: give us PHP and MySQL clusters in the back.
    Your blog “I’m running at about 500,000 pageviews a month” is just text. We have around 120k pageviews a day, but our customers also host videos or PDFs of 60+ MB on our site. I doubt that the pricing will satisfy a bandwidth hungry bumb like me :-). I would love to move to such a service, but if you really pump 50 MBit/s constantly !?… I have not seen a platform to give all our business to. I would love to see the mantra “the network is the computer” come to reality finally, but I guess Google needs 2 more years to get that AppEngine as flexible as a self-managed server cluster…. just 2 cents

  19. Matt, from a birds eye view you are basically paying out for people to store their information and run their apps with you.

    In an extreme success case this would centralize the Web information and processing through Google.

    My guess is that Google will Soviet-ize very quickly. I’m rather skeptical of what you’re up to. Do you really think this will work? Does it even make sense financially?

    Technically though, pretty cool initiative, will study it and see what I can learn from it.

    Regards, Ze

  20. Matt, when I say “Sovietize” I mean “go too big centralized to administer”, not some evil empire ok? Just to clear that up. I am a big Google fan and use every single product you put out.

    I wish Gears was more widespread already, I could really really benefit from my customers having it installed, making favorites lists, client-stored stuff much more useful….

    So, just to clear that one comment up. Wrote it in a hurry and I guess it could be interpreted wrongly.

  21. jack

    Any idea when the unlucky masses who didn’t make it into the first 10,000 users will get a shot at using app engine. I’m really itching to give it a shot.

  22. Its still so rare ppl that knows PHP actually can be run on App Engine. Just take a look to http://php-apps.appspot.com/ for a tutorial. Serving up to 5000 visitors per day isnt that bad with free service and as we know, there is a quarantee: more you pay, more you can scale.

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