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.