SmoothSpan Blog

For Executives, Entrepreneurs, and other Digerati who need to know about SaaS and Web 2.0.

Early Analysis of Other’s Reactions to App Engine

Posted by Bob Warfield on April 8, 2008

Mike Arrington:

What this all means: Google App Engine is designed for developers who want to run their entire application stack, soup to nuts, on Google resources. Amazon, by contrast, offers more of an a la carte offering with which developers can pick and choose what resources they want to use.

You want all of these components in the same cloud, else the connect charges can be painful.  This is true of Amazon also–connect between their services is free, data moving in and out is not.  Folks tell me Amazon’s charges for bandwidth are pretty high.  Aside from the costs, the latency and performance issues of trying to put part of your infrastructure in one cloud and the rest in another is prohibitive.  The scenario only works if the second cloud is used for second-class citizen purposes.  It is popular, for example, to use S3 as a backup service.  You can of course still do this with Google, you simply write a Python script to front-end that service.  I score this advantage Google.

Mathew Ingram:

Mathew focuses on whether Google is a competitor or just a knock-off, meaning have they innovated or just copied Amazon?  He writes:

Aaron Brazell of Technosailor — former technology guru for b5media — says the Google announcement is “much to do about nothing.” Among other things, Aaron says that Python, the only programming language that Google’s service currently supports, is not trivial to learn or to implement (several commenters on the TechCrunch post also seemed to think that restricting it to Python was a big negative as well). Aaron’s other beef with Google’s initiative is that it seems like an “Amazon S3 me-too” kind of product. “There is no innovation here,” he says.

Okay guys, this is a tech announcement, so you have to be a tech to get what’s going on.  First, Python is way more approachable than Amazon’s stuff which is just raw virtual machines and storage with API’s.   Google really is innovating by moving a whole level up in the stack in what they offer.  Suppose you wanted to run Python on Amazon to get something similar.  There’d be a whole bunch of work you’d have to do before you could even get started.  Trust me, this is no simple knock-off of Amazon. 

The business about people complaining about Python should also be ignored.  If you’re not a Python guy, of course you’re complaining!  But it doesn’t take Google very many languages before there are few complainers left.  Add Ruby on Rails and PHP, for example, and most of the Web 2.0 world is now in your camp.  Add Java and what’s really left?  Microsoft will be more isolated than ever on their .NET platform.

Stacey Higginbotham at GigaOm:

Stacey writes:

Google, with its new Application Engine product, has taken aim squarely at the web services market — and companies from to Bungee Labs should be running scared.

Right on Stacey!  Interesting you mention Bungee Labs.  I have been classing them in a world I call “MS Access in the Cloud.”  Coghead and a whole bunch of others are in that same spot.  Their primary advantage will lie in their ability to make it much easier to create apps in their proprietary languages than in Python or the other more public languages Google will likely wind up supporting.  I think it will be hard.  Back in the era of these kind of languages when we had things like dBase and Paradox, what really killed the market wasn’t Access, it was things like Visual Basic.  Tools like Python, Ruby on Rails, and PHP have gotten pretty darned easy. 

Stacey goes on to wonder what this does to Google’s margins:

He’s right, but it will come at a cost to Google in terms of its margins. Providing that kind of infrastructure isn’t free. It also will have a ways to go before it can compete with the 330,000 developers Amazon says are using its Web Services as of January.

Yep, this is exactly why the service isn’t free forever.  It’s free if you’re small and not using many resources.  It costs if you build something a lot of people actually want to use.  Google knows more about delivering apps cheaply from the cloud than any other company on the planet, Amazon included.  They’re at a level where they build their own switches (no need for Cisco and Juniper), their own compute nodes (no thanks HP and Dell), and their own TCP/IP stack software.  Shave a few cycles on the TCP/IP stack and it goes directly to their bottom line.  We’ll need to watch pricing carefully, but this is no more threatening to their margins than the free storage for gmail, for example, and it is hugely strategic.  As I’ve written elsewhere, there is a window to get in the cloud computing game and Google just jumped through it.  It’ll be fun to see who else can follow!

Also see my own first blush report on the Google App Engine.

3 Responses to “Early Analysis of Other’s Reactions to App Engine”

  1. […] is what does it mean for developers. I really enjoyed the early perspective by Bob Warfield on the SmoothSpan blog. In response to people complaining that it’s Python only, he offers this: …it doesn’t […]

  2. aleaxit said

    Great analysis as usual, Bob, but I take exception to ONE tidbit…:
    Microsoft will be more isolated than ever on their .NET platform.
    No they won’t — they (MS) have arguably THE best Python implementation, IronPython, and their Silverlight 2.0 offers HINGES on that. Indeed, Sun is FINALLY investing in dynamic languages (starting with Python, aka Jython) in the JVM, IMHO, mostly *because* of Microsoft’s (or, Jim Hugunin’s;-) amazing IronPython offering. If MS can’t get Silverlight up in The Cloud *FAST*, sure, they’ll lose; but it won’t be IronPython’s fault if that occurs!

    Alex (Martelli, Python expert, Google employee and enthusiast, friend and admirer of yours, AND guy who tends to have the pulse of the State of Python AND of cloud computing…;-)

  3. smoothspan said

    Good point on Iron Python!

    Now will they do Java and Ruby?



%d bloggers like this: