Google App Engine Lets Your Web App Grow Up

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Google released App Engine less than a year ago (Radar post). It was the first chance for external developers to use the power of Google’s servers. The powerful platform supported Python and was free (within limits). It now supports 45,000 apps and those apps get over 100 million page views per month day. Those pageviews were all free, but they had limits.

That’s going to change. After today developers can pay to have more storage, more bandwidth, more CPU time and send more email. The costs as of this morning are listed below with a comparison to the AWS equivalent cost.

• 10 cents per cpu core hour (AWS charges $.10/hr for a small, standard Linux instance and up to $1.20/hr for an XL, Hi-CPU Windows instance in EC2)

• $.10 per gigabyte transferred into AE (AWS charges $.10 for all data transferred into S3)

• $.12 per gigabyte transferred out of AE (AWS charges $.17 for the first 10 TB/month transferred out ofS3)

• $.15 per gigabyte stored per month (AWS charges $.15 for the first 50 TB/month stored onS3)

• .0001 dollars per email (AWS does not have an equivalent)

Without running a more advanced cost calculation it seems that App Engine is slightly cheaper for smaller web apps. Pete Koomen, an App Engine Product Manager, would not say if they would add tiered pricing. I can’t imagine it happening until after they add background processing for applications.

Developers will only pay after their app surpasses the free limits (and there are several AE apps that already have like and The existing free quotas will be reduced in 90 days. The new paid quotas do have unpublished limits, so if you need to support more than 500 requests/sec you’ll need to contact Google.

Developer will use their Google Checkout account to cover their apps costs. This means that the new features are restricted to the U.S. and U.K. only. Hopefully the Checkout team expands their scope soon. Google Checkout appears to be available almost everywhere, but doesn’t have a page that lists all of the countries. You can check the dropdown of the sign-up page to see if your country is supported and thus you can use the Google App Engine features.

This is a significant step for App Engine. By setting a theoretical limit above the dreams of many web apps they are now putting out the call for serious applications. They’ve already added Google App Engine Apps to Google Apps For Your Domain. I could envision AE becoming the backbone of an Enterprise Dev Marketplace.

AE still has many significant to-do items on their public Roadmap. Not the least of them is the support for more languages (Java is a good bet as it is used a lot internally) and to add support for background processes.

A huge concern with App Engine is platform lock-in. Google provides a lot of powerful, but non-standard APIs and features that make switching platforms difficult. Developers can extract themselves from App Engine via projects like AppDrop, but it is still risky to use their platform without an SLA. Without a guarantee Google could theoretically decide to raise prices unreasonably. Is it likely? No, but it is something that developers need to think about before committing to any platform.

Google I/O already has many sessions listed for App Engine developers. I’ll give a free pass to I/O to the person who suggests the best AE app in the comments. Vic Gundotra, who runs the App Engine team, will be at the Web 2.0 Expo SF in April.

Updated: Correct mistakes about the current pageviews and the availability of the new features.

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