Google App Engine picks up cloud cred

Trails rivals Amazon and Microsoft

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While the Google App Engine cloud platform has trailed Amazon and Microsoft clouds in usage, it is nonetheless gaining traction among developers. That interest was bolstered by Google's recent extension to its cloud, dubbed Google App Engine for Business, which is intended to make the cloud more palatable to enterprises by adding components such as service level agreements and a business-scale management console.

Built for hosting web applications, App Engine services more than 500,000 daily page views, but App Engine's 8.2 percent usage rate, based on a Forrester Research survey of developers in late 2009, trails far behind Amazon.com's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), which has nearly a 41 percent share. Microsoft's newer Windows Azure cloud service edges out App Engine, taking a 10.2 percent share. Forrester surveyed 1,200 developers, but only about 50 of them were actually deploying to the cloud.

Developer Mike Koss, launch director at Startpad.org, which hosts software development companies, is one of those using App Engine. "[The service is] for developers who want to write pure JavaScript programs and not have to manage their own cloud; they can write their app completely in JavaScript," Koss says. He adds that he likes cloud capabilities for data backup and availability.

Restraints on App Engine separate it in a good way from Amazon.com's cloud, Koss says: "App Engine abstracts away a lot of the details that developers need to understand to build scalable apps and you're a little bit more constrained on App Engine, so you kind of can't get into trouble like you can with an EC2." Amazon gives users a virtual box in which they are responsible for their own OS and security patches, whereas App Engine is abstracted at a higher level, he notes.

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