RealTime IT News

Google's App Engine Edges Closer to Prime Time

Google will address a large backlog of developers interested in its App Engine service by removing restrictions on the preview release starting late Wednesday morning.

More announcements are expected Wednesday and Thursday this week at Google's first Google I/O developer conference in San Francisco. Google said over 2,900 developers have signed up for the event.

Launched in April as a free preview service, App Engine was initially only available to the first 10,000 developers to sign up. That limit was quickly reached and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) let in an additional 65,000 developers via a waitlist.

With still another 75,000 waiting to gain access, Google said it's ditching the waitlist and making App Engine available to all comers. The Web application hosting platform service is still considered to be a limited "Preview" of the final version as the company continues to gather feedback and tweak the offering.

"App Engine will always be free to get started, we think it's solving a big problem for developers," Google product manager Pete Koomen told InternetNews.com.

The free version available now gives developers up to 500 megabytes of storage and up to five million page views. Google plans to expand those limits on a paid basis later this year and today announced price ranges, which have yet to be finalized.

Additional storage will be available for between 15 to 18 cents per month, per gigabyte. Additional CPU processing will cost between 10 and 12 cents per CPU core-hour. Additional bandwidth will cost between 11 and 13 cents per GB (outgoing) and between 9 and 11 cents per GB (incoming).

The release comes at a time of growing interest in Software as a Service (SaaS) applications that are readily accessible via the Web. To further its appeal to enterprise users and mobile professionals, SaaS vendors, including Google, have started to offer offline access to some of its programs as well.

"We're pretty excited by the variety of applications we've seen built so far," said Koomen, noting there's been a range of both consumer and enterprise applications. While there are other hosting platforms for Web applications, such as Amazon's (NASDAQ:AMZN) Elastic Cloud Computing (EC2) and Simple Storage Service (S3), Koomen said Google has taken a different approach. "This is not a general computing platform," he said. "We're making it simple to build a Web application and scale."

He also said Google doesn't aspire to compete with large scale grid computing projects for things like biological research that can take hours of compute time. "App Engine is designed for lighter weight applications and processing on request."

Enhancing social networks

Koomen said the basic idea behind App Engine is to make some of the tools Google's been using internally to develop Web apps available to outside developers. Google is not saying how many applications have been developed already but Koomen said there has been many designed to enhance social networks.

TweetWheel is one that shows a graphical representation of someone's friends on Twitter. Another, LaterLoop, lets you flag content you see on the Web and read it later on your mobile phone.

App Engine only supports programs written in Python , but Google said it's working to support other scripting languages. "There's a lot of demand for other languages," Paul McDonald, another Google product manager, told InternetNews.com. "The biggest challenge for us there is that each one requires an intense security review and that takes awhile."

Web Toolkit 1.5

Also at I/O, Google plans to announce the release candidate of version 1.5 of Google Web Toolkit, which it will make available later this week.

The Web Toolkit is designed to help develop and debug Web applications using Java and then deploy them as highly optimized JavaScript. Google said this process lets developers sidestep common AJAX headaches like browser compatibility, and also gain significant performance and productivity gains.

Google Web Toolkit includes libraries to help developers build full-featured AJAX applications. These include libraries for implementing user interfaces, data structures, client/server communication, internationalization, testing, and accessibility.

Google said its recently launched Google Health uses the Web Toolkit.