Cloud versus cloud: A guided tour of Amazon, Google, AppNexus, and GoGrid
Cloud computing offerings differ in depth, breadth, style, and fine print; beneath the heady metaphor lurk familiar pitfalls, complex pricing, and many questionsFollow @infoworld
Google App Engine
Google's App Engine is a polar opposite of Amazon's offering. While you get root privileges on Amazon, you can't even write a file in your own directory with the App Engine. In fact, it's not even clear that you get your own directory, although that's probably what's happening under the hood. Google ripped the file write feature out of Python, presumably as a quick way to avoid security holes. If you want to store data, you must use Google's database.
The result of all of these limitations is not necessarily a bad thing. Google has stripped Web applications down to a core set of features and built up a pretty good framework for delivering them. I was able to write a simple application with several hundred lines of Python (cutting and pasting from Google's documentation) in less than an hour. Google offers some nice tools for debugging the application on your own machine.
Deploying this application to the cloud should have taken a few seconds, but it was held up by Google's insistence that I fork over my cell phone number and wait around for a text message that tests the number. When my message didn't show up for several hours after retrying, I switched to a friend's phone and finally activated my account.
Google insists on linking your App Engine account to both your cell phone and your Gmail account because -- well, I don't know. I think it's to track down the scammers, spammers, pharmers, phishers, and other fraudsters, but it starts to feel a bit creepy. Maybe it will help customer service and allow them to field support requests with answers like, "Your cell phone shows you filed this report from a location with a liquor license. Your e-mail suggests you're coding while waiting for Chris to get off of work. We suggest going home, sleeping this off, and then it will take you only a few seconds to find the endless loop on line 432 of main.py. BTW, Chris is lying to you and is really out with someone else."
The best users for the App Engine will be groups, or most likely individual developers, who want to write a thin layer of Python that sits between the user and the database. The API is tuned to this kind of job. In the future, Google may add more features for background processing and other services such as lightweight storage, but for now, that's the core strength of the offering. [ See the QuickTime video. ]