Google App Engine; towards an entirely abstracted platform

Mike Repass, Product Manager of Google App Engine took part in a fireside chat with Alistair as the final session of Enterprise Cloud Summit today. A wide variety of topics were covered.

How can people trust their hardware needs to Google?

“The App Engine is a customer of raw Google services the same way Gmail or anything else is. We offer the same security as those raw Google services which are built to scale – e.g. BigTable”

Why did Google take a platform as a service approach?

This approach plays to Google’s strengths. Google’s success has been to build hardware to serve vast amounts of data to millions and millions of people. The value proposition is more about abstracting away the concerns with machines. No instances, no reservation – pay as you go based on usage.

Are you going to make people better developers?

Hopefully! The billing by usage definitely influences the way developers code. There were radical rewrites of code when we moved to the pay as you go model.

Is there a class of application you wouldn’t recommend to put on Google App Engine?

Data mining. It’s based around simple databases at the model. It’s more for flexible consumer apps rather than data-intensive applications.

Is Google creating a locked in Ecosystem where you use Google Marketplace to allow people to buy & sell Google Apps?

No. Marketplace is something we’re interested in. We want to build common functionality to arbitrarily create multiple instance of apps. But we would want a marketplace to go beyond Google App Engine as a platform. We want to focus our efforts on raw power under the hood rather than pushing people towards specific Google products such as Google App Engine or Google Maps. We want to focus on technology leadership; spurring growth, driving innovation. Move the web forward.

Will Google offset Adwords income against App Engine costs?

We’ve not looked yet at this but we would if there was compelling demand. It’s worth remembering that up to 5 million page views per month are free.

What would you advise CIOs who are considering trying Google App Engine?

I would ask them to consider what is a common business process that could be automated. Google App Engine is well suited to a user-centric approach, you can set a couple of developers on this and come up with something to automate or enhance your business processes quickly and easily.  You can hook into your existing database views and the like by running Secure Data Connector, a feature which allows the App Engine to connect through an enterprise’s firewall to an enterprise’s other applications and datastores.

On Google App Engine & Android

We do have some customers who are using Google App Engine as back end for Android. We want a healthy app ecosystem on Android that builds on any back end – and we want Google App Engine to host services for any mobile client. But I do hope that HTML for mobile catches up with things like Geolocation and location-aware services.

On Cloud Computing in general

To me the cloud computing is just one threshold of computing getting further and further from the physical machine. There is a trend towards finding social objects and creating services around them

On Google strategy

Our number one mission is to combat lock-in. That’s why we provide Java support as well as Python. An amazing thing with App Engine is that all queries take the same time to return if schema is laid out correctly. 1 million or 10 million users – the query to login to a customised page takes roughly the same amount of time. Inverts traditional database performance characteristics and Google wants to share that advantage.

We want to build Google App Engine into an entirely abstracted development platform. That’s why we can’t currently offer local file storage; we need to rebuild a virtualised version of file storage so we can be free to enhance and innovate the platform.

What’s the biggest limitation of Google App Engine?

When you get to the platform at a service level, a lot of the raw technology entry points e.g. sockets and things that require administrative access locally are not available. This does mean that its harder to integrate with legacy applications with Google App Engine.

What would be the greatest third party tool for Google App Engine you can imagine?

A third party tool that would help encourage Google App Engine adoption. Classic challenge is our datastore. A tool to help customers migrate existing data assets to/from App Engine. That’s the holy grail. A data conduit. Also a schema analysis tool to advise on compatibility issues and migration options. That would have applicability even beyond App Engine.