Is Google's App Engine Too Restrictive, Given Increasing Open Competition?

by Sam Dean - Jun. 21, 2011Comments (2)

There is no question that Google has its eyes squarely fixed on enterprise users for the next phase in its development. Throughout his final years as CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt was fond of saying that enterprise users are the next "billion dollar opportunity" for the company. But Google's concept for winning over enterprise users relies heavily on its App Engine technology, and, as Savio Rodrigues notes for InfoWorld, Google is preparing an enterprise-class App Engine. Increasingly, critics--at least one of whom comes from Google itself--are questioning whether App Engine is as flexible and robust as an increasing number of more open alternatives are.

Ex-Google Wave engineer Dhanji R. Prasanna has written on this topic:

"Here is something you've may have heard but never quite believed before: Google's vaunted scalable software infrastructure is obsolete. Don't get me wrong, their hardware and datacenters are the best in the world, and as far as I know, nobody is close to matching it. But the software stack on top of it is 10 years old, aging and designed for building search engines and crawlers. And it is well and truly obsolete."

And, Cade Metz, in The Register, notes that Google's crown jewel technologies, such as MapReduce and the Google File System aren't ever going to be open for enterprise users to use directly on their own servers:

"Google will never open source its back end...Except on the rarest of occasions, the company won't even discuss the famously distributed software that underpins its sweeping collection of web services...Because Google jealously guards the secrets of its infrastructure, anyone who builds an application atop App Engine will face additional hurdles if they ever decide to move the app elsewhere."

This last point is really the key. App Engine, in its current form is restrictive in the sense that applications that run on it are not as fluidly portable as they can be on many more open cloud platforms. Developers and enterprises will increasingly demand this portability, and the flexibility that allows them to deploy apps in public and private clouds.

Savio Rodrigues notes: "Later this year, Google App Engine expects to exit a three-year beta period and introduce enterprise-class service-level agreements."

This will undoubtedly be a major push for Google, but despite some limited success there are good reasons to question whether App Engine is really flexible and open enough for enterprises to embrace, as they are presented with more and more open platform choices. Ironically, few companies of any kind open source more technology than Google does, but the very infrastructure that it wants to pitch to enterprises is more restrictive than alternatives are.

Abhijit Prabhudan uses OStatic to support Open Source, ask and answer questions and stay informed. What about you?


Um, hello, the whole point of PAAS is to create applications without the knowledge of the back-end infrastructure.

They take the pain out of setting up servers, installation of applications, and zero configuration for scalability. The cost of running in this environment bounds for limits, such as file system access, restrictive API, and authoritative use of technologies (Datastore instead of SQL-compliant databases)

I understood this from the beginning. I utilize AppEngine as the front-end and Rackspace cloud computing (so I can install mySQL) as the back-end. It works pretty well since AppEngine so far has been free (I have not exceeded my quota) and Rackspace is over 15 bucks a month to process the data processing.

It's a beautiful setup.

Who cares if AppEngine is running on old JRE 1.4 (or some other "obsolete" run-time) - it's been up 24x7 so far.

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My vote would restrictive

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