Did Microsoft and Ray Ozzie's Mesh strategy see this one coming? Amazon EC2 and S3? It doesn't seem so. Monday, Google launched their new web application hosting platform, Google App Engine. Yes, Google leapfrogs Microsoft again. Techcrunch got the scoop earlier today and posted about the upcoming announcement.
Several things about Google App Engine are interesting. First, it's free. Yes, free. Up to 500MB of storage and 5 million page views per month. This will be capped during the beta and then charges applied once GAE goes live, but who knows when that will be given how long Google keeps its products in beta.
GAE is also a Python only environment, and will likely add support for other environments soon, I would guess before any beta moniker is removed. Ruby and PHP would be two likely environments to add. I won't describe all of the other ins-and-outs of GAE, as you can read about it on the Google App Engine area of Google's site.
The implications to Microsoft aside, once GAE matures to support more environments, this will likely shake up much of the low end, price sensitive part of the web hosting market. Think of the implications to Amazon. Google is a master at making the barrier to entry very low (check out Google's home page, still devoid of anything but the minimalist content today). But the GAE announcement is about a lot more than just upsetting the applecart of the hosting marketplace.
Google App Engine is all about getting developers to use Google APIs, folding new web 2.0, SaaS and On Demand applications into environments and technologies which make it very easy to integrate and tie into Google's own applications. Google is taking a page right out of Microsoft's book and then going one step further; give developers tools and then make it very easy to create applications on your technology, including hosting the application in Google's case.
Google's also simplified the development environment. No uber technologies like .NET to learn, just the Python Runtime environment, webapp framework, simple indexing database, and web services.
This is really a brilliant move by Google. But, it's not a defensible move -- something Microsoft or others with the capital could easily replicate. It's early to know how successful GAE will be but I suspect it will be wildly successful, quickly attracting web application developers excited to get free hosting and technology to quickly build their apps.
I don't see anything like this articulated in the Microsoft Mesh strategy elements disclosed to date. Technically, Google hasn't made any defensible strides Microsoft or others couldn't replicate. The biggest hurdle is offering a hosted service like this for free, something Google doesn't hesitate to do, but hasn't traditionally been in Microsoft's DNA. It would be wise of Microsoft to respond soon, before Google App Engine gains too much of a foot hold and market momentum. Dittos for Amazon.
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