Today I went to a talk at UMBC on the Google App Engine, a product from Google that came out earlier this year. The talk was given by an old friend of mine from Grad School who now works at Google. I was his partner for an Operating Systems project where we built a distributed file system using Bamboo and for a Database project where we built an Amazon-like online grocery store. He’s a pretty smart guy and is usually on top of the latest stuff, so I figured it’d be a really good talk.
The Google App Engine basically allows web app developers access to some neat Google API’s and to have Google servers to host their application and its data. The main things I got out of the talk were:
- Relational Databases don’t scale well. If you create an insanely popular app, your Relational Database could end up becoming a bottle neck. Google got around this by creating their own Database Management System called BigTable. The Google App Engine lets you use BigTable for you apps.
- BigTable uses GQL, an SQL-like query language.
- Using the Google App Engine is free, however, there are certain storage and bandwidth limitations. I’m assuming that in the future they’ll charge users to go beyond the set limits, however, currently you cannot buy more space or bandwidth.
- If your application requires users to verify themselves, you can set things up so that users log in with their Google username and password.
- The same Google API’s that are available to in-house Google developers are available to you.
- Currently all Google App Engine apps have to be written in Python, which kind of sucks since it adds a barrier to entry. They do plan to support other languages, but that will be at some unknown point in the future.
I came away from the talk pretty impressed, however, I think I’ll wait to see what other languages they’ll support before trying it out.
Besides the talk, it was neat to walk around campus again. It was a nice cool Fall day and everyone walking around seemed pretty laid back. I miss being able to get up at noon and then to waltz over to the food court to get some lunch. Everyone looked really young too, I wondered if I looked old to them. The experience reminded me of when another friend of mine stayed in my dorm room for St. Patrick’s Day after having been out in the working world a year. It seemed refreshing for him to be out walking around the campus again. He kept joking about wanting to be a life long college student and to get all of the degrees the school offered, which I think would be a lot of fun, if it paid well and people didn’t age (you wouldn’t want to be the old creepy guy living in the dorms).
Anyway, if you have any thoughts or opinions on the Google App Engine feel free to share them. Right now I can’t recommend it one way or the other, since I haven’t tried it, but from all appearances, it looks really cool.