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April 13, 2008



Nice post! The first I've seen to highlight the significance of the architecture.

While I think your analysis is generally on the nail, I'm not so sure about the conclusions. The thing is, App Engine architecture isn't Web architecture.

As you point out there are nice reusable abstractions (like events etc), but the primary interfaces are all down at the code level.

"If you build your app on the Google App Engine architecture, it will scale to unlimited levels without any extra effort." - yes, but only on the Google App Engine.

Rather than hoping for open source implementations of similar toolkits, if a HTTP facade were put over things like BigTable, the specific implementation wouldn't matter - to change that you'd only have to change a few URIs, not all your code. (One for the LazyWeb).

Commoditization (comodification?) works best where there are common standards. A railroad engine isn't a commodity if you have to build your own track :-)

Kevin Smith

Great post.

Gabe Wachob

I'm not sure I immediately agree - the BigTable interface is at least a layer on top of web architecture. I'd have to think about that. A common network for BigTable, nontheless would be great and it makes a lot of sense to do it with HTTP. I actually would guess there are some vendors out there thinking about *commercial* offerings that replicate BigTable functionality - challenging the RDBMS model?

Also, I just saw this announcement about someone taking the App Engine SDK and hacking it to work on EC2 without BigTable or gmail accounts. Not surprised it was easy, and it proves there's no lockin per se. But the lockin comes from the BigTable architecture (to the extent it can't easily be replicated with the same sort of scaling characteristics) and the routing of requests to a large farm of servers (uber-hosting) - things Google App Engine platform *is* doing and the App Engine SDK *isn't* doing..



As long as you can move from AWS to GAE then it definitely is alright!

Say what that again about BigTable - I thought it was lockin or something?

We're toast.


Simon Wardley

Excellent post. In my view the real innovation in GAE is in the open SDK. This provides an open source standard with GAE being Google's large scale implementation of it.

I agree with your prediction about an open source suite and this is already starting to happen with http://appdrop.com/

Simon Wardley

As for Danny's question

Commodification (mid to late 1970s) is used to describe the process by which something which does not have an economic value is assigned a value and hence how market values can replace other social values. It describes a modification of relationships, formerly untainted by commerce, into commercial relationships.

Commoditisation (English spelling, early to mid 1990s - currently a neologism) is the process by which goods that have economic value and are distinguishable in terms of attributes (uniqueness or brand) end up becoming simple commodities in the eyes of the market or consumers. It is the movement of a market from differentiated to undifferentiated price competition, from monopolistic to perfect competition.

Jay Araujo

'Lock in' or 'not lock in' may be a principle of faith in Slashdot reality, but in real life it depends on the resources that are available to you in order to switch platforms.

In this sense, GAE is presenting itself (among other things) as a rapid prototyping platform which you can use to 'test your ideas' and later decide if/how you want to go ahead with them.

The premise is that most ppl would tolerate the cost of switching out of GAE (if they decide to) as long as the project has already proved itself worthy.

Kudos to Danny for the ingenuity of his 'comodification without common standards' comment. But while we should never forget that standards and openness are the ideal model, many times it will not be the one with the shortest possible time-to-market.

Ruby on Rails

Let's look at what happen then


Cool post Gabe. Check out my new article on DZone regarding use of AppEngine, iPhone and Push Notification Service:




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The thing is, App Engine architecture isn't Web architecture.

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