Google’s Cloud Computing Platform Aims to Fuel Growth of Web Applications, Users, Revenues

[Updated April 5 with a correction: Google’s Mike Repass is based in San Francisco, not Seattle]
On Monday evening, I stopped by a talk on “Google’s world view of cloud computing,” organized by the Washington Technology Industry Association as part of its series of events on this emerging IT trend. The first event we covered, in early March, gave a glimpse into the strategy of Amazon Web Services. This more recent event, held at Google’s Fremont offices in Seattle, drew a packed room of almost 100 people, most of them software developer types. It provided an intriguing inside look at Google’s cloud computing platform and where it’s headed, as compared with other big players in the space. (The final presentation in the WTIA series will be given by Microsoft on April 23—location to be announced soon.)

Brian Bershad, Google’s Seattle site director, kicked off the evening by describing how Google got involved with the series last fall. “[WTIA head] Ken Myer and I were at a baseball game,” Bershad said. “He wouldn’t stop asking me questions…’How would a member of WTIA know which [cloud computing] system they should use?’ After 30 or 40 minutes of this, I don’t really like baseball, but I wanted to watch the baseball game! So I said, ‘Ken, why don’t we put together a multi-part series to get these questions answered? Not in a bakeoff, but let’s bring in the key players to get answers to the community.'” Bershad noted it was a good opportunity for outreach. “I’m really excited,” he said. “This is the kind of thing we can be doing in the Seattle community. We have all the big players here, which makes it a highly leveraged community.”

The topic du jour was Google’s cloud platform, which has the certifiably geeky name of “App Engine.” Like all cloud-computing software, its basic idea is to create a common language that allows developers to build new Web applications, create new code, gain access to processing power, and store their data on virtual machines via the Internet. It’s all in the name of helping companies avoid the costs of maintaining internally owned and operated servers, hardware, and teams of people to keep everything running right. App Engine has been publicly available since last April, and boasts about 150,000 developers, 50,000 applications (blogs, online messaging, and so forth), and 100 million page views per day. Just last week, the White House website selected App Engine to handle the processing of questions and votes for President Obama’s online town hall meeting. (The site ended up fielding about 100,000 questions and 3.5 million votes.)

All of these details came from the main speaker of the evening—Mike Repass, a Google product manager who joined the App Engine team in January. Repass is a computer programmer by training, and was a software developer and program manager at Microsoft before joining Google eight months ago. Most of the App Engine team is in San Francisco, and that’s where Repass is based. Although Google’s cloud computing platform has been available for almost a year, it is “still evolving very rapidly,” Repass said.

What App Engine uniquely offers, Repass noted, is a way to “pay as you go” for … Next Page »

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