[SATLUG] Google App Engine, PaaS, Home Cloud

Robert Pearson e2eiod at gmail.com
Tue Jun 29 08:34:28 CDT 2010

We have had personal Web servers, personal Web sites, blogs, wikis and
now Clouds.
It looks like if you have a good idea for an App (SaaS) you can code
it and deliver it from a number of Clouds. Rackspace included. The
real variable is cost.

"Microsoft Windows Azure and Amazon EC2 on Collision Course"
Jon Brodkin, NetworkWorld
Jun 25, 2010 6:35 pm
[Article excerpt]
But there are shortcomings in the platform-as-a-service model as well,
O'Brien acknowledges. The biggest problem with PaaS may be difficulty
migrating existing applications from the internal data center to the
"Platform-as-a-service has a different set of tradeoffs," O'Brien
says. "All of that stuff is completely abstracted away, it's a
friction-free development, you basically code up an application, you
hit deploy and it'll go run on the platform that's supplied by those
runtimes. So in our case its PHP, C Sharp, in the case of Google App
Engine it's Python and Java." While building new applications is easy,
and removes the need for owning internal hardware and software, other
than a Web browser, "part of the challenge there is it's not
necessarily optimal for migrating existing applications."

[Google App Engine]
"Google App Engine gains developer interest in battle with EC2, Azure"
Business-oriented enhancements lead to increased developer interest,
though cloud caution still rules
By Paul Krill, InfoWorld
May 27, 2010 06:21 AM ET
[Article excerpt]
While the Google App Engine cloud platform has trailed Amazon and
Microsoft clouds in usage, it is nonetheless gaining traction among
developers. That interest was bolstered by Google's recent extension
to its cloud, dubbed Google App Engine for Business, which is intended
to make the cloud more palatable to enterprises by adding components
such as service-level agreements and a business-scale management
Built for hosting Web applications, App Engine services more than
500,000 daily page views, but App Engine's 8.2 percent usage rate,
based on a Forrester Research survey of developers in late 2009,
trails far behind Amazon.com's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), which has
nearly a 41 percent share. Microsoft's newer Windows Azure cloud
service edges out App Engine, taking a 10.2 percent share. Forrester
surveyed 1,200 developers, but only about 50 of them were actually
deploying to the cloud.

[Here is the original post about the GAE again]
Here is the first concrete article I have found on Home/Hobbyist Clouds.

"PaaS as a satisfying and success-ready hobbyist plaform"
by William (@vambenepe on Twitter)
[Article excerpt]
By definition, hobbyists only do things that are satisfying. In the
rarefied air of Silicon Valley, it also helps if there is a
conceivable “upside” to dream about. Platform as a Service (PaaS, e.g.
Google App Engine) provides both to software-oriented hobbyist. And
make it very cheap (borderline free), which doesn’t hurt.

In a well-crafted PaaS environment, the development process and the
result are both satisfying. I am not a Google shrill, but GAE is a
fair example. The barrier to entry is very low (the download is less
than 10MB and contains all you need to get started). In an hour you
have an application running locally. In an hour and 5 minutes you have
it deployed and accessible on the web for all. And yet this ease of
bootstrap does not come at the cost of too many longer-term
limitations (now that the environment has gown a bit from the original
limitations and provides scheduled and background jobs). Unlike Yahoo
Pipes, for which the first impression is “nifty!” and the second is
“gimme a textual representation of my pipe now!”.

Beyond the easy ramp-up, the main source of satisfaction developing in
a PaaS environment is that you spend 99% of your time working on the
application. Not the OS, not the firewall, not the application
container, not the database. Not to mention having to deal with your
co-lo provider or the leased line for the servers in the basement. If
you are a hobbyist with only a few spare hours per week, that’s a make
or break deal. It also means that you have a fighting chance of
developing a secure application because you are responsible for a much
smaller surface of attack.

If you want to be completely locally and on your own hardware then
remember Ernest De Leon's excellent comment "Look up Ubuntu and
Eucalyptus...that will do everything you want.".
More work but more learning but more hours to completion. I no longer
start any projects that cannot be finished in 8 weeks or less.
Preferably 2-8 days (MAX) or hours (MIN).

I Googled for Google App Engine and got a ton of good hits. Googling
for GAE returned nothing.

Google also has many "free" tools for work you will want to do in the
SaaS or POWA (Plain Old Web App)?
"“Freeing SaaS from Cloud”: slides and notes from Cloud Connect keynote"
by William (@vambenepe on Twitter)
[Article excerpt]
I got invited to give a short keynote presentation during the Cloud
Connect conference this week at the Santa Clara Convention Center
(thanks Shlomo and Alistair). Here are the slides (as PPT and PDF).
They are visual support for my bad jokes rather than a medium for the
actual message. So here is an annotated version.
{see article at URL above}
I used this first slide (a compilation of representations of the
3-layer Cloud stack) to poke some fun at this ubiquitous model of the
Cloud architecture. Like all models, it’s neither true nor false. It’s
just more or less useful to tackle a given task. While this 3-layer
stack can be relevant in the context of discussing economic aspects of
Cloud Computing (e.g. Opex vs. Capex in an on-demand world), it is
useless and even misleading in the context of some more actionable
topics for SaaS: chiefly, how you deliver such services, how you
consume them and how you manage them.
In those contexts, you shouldn’t let yourself get too distracted by
the “aaS” aspect of SaaS and focus on what it really is.

Which is… a web application (by which I include both HTML access for
humans and programmatic access via APIs.). To illustrate this point, I
summarized the content of this blog entry. No need to repeat it here.
The bottom line is that any distinction between SaaS and POWA (Plain
Old Web Applications) is at worst arbitrary and at best concerned with
the business relationship between the provider and the consumer rather
than  technical aspects of the application.
{see article at URL above}
Which means that for most technical aspect of how SaaS is delivered,
consumed and managed, what you should care about is that you are
dealing with a Web application, not a Cloud service. To illustrate
this, I put up the…
{see article at URL above}
… guillotine slide. Which is probably the only thing people will
remember from the presentation, based on the ample feedback I got
about it. It probably didn’t hurt that I also made fun of my country
of origin (you can never go wrong making fun of France), saying that
the guillotine was our preferred way of solving any problem and also
the last reliable piece of technology invented in France (no customer
has ever come back to complain). Plus, enough people in the audience
seemed to share my lassitude with the 3-layer Cloud stack to find its
beheading cathartic.

Come to think about it, there are more similarities. The guillotine is
to the axe what Cloud Computing is to traditional IT. So I may use it
again in Cloud presentations.

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