AppEngine outage

By admin, June 18, 2008 2:58 pm

Google's AppEngine cloud computing service joined the hallowed ranks of other burgeoning cloud service providers yesterday with its first widespread outage. Between 9AM and roughly 2PM Pacific, a "significant percentage" of users were unable to access the service, the result, according to Google, of a bug in the backend datastore servers.

These sorts of growing pains aren't new and will be seen again, but the difference in this case may be Google's insistance that the AppEngine service is oriented toward individual developers, rather than commercial services. In addition to their standard "this is just a beta" warning, the specificity of their offering and the purported target market seems to have given them a bye in circumstances where other major providers (notably Amazon) haven't received any slack. At least they have convinced Tier 1 Research analyst Phil Shih, quoted in this CIO Magazine article saying:

Google's App Engine "is very much a service targeted at developers who are kind of experimenting with new projects," he said. "It's a very limited and unique audience with a specific set of needs who may be able to arguably tolerate a little more unreliability."

I'll admit that Google has been clever in their marketing pitch for the service, and that they have gone further in discouraging commercial users than they might have, but I don't think they should get a pass where Amazon did not (not that I believe Amazon should be harshly judged for their failures, either). Both companies clearly identified their services as beta but the market rightly takes that disclaimer with a grain of salt these days; after you put a product out their, it's a bit like lying with your fingers crossed behind your back. Of course, Google isn't charging anything while Amazon is, so perhaps that is the moral difference.

Still, it seems clear that Google is simply taking a more shielded approach to move in the same overall direction that Amazon is, and if they have couched their offering in more cautious language it does not mean that prospective consumers of their ultimate service (that's you CIOs or the developers you buy from) shouldn't be judged on the same field with the same criteria as other major cloud providers.

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