Google App Engine is growing a step more mature, with Google planning on Tuesday to begin allowing people using the cloud-computing foundation to pay for heavy use.
When Google launched App Engine last April, it was available only as a free service with caps on computing and network resource usage. Free use is still available for lower-traffic sites, but Google now lets users pay for higher access as needed.
"It's been one of our biggest developer requests," said Pete Koomen, Google App Engine product manager.
The billing feature makes Google App Engine useful for those who want to run real applications on the site, not just kick the tires, as long as they're willing to pay and to put up with the continued "preview release" status. However, the service hasn't even attained "beta" level, much less a service level agreement (SLA) that promises refunds if the service goes down for too long.
Google offers such an agreement for its Google Apps online tools. "It is something we are exploring" for Google App Engine, spokesman Jon Murchinson said.
Google App Engine competes with various other cloud-computing efforts, including Amazon's lower-level suite of Web services components, but mostly with the alternative of hosting applications on one's own equipment. Amazon Web services also uses a pay-as-you-go pricing model.
Here's Google's description of how billing will work:
$0.10 per CPU core hour. This covers the actual CPU time an application uses to process a given request, as well as the CPU used for any Datastore usage.
$0.10 per GB bandwidth incoming, $0.12 per GB bandwidth outgoing. This covers traffic directly to/from users, traffic between the app and any external servers accessed using the URLFetch API, and data sent via the Email API.
$0.15 per GB of data stored by the application per month.
$0.0001 per email recipient for emails sent by the application
Koomen wouldn't comment on the matter, so you'll have to decide for yourself whether Google is trying to set prices low to attract users, medium to cover expenses, or high to generate revenue during Google's new era of financial discipline.
App Engine is designed to run Web applications written in the Python programming language, though Google plans to add other language support in the future. One of its chief selling points is that it's built on Google's computing infrastructure, letting applications rapidly scale if demand for them spikes without the organization running the application having to scare up a large number of new servers and network capacity.