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Google App Engine Price Rises Shock Developers

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In May, Google announced that it would alter the price of its cloud computing service App Engine, the company's Platform as a Service offering, later in the year, presumably in an effort to turn the product into another profit centre for the company. Google has now announced that the price changes will occur in the second half of September, at the same time as the product officially loses its "preview" tag. Google has provided a tool that lets existing users calculate how much they'll pay under the new service.

Whilst Google said it expects most currently active apps to full under the free quota, the majority of paying customers will see their prices rise. In return customers should see a better service, with Google introducing an SLA for paid customers and an SLA with operational support for premium.

The reaction of Google's customer base on the official App Engine group has been largely negative. A before-and-after App Engine price comparison thread in Google Groups sees developers reporting increases of 50%, 100%, or much more. A separate thread has been started for developers who will be forced to leave App Engine due to the increased rates.

Elsewhere, Nokia researcher and App Engine user Russell Beattie complains that under the new pricing model, the cost of his App Engine app for one day will rise from $2.63 to $34.38 - a figure that will double in November after a 50% discount expires.

Developer Ugorji Nwoke blogged

Google has done a major disservice to its cult of developers by changing the pricing terms of App Engine ridiculously while giving developers short notice to react. In doing so, Google may have done severe damage to their brand and the trust that developers put in them.

Head of Groovy Development for VMware's SpringSource division, Guillaume Laforge, wrote

The big problem is the cost of the "frontend instance hours". An app running all the time, with low traffic, but enough to keep a frontend instance running all day will cost you 30 bucks a month with this new pricing policy.

Whilst the majority of developers considering a move to an alternative service will look at another cloud service such as Amazon's EC2 or VMware's own Cloud Foundry, it is interesting to compare this with a conventional Java hosting provider. For an equivalent $29.00/month, for example, Kattare will provide you with a dedicated Apache Tomcat JVM on a shared server with a heap size of 256MB and up to 50GB of transfer/month, fully supported. Of course the Kattare service doesn't include Google's unique APIs and infrastructure, but that has always been a cause of some concern for developers using the service. As one user writes on the official Google mailing list

What has always been the biggest concern about App Engine? Lock-in. You're at the mercy of Google. Sure there's TyphoonAE etc... but really those are not alternatives.

What does Google go ahead and do? They do exactly what their critics said they would do and what us GAE adopters hoped like hell they would never do, screw us over.

App Engine is finished not because we're all going to move off to EC2, but because people who are considering using App Engine will see exactly what has gone on here with the pricing, think about the lock-in argument against GAE, and decide not to use GAE. There will be a drop off in new apps, and eventually Google is going to see GAE isn't really panning out and pull the 3 year plug.

Google hasn't so far responded to the outcry, although on the App Engine web site the company does say it is looking into special programs for non-profits, educational institutions, and open-source projects.


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Community comments

  • Other options exist

    by Sacha Labourey,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    GAE was one of the first PaaS (with to provide a "SaaS-like" model where developers do not have to worry about operating system, AS, scalability/hardware, IT, DEVOPS, etc. Consequently, comparing GAE to a pure hosting offering is not fair: in a pure hosting solution, you end up managing a lot of those concerns, adding to the overall cost - probably much more so than the recent GAE cost upgrade.

    Now, if your solution isn't compatible anymore with GAE's new pricing scheme, alternatives exist, see this PaaS shoutout for example.



    disclaimer: I work for one of the vendors in the shoutout: CloudBees - we provide a for-pay and GA offering (as well as free trial accounts as well obviously).

  • GAE free service

    by Rusty Wright,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    The GAE free server was meant for developing and debugging your app, not for running apps for free. What other cloud service provides free servers where you don't pay anything in order to test and deploy your app on their cloud servers?

  • Re: Other options exist

    by Floyd Marinescu,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    I agree with Sacha, $30/month is still a bargain compared to a virtual linux instance that won't scale up as traffic increases and where you need to worry about OS/platform/syas admin issues. It looks like Google is using data they collected over the years to make GAE a sustainable business.

  • Re: GAE free service

    by Cameron Purdy,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    There are simply a large number of people who not only desire something for less than its real cost, but now have become accustomed to actually getting things for less than the real cost. The desire in our industry to achieve "Internet scale" at any cost has fueled this dangerous expectation, by forcing companies to give away significant value in order to build significant market share. Since there's always another sucker (i.e. another business even more willing to give value away than the business that it's replacing), only a few lucky ones like Google have managed to survive.

    We reap what we sow.


    Cameron Purdy | Oracle

  • Price comparison

    by Tarek M. Nabil,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    I think a useful addition to this article could be a comparison of pricing between GAE and other similar offerings like Azure for example.

    I agree with others that comparing with the likes of Amazon's EC2 is not accurate as this is more of a IaaS rather than a PaaS offering.

  • No free lunch, again

    by Slava Imeshev,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    What happened to 'There is no such a thing as a free lunch'? You get a quality service and Google gets paid and spends your money on developing the App Engine and paying salaries to the guys that do it. I think this should be a shock only for those for whom the only good price is 'free'. But then, freeloaders should realize that they have again been used as a marketing media. Google got their buzz and paid for that with application hosting. Now it looks like the the buzz-creating is over so thank you, see you next time.


    Slava Imeshev
    Cacheonix: Reliable Clustered Java Cache

  • Re: GAE free service

    by Michael Swierczek,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    I think the biggest problem people have is the short notice of the switch. Offering a service free and with very low barriers to entry to attract developers is normal, and raising prices later as you have a bigger market share is normal. Raising prices relatively quickly might make sense from a business perspective but it reduces the trust of the community.

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