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Google's Campfire for App Engine

Appirio was thrilled to participate in tonight's Campfire One event, hosted by Google to showcase the new capabilities of Google App Engine. Google gave 3 partners (IBM, Oracle, and Appirio) early access to these capabilities, and asked us to kick the tires. We used this opportunity to develop a lightweight applicant tracking application that extends our Viral Recruiting product.

Bottom line? We were impressed with the capabilities of the platform, and look forward to using Google App Engine to help our customers do more with the cloud.

Read more about our technical experience with App Engine here, and more about Appirio's App Engine offerings here. In this post, we wanted to highlight why we think the new capabilities of Google App Engine are important for the industry.

Google complements existing cloud platforms
At Appirio, we make our living building custom and packaged applications using on-demand platforms. While there are dozens of different companies claiming to offer on-demand platforms, there's been a well recognized gulf between the 2 leading enterprise-oriented platforms, Force.com and Amazon Web Services.

Most of our application work for customers is done on Force.com-- a rich application platform with built in business objects that allow our applications to inherit a broad swath of functionality. But some applications don't require this functionality, and would benefit from greater control and direct access to "lower levels" of the platform. At the other end of the spectrum is Amazon Web Services. S3 and EC2 are powerful because they give application developers the ability to control their own infrastructure without the headaches of hardware ownership. But many applications don't require this level of control of the infrastructure-- a higher level of abstraction would make development more efficient.

With tonight's enhancements, we see Google App Engine filling the void between these two market leaders. There's no built-in notion of business objects, leaving Force.com the go-to-choice for most of the process-centric applications we build for customers. But App Engine offers abstraction over several layers of infrastructure that we'd prefer not to deal with in the applications we build today on EC2-- not having to worry about the size of the machine we spin up, for example.

With App Engine's new capabilities, we're excited to add Google App Engine to the set of tools we use to help our enterprise customers do more with the cloud. TechCrunch asked several weeks ago whether we are "on the verge of a new set of platform wars that will make the Windows vs. Mac war look like Tiddlywinks? Or will all the different cloud platforms which are emerging create an interwoven fabric of Web applications that draw from each cloud as is convenient?"

We've argued before our belief in a future of connecting the clouds, NOT cloud warfare. That's what makes today's announcements on App Engine so exciting.

Google is keeping its friends close, but its enemies closer
Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, has reminded us of the real battle going on in cloud computing today: "The real platform war is still against the old paradigm. The masses out there don't know that they don't need to buy software and hardware anymore."

For that reason, we took particular delight in seeing IBM and Oracle participate in tonight's Campfire. Let's look at what they demonstrated:

  • Oracle's Social CRM VP showed us Google gadgets operating with on-premise Siebel data. Remember that this very same functionality was demonstrated almost two years ago (by Appirio), using Google Gadgets and Salesforce.com. Exhibit A in the differing rates of innovation between on-premise and on-demand software. But we're glad Oracle has caught up. Why? Because once Siebel is relegated to be the on-premise data store for a rich set of online gadgets, the benefits of replacing this on-premise backend with a modern on-demand platform will be clear.
  • IBM's Cloud Strategy practice showed us how easy it is to port an application from Google App Engine to WebSphere. This is very cool to see, but for the opposite reason than they intended: Anyone care to predict how often companies will be moving off the low cost, highly scalable App Engine environment and onto WebSphere versus the other way around? Application portability is an important topic, and we're glad to see IBM contributing to the conversation... even if it is a bit jarring to see a WebSphere Server running at a Campfire event.

Most important of all? The simple fact that Oracle and IBM are on-stage, endorsing Google's vision and integrating App Engine with their offerings...even if it is to integrate with on-premise applications. Their very presence validates for every enterprise the fact that cloud computing will play an important role in their IT infastructure.

And that's the real point. As that message gets through to the Fortune 500, today's Campfire will indeed burn bright enough for all of us in the cloud.

Server Sighting at Google Campfire: Why is there an on-premise server on stage with our colleagues from IBM and Oracle?




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