Yesterday Google launched Google App Engine, a platform that lets people create web applications and run them on Google’s infrastructure. It’s a direct competitor to Amazon Web Services (AWS) such as EC2, S3, and SimpleDB but, unlike AWS, it’s free for small web apps (where small means about 5M pageviews per month) and it seems more integrated as an end-to-end service.
This is all part of a broader trend towards platform as a service (PaaS) which includes AWS, Google App Engine, Salesforce’s Force.com, and the Facebook platform. (Though I don’t think Facebook offers hosting as do the others; KickIt, for example, runs on a server in Mark Logic’s data center.)
In the emergent strategies department, I’m told that Amazon moved into the platform business because of the seasonality of retail. Basically, they built an infrastructure capable of handling extreme load the week before Christmas, but found that infrastructure idle the other 51 weeks of the year. I think Google motivation is different; it’s part of their broad attack on Microsoft who, far as I can tell, hasn’t even thrown its hat into this particular ring.
Here is a video of the launch that explains the offering. It’s about 6 minutes long and well worth watching.