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Tour of Amazon, Google, AppNexus and GoGrid

Peter Wayner | July 22, 2008
While many parts of Web hosting are pretty standard, the definition of "cloud computing" varies widely.

Deploying this application to the cloud should have taken a few seconds, but it was held up by Google's insistence that I fork over my cell phone number and wait around for a text message that tests the number. When my message didn't show up for several hours after retrying, I switched to a friend's phone and finally activated my account.

Google insists on linking your App Engine account to both your cell phone and your Gmail account because -- well, I don't know. I think it's to track down the scammers, spammers, pharmers, phishers, and other fraudsters, but it starts to feel a bit creepy. Maybe it will help customer service and allow them to field support requests with answers like, "Your cell phone shows you filed this report from a location with a liquor license. Your e-mail suggests you're coding while waiting for Chris to get off of work. We suggest going home, sleeping this off, and then it will take you only a few seconds to find the endless loop on line 432 of main.py. BTW, Chris is lying to you and is really out with someone else."

The best users for the App Engine will be groups, or most likely individual developers, who want to write a thin layer of Python that sits between the user and the database. The API is tuned to this kind of job. In the future, Google may add more features for background processing and other services such as lightweight storage, but for now, that's the core strength of the offering. [See the QuickTime video.]

GoGrid

GoGrid refers to itself as the "world's first multi-server control panel." GoGrid's offerings aren't functionally different from Amazon's EC2, but using the old term "control panel" seems to be a better description of what's going on than the trendier term "cloud." You start up and shut down load balancers in much the same way as relatively ancient tools like Plesk and cPanel let you add and subtract services.

While GoGrid offers many of the same services as Amazon's EC2, the Web-based control panel is much easier to use than the EC2 command line. You point and click. There's no need to cut and paste information because little pop-up boxes show the way, by suggesting available IP addresses, for example. The system is intuitive, and it takes only a few minutes to build up your network. A simple ledger on the left keeps track of the costs and helps you manage the budget.

GoGrid also has a wider variety of OS images ready to go. There is the usual collection of CentOS/Fedora and common LAMP stacks. If you need Windows, you can have Windows Server 2003 with IIS 6.0, and Microsoft SQL Server is available at extra cost. There are also images with Ruby on Rails, PostgreSQL, and the Facebook application server. These make it a bit easier to start up.

 

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