The new Python support means that popular web frameworks like Django (which powers Instagram, Everyblock and other popular sites) are easier to deploy across Amazon’s suite of cloud services.
It also means that Amazon and Google App Engine are once again going head to head, this time over Google App Engine’s territory. Thanks to its Python-friendly environment, App Engine has been a favorite with Python developers looking to deploy apps on hosted services.
While it’s always been possible to host Python apps on Amazon, setting up and configuring apps can be a pain. That’s where Beanstalk comes in. For those who haven’t tried it, Elastic Beanstalk greatly simplifies the process of deploying your app to Amazon’s various cloud services, including setting up new EC2 instances, load balancing with Elastic Load Balancing, as well as scaling and managing your app after it’s deployed. Beanstalk also integrates with Git and virtualenv.
Google has dropped the prices for extra storage space in Gmail and Picasa. Ostensibly the prices have gone down because storage costs have dropped, but it might also be a necessary move anticipating the coming Chrome OS, which will likely need sizable online storage space.
For now, if you need some extra space for your Gmail or Picasa Web Albums, you can get it at a much more reasonable price. You can now buy 20 GB of storage for $5 a year — that’s twice as much storage for a quarter of Google’s old prices.
If that’s not enough, you can pick up 80 GB for $20 a year, 200 GB for $50 a year and so on, all way up to 16 TB of storage for $4096 per year. The Google Accounts page has a full list of pricing and storage options.
Compared to other online storage solutions, like Dropbox, which charges $240 per year for 100 GB, Google’s new pricing looks pretty good. Of course Google’s extra storage doesn’t sync files between computers like Dropbox does, but it might when Google’s Chrome OS finally emerges.
Given the space limitations of netbooks, and Chrome OS’s integration with online Google Services — like Google Docs — it makes sense for Google to offer large amounts of storage on the cheap. In fact, Google wouldn’t be the first to do so. Many netbook makers, like Asus, already offer free online storage in conjunction with the purchase of a netbook.
There’s also, as Google Operating System speculates, the possibility that the storage increase will go toward the long-fabled “GDrive.” According to rumors that have been circulating for years, Google is hard at work on a Dropbox-like, cloud-storage and syncing service. It’s already known Google has a massive storage grid called Platypus which the company uses as its storage back-end for most of its web-based tools.
While there’s no question that such a service would be a huge sell at these prices, GDrive remains a mere rumor, one that, quite frankly, we stopped believing years ago.
There’s no telling what Google plans to do with its additional storage offerings in the future, but at least, for now, you’ve got a much cheaper way to back up all those hi-res photos in Picasa or expand your Gmail account far beyond its current 7+ GB limit.
We should also point out, if you’ve already paid the old prices for additional storage, fear not, Google will automatically bump your storage space. For example, if you paid for 10 GB of storage at the old pricing you should now have 80 GB of storage available.
The first annual Django conference kicked off this morning at the Googleplex in Mountain View, California. Speaking to a rapt audience of Django fans (yes, it’s a nerdfest), Python creator Guido van Rossum delivered a keynote talk which focused how Google has used Django in its App Engine service. He also offered some new details about what’s in store for the future of App Engine.
Guido outlined the major goals for the next version of App Engine, which include a new fee structure for apps that are in danger of exceeding the service’s current free quotas. The new options will allow for pay-as-you-go billing, somewhat similar to Amazon’s S3 and E2 services.
Other new features coming to App Engine include support for large file uploads and downloads, more storage capacity, more development languages and some new batch processing tools.
As for when the new features will arrive, van Rossum declined to offer specifics. However, he did say that the pay-as-you-go option should be available by the end of the year.
As for how App Engine and Django work, van Rossum covered both the internals of App Engine, where Django powers the template system, and also how to create your own Django-based apps within the App Engine environment.
It turns out that, according to van Rossum, App Engine has a long history with Django. While App Engine has its own mini app framework — dubbed webapp — when the developers were looking for a good template language they turned to Django.
Unfortunately because the App Engine team adopted Django very early on, the template language is stuck on the .0.96 Django release, which until recently was the latest stable version.
Now that Django 1.0 has arrived, bringing with it some new template features, App Engine is bit behind the curve. While van Rossum says upgrading the internal tools “isn’t an option,” he did say the plan is to eventually bump the App Engine API to support Django 1.0, allowing developers who want to access Django 1.0 template features to do so.
While Django may power the templates behind App Engine, most attendees here at DjangoCon are more interested in potentially running their applications on App Engine. The second half of Rossum’s keynote covered the the specifics of how to do that — unfortunately, it requires a good bit of hacking.
While it is possible to use Django on App Engine, right now you’ll need to use a modified, slimmed down version of Django 1.0 — you’ll lose models, ORM, and database backend tools (there isn’t a real SQL interface in App Engine, which render those tools a moot point).
The real downside to Django running on App Engine is that — without models support — you’ll lose the very nice Django admin interface which is one of the framework’s most attractive features. Van Rossum did say, “there is hope” for getting the Admin interface working in App Engine, but he offered no timeline.
After the keynote, addressing questions from the audience, Rossum encouraged developers at the conference to work on a App Engine specific release of Django, which would help make it easier for Django fans to run the framework under App Engine.
Google wanted to talk about software engineering on the open web at its developer event on Wednesday, but the demo of its Android operating system for next-generation mobile phones ended up drawing the most attention.
The company used the keynote address at the Google I/O developer conference to introduce the user interface and several key features of its upcoming Android mobile operating system for smart phones. The attendees, numbering over 3,000, were blown away by the slick interface which, even in its early stages, looks robust and feature-rich enough to challenge the iPhone.
One feature in particular — a compass and accelerometer-powered interface for Google Maps Street View that rotates the map on the phone’s display as you spin around — drew a big round of applause from the crowd. Other features, like the powerful web browser and iPhone-like customizable desktops were greeted with gasps of pleasure.
Google engineering director Steve Horowitz performed the demo on an unspecified mobile phone prototype with a touch screen (details below) that included a number of previously unannounced features. The project will eventually be released under an open-source license and development is ongoing, but here’s what’s ready now:
* The wow moment of the show: A fast-loading Google Maps application (the demo phone was a 3G device) with a Street View component. It uses the phone’s built-in compass and accelerometer to change the viewing angle — Hold it up and turn your body, and the view of the street on the phone’s display updates as the direction you’re facing changes. “The device will actually track my movements,” said Horowitz as he spun around, “and I don’t even have to lift a finger.”
* Minor wow moment: Android’s customizable gesture unlock mechanism, which lets users program their own touch-sensitive key pattern. Horowitz traced a big letter “G,” lighting up nodes on the phone’s screen with his finger, to unlock it.
* Lots of touch and drag elements: The status bar at the top of the screen shows you incoming e-mails, text messages and missed calls. Just grab the bar with your index finger and drag it down. Create bookmarks and shortcuts that you can drag around on a tiny desktop. There are multiple desktops that mirror iPhone desktops. There are also integrated widgets, such as an analog clock.
* Horowitz showed a full version of PacMan on the device. The phone vibrates when the player is killed in the game.
* Android uses a fully capable Webkit-based browser. The browser lets you navigate around a page by dragging it with your finger. When you double-tap on a web page, you zoom out and get a magnifying loupe under your finger. Not as revolutionary or elegant as Apple’s “pinch” but still impressive.
After the demo, Andy Rubin from the Android team told Wired.com that the smart phone software will be released in the second half of 2008. The software is being developed with Google’s Open Handset Alliance partners, and once those partners get a chance to fully develop their components, the Android code will be released under an Apache open-source license.
Specs for the Android phone used in the demo (Rubin wouldn’t say who the manufacturer was, specifically):
* UMTS handset
* Qualcomm processor “running at 381,” according to Rubin
* 128 MB RAM
* 256 flash memory
* OpenGL hardware acceleration was turned on for the demo, but it’s not required to use the animation-rich UI
While the Android demo definitely stole the show, the rest of the 90-minute keynote was dedicated to Google’s key developer products. Google vice president of engineering Vic Gundotra hosted the keynote. As expected, Google made some announcements relating to its App Engine, Google Web Toolkit, and Open Social products:
* The company has dropped “Google” from “Google Gears” — it’s just Gears now.
* Google tech lead Kevin Gibbs announced the opening of Google App Engine to everyone, a proposed pricing plan, Memcache and Image Manipulation APIs. See our full coverage of this announcement in our previous post.
* Tom Stocky from the App Engine team gave some insight into the platform’s choice of programming languages: Python is the first language supported for Google App Engine, but support for more languages will be announced later. Stocky has no specific info to release just yet. App Engine’s infrastructure is code-agnostic, so it can support other languages easily.
* MySpace senior vice president of engineering Allen Hurff announced Google Gears integration with MySpace’s messaging system. Gears enables offline reading, searching and sorting of messages.
* Google’s engineering manager Bruce Johnson, introduced Google Web Toolkit version 1.5 with Java 5 language support.
* Google’s engineering director David Glazer announced Open Social version 0.8 standards release and broke the news that AOL has joined the initiative. The company will be developing an implementation of Open Social on its network soon.
We’ll update more from the Google I/O event later in the day.