With the introduction of Google App Engine, the company is joining the likes of Amazon and others with its cloud-based application creation and instantiation services.
But as Sridhar Vembu, CEO of Zoho, highlighted in a recent blog posting, we are seeing the emergence of various layers of web services operating at different levels of abstraction, serving different market needs.
Google App Engine enables developers to build web applications on the same infrastructure used to power Google Apps, such as Google Docs, Gmail, etc. The development environment includes a range of features, from common web technologies and persistent storage, to APIs for authenticating users and automatic load balancing.
The App Engine Software Development Kit includes a web server application that emulates all of the App Engine services locally, and provides a tool to upload application code, static files, and data.
Applications are restricted to the Python programming language, but the company has said that it will support other languages in the future.
In a recent interview with ZDNet, Google App Engine product manager Pete Koomen is reported to have said that "a couple of the restrictions mean we are not suitable for the business market" and "we are much more suitable for the consumer marketplace during the preview release".
Despite these cautious words, Google has already signed up 20 000 developers, and so one must assume that at least some of these developers are sitting in corporate IT departments.
This being the case, I expect Google's own developers will be working around-the-clock to bring this facility into the world of business and commerce, as this is surely where they can start making money (there is no charging mechanism at present during the preview release).
So, while Amazon is focused on the virtualisation of servers and storage (Elastic Compute Cloud and Simple Storage Services) and core application services, Google it seems is focusing on higher-level application services within the cloud. For now.
Google's entry to the application development market signals yet another disruptive note against established norms, and although the company's offerings in this space are still at the embryonic stage, the sheer momentum behind the Google brand looks set to catapult this particular application development environment to the forefront of developer consciousness.