Google File System: Much To Do About Nothing

Google had a much-hyped announcement tonight that, frankly, I’m missing the point of. Techcrunch covered it. Scoble Qik’d it live. I was one of numerous who took the bait out of curiosity and watched the announcement live until Scoble turned off his camera, or something.

honestly, folks, I don’t see what the point is. The product manager for this new service began the party by talking about how Google App Engine (Link dead until launch time) would be “easy to use and easy to scale”. The presentation then showed a very nervous developer trying to write up a simple Hello World script in Python.

Ok, here’s my problem. For the growing number of non-technical entrepreneurs, python is neither easy to use and the demonstration does not demonstrate easy to scale. At some point, the presenter stated that anyone could build applications using Google’s infrastructure that could be as big as Google’s own apps.

Forgive my cynicism.

This, my friends, is an Amazon S3 “me too”. There is not innovation here. There is nothing ground breaking here. It is yet another case of Google deciding that it can do things better than everyone else but with the exception of Search, Gmail and Google Adsense (the latter being questionable these days), I wonder how many of Google’s initiatives are really all that groundbreaking.

Then there’s the question of privacy. Google’s ever present incursion into deeper parts of lives should make every privacy nut cringe, and turn those who are not privacy nuts into privacy nuts. With the adoption of OpenSocial and now providing a platform for application development, Google’s hand continue to delve deeper into our deeply guarded private lives.

I’m skeptical here folks. From what I’ve seen, nothing is easy to get into here. Companies are not necessarily better off for using this infrastructure. The concept of threaded processes and optimized platforms for optimized content goes out the window with an S3 or a Google App Engine. And… The privacy concerns are very real.

Hold the phone. Let’s see what happens here.

11 Replies to “Google File System: Much To Do About Nothing”

  1. Cool points, the privacy side of this stuff has yet to really unfold. People trusted picture sharing and applications made sense, initially. However, as we go deeper into online applications, Scott McNeely is thinking “see, I told you this would work…” However, empowerment is granted through your Mac/PC and anyone of these online companies, if they own your entire identity, can shut you down as it suits them.

    Anyway, I’m digressing.

    I also liked your comment in your about page, the part about McDonalds ( I often wonder if the Roman Empire lost things to communicate about and then lost the sense of working together. Perhaps McDonalds is a common thread that keeps us from fighting, maybe that’s why they call it a “Happy Meal”


  2. I’ve been using S3 for 6+ months and EC2 for about the same… I don’t see how this changes much.

    I don’t know much about the app engine yet, but only supporting Python is going to be a weakness. Despite the popularity of Python, I believe that PHP usage is still bigger… probably an order of magnitude or two. They’d be in good shape to add that quickly.

    On the privacy front. Yes, I think that’s a valid concern. While Google has been relatively good about not sharing data with US authorities, they have demonstrated a willingness to share things with the Chinese.

    As a competitor to Amazon’s S3… that’s not a tough nut to crack. Aaron’s right, it’s cold/backup storage. You wouldn’t put your app on there, just the stuff that you’d normally put on a CDN.

    Useful… probably. Earthshaking… not so far.

  3. Exactly my thoughts. Not new! Not even half as good or useful as Amazon services. I think for now it’s as crappy as an iPhone clone. If they are really serious about it then it could be great. But openSocial or the Social Graph API are not great yet. At the moment I see google making postures but not delivering the awsome stuff that they did up to 2 years ago. Not so strange that people are leaving then is it?

  4. Hey Aaron,

    I really like your post though I have a different angle on the story. I don’t think goog is doing it because they have something better or new. I think they do it as a point of weakness. Google has been ahead of everyone thanks to their great infrastructure, which enabled them to scale as much as they wanted to and once companies like S3 (and I guess more to come) have commoditized their inner secret they didn’t have any other option. I am very glad personally computing resources are becoming commodity nowadays, it breaks up many barriers held by the big guys just thanks to their money.


  5. I think this packages things together quite nicely. I’ve done some preliminary research and the offerings therein seem much more complete than anything Amazon has done – most notably on the development and scale side of things.

    While S3 and EC2 are great, and in my opinion have really been a big hit for Amazon on all fronts, I think Google’s App Engine is going to begin to bring all of these pieces together in a way that makes it easy for startups to stop worrying about scale, api, authentication systems, billing, and development platforms – and just start making great products.

    Think about an app built with App Engine + Open Social + Google Gears. If it becomes a big hit, it won’t go down (theoretically).

    While I don’t think this should be considered “the biggest Google announcement ever”, I do consider a damn fine package.

  6. I think is a great new addition in the cloud computing arena.
    Is this better than AWS no. Is it worse than AWS no.
    It is just different. What I like you do not have to rent a machine
    you are just renting CPU cycles and bandwidth. Your performance would be better (in theory)
    because you are not running on a virtual machine and you are not using XML for your communication medium.
    But on the other hand you do not have persistent storage,
    a lot of 3rd party apps or libraries will not work and you do not have control of the machine.
    You do have web application hosting which is scalable and robust that you do not have put together yourself.
    With amazon you only get some advantages of a robust platform.
    You still have to deal with hardware failure
    I could see myself using both services Google App Engine for my web front end and database.
    EC2 for back end maintenance and processing.

  7. I think you’re vastly underestimating Google. Amazon doesn’t have an entire library of applications already on the shelf that it can expose to its users. You bet your bottom dollar that Google will be opening it’s entire arsenal of tools – search, maps, social networks, blogs, google sites, google apps, etc. and merging them in as objects. This isn’t about another ‘S3’ and learning python – this is about Google explosively expanding its reach and making its tools accessible.

    Oh yee of little gfaith! You should be gshamed.

  8. I agree with you on most points — privacy issues aside (in the case of OpenSocial, anyway, that’s really up to the service, not the app anyway — but I agree with you otherwise), this move seems very “me too” — which isn’t uncommon for them. Having said that, while I think only supporting Python in the beta is a misfire (not a huge misfire, all the dev accounts are already gone), and don’t think that this one-stop shop solution will be really comparable to something like what Amazon offers — I do think it has potential. The whole “free” aspect is interesting, especially for people who might want to build an app and not start paying out the ass immediately. Build it, deploy it, see how it works — move it over to something better.

    I can also see this being exciting from a Google Code perspective — for sandboxing and the like. But yeah, I think the hype is overshadowing the actual significance.

  9. Aaron,

    It completely is a “me too” to Amazon’s S3. That’s why I titled my write-up of App Engine as the “Amazon S3 Competitor” — that’s exactly what it is.

    More bloated features, different limitations, and Google integration.

    let’s see how many python developers come out of the wood work for this one.

  10. “For the growing number of non-technical entrepreneurs, python is neither easy to use and the demonstration does not demonstrate easy to scale”

    I’d never use a system designed by a “non-technical entrepreneur” who wasn’t willing to hire an actual developer to do the development work. Same as I’d run a mile – if I was a VC – from a startup with _just_ developers and no biz experience (or, I’d invest, but put someone in with a clue etc)

    Horses for courses. This is also a preview – read v0. alpha. Expect Java. Expect Javascript (which are the three “google” languages). Expect another 12 months before it’s really “real”.

  11. I believe you are missing the point here. This is not really just competing against Amazon services which are more loosely coupled services to store information, etc. This is directed at facebook and to alleviate the threat faced from facebook apps and the facebook platform increasingly used by developers to build applications and goog employees leaving for facebook.

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