Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Google AppEngine: The network is becoming the computer

This post is a take on the Google AppEngine which is a cloud computing solution living in the Platform As a Service (PaaS) layer. A basic sample code is available at the end but, more concrete examples of this post are available on the resources mentioned in the reference section below.

Google AppEngine is Google's, to some extent free, web app execution environment for you. You can develop web applications and deploy it on AppEngine in an instant. You production execution environment is the offer. Traditionally, you design a webapp, the pages, middle tier and the database etc. You also have to install software for your production environment. With AppEngine, you just write the code and upload it. It will be available immediately on Google's infrastructure which you don't have to spend time and money on. On top of it all, is the ability to scale, replicate like Google.

In order to use AppEngine, you just need to signup on the AppEngine site with a email and password. If you have a Google account it is enough. The main applications that are suitable for AppEngine are the ones that require to talk to an HTTP(s) endpoint. Basically, web based applications like an online forum. You are restricted from doing traditional stuff like creating local files, opening outgoing sockets etc. But, you do have a lot of overwhelming options to add to your site like, email, instant messaging, distributed filesystem API, Memory caching, my favorite. You can develop using Python 2.7 which is what I used and also using Java, Google Go with corresponding SDKs from Google. There are number of web frameworks supported including Django. Here I followed the very basic webapp. 

If you have done servlet based development then, it is easy to get first hold of AppEngine. As always you have an application configuration file similar to web.xml. Here it is a .yaml file. My project's yaml file is shown below

You specify the script which will handle the requests to your server url. This script can be thought of as a controller servlet in Java Web programming using servlets. Then with in that python code, you create the application, specify the url mappings, the classes to handle the url mapping requests and you are basically done. So, in helloworld.py, I have the following similar to an MVC web app.

Also the code for the main handler as below, which has get and post to handle the request like servlets.

Set up on Ubuntu Linux:
1) Download the AppEngine Python sdk from Google. This is a zip file.
2) Extract it to say, /usr/local/appengine-python
3) Create links to appcfg.py and dev_appserver.py file in the above path at /usr/local/bin. So that, you can run these programs. This can be done using the command

 sudo ln -s /usr/local/google_appengine/appcfg.py /usr/local/bin/
4) Your folder /usr/local/bin will look something like this
5) Download the Eclipse plugin for AppEngine development and you are done. Although this is not necessary unless you use eclipse.

Uploading your project to AppEngine
1) Go to the root of you webapp project and execute the command as shown below. You will be asked a email and password for authentication and then your app will be provisioned instantly. You can access it at http://<appid when you created it on Appengine site>.appspot.com

2) The site on Google AppEngine
3) Download code for the project from link:

More explanations on code and features in next post.

1) Core Python Applications Programming Chapter 12 on Google AppEngine.
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