Treat Google as an application platform

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Good news for developers as we can treat Google as an application platform. SMB (Small medium business) are trying to harness Google platform and applications as much as possible. Now, you can build your application on excellent architecture such as Google’s. I am sure Google Apps and Google App Engine will rock in development community. These applications can help with set of applications and development platform for building your own applications. Following is my quick review on Google’s offerings

Google Apps

Google Apps provides a suite of online applications, which include the following:

  • Gmail provides address book and search features, along with integration with Google Talk and Calendar.
  • Google Talk is an instant messaging tool for real-time communication with contacts. File sharing and voice is included as well.
  • Google Calendar organizes schedules with easy-to-use calendars that may be shared among groups of people. In addition, you may integrate it with your current calendar platform.
  • Google Docs allows you to create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. It supports familiar document formats such as the Microsoft Office Suite of products, so you can easily use it with existing systems. Google Docs also provides real-time collaboration with other users.
  • Start Page provides you with your own start page to customize to include the tools such as email, calendar, or another website.
  • Google Sites provides a website on which users may work together to build and edit Web applications. It brings together all the power of Google. You may embed videos, straight HTML, Google Gadgets, a spreadsheet from Google Docs, and so forth; it is only limited by the user’s imagination. It also provides a central place to collaborate. The term wiki comes to mind when I work with Google Sites.

The Google Apps initiative is a powerful alternative to more established products such as SharePoint and Lotus Notes. A great selling point is that Google provides the entire behind-the-scenes infrastructure to run everything, and it stores the data (although you can choose to store data locally). Plus, everything runs within the browser window, so there is no need to install anything additional on user computers.

Small business can get up and running with Google Apps in no time and at no cost. The Standard Edition offers all of the previously discussed applications for all of your users. The Premier Edition comes with a US$50 per user fee. It provides everything in the Standard Edition, along with more tools for enterprise usage. This includes APIs for integrating with existing systems, policy management, more storage space, and customer support. In addition, an Education Edition is available for students.

My initial feeling is that Google Apps is a great offering, especially for small businesses without the capital to build such an infrastructure. Also, the push towards a mobile, disconnected workforce lends itself well to such an offering. I recommend checking out Google Apps: The Missing Manual , which offers in-depth information on every facet of the product.

At this point, Google Apps covers pretty much everything a group or company would need except for custom applications, and Google has an answer for that too.

Google App Engine

If the Google Apps paradigm is attractive, but it does not offer the applications you need, you can use the Google App Engine to build and deploy a custom application via Google-provided infrastructure. The Google App Engine gives developers access to Google’s platform with the following features:

  • The Google App Engine SDK for building applications locally and then deploying to the Google App Engine platform;
  • A scalable server infrastructure;
  • Support for multiple languages, although Python is the only language supported at this time;
  • A robust data store via Bigtable, which is a distributed storage system that Google uses for dealing with its vast amount of data. It is designed to scale to a very large size, so it can easily accommodate your data;
  • A Web command console that allows you to manage your application.

The Google App Engine includes several APIs for leveraging Google functionality. This initially includes APIs for working with user accounts; Mail API for working with mail items; and other APIs for working with the data store and so forth. The Google App Engine integrates with all versions of Google Apps, so custom applications for teams can be built and deployed via the Google platform.

Unfortunately, the only supported language is Python, which is not a surprise considering it’s no secret that Google uses Python quite a bit internally. While that is great for the Python community, it leaves many developers waiting for more and not wanting to learn another language. As a developer, it is intriguing to get a taste of how a very successful organisation such as Google does things with features such as Bigtable and the Google file system.

World domination in Google’s Mind .. isn’t it?

Many Microsoft haters applaud Google Apps and the Google App Engine. While I find it hard to believe Google Docs will force Microsoft Office off of its high perch, it does make me wonder about another behemoth rising in the industry. Like Microsoft, the tenets of Google are reaching into every imaginable space. Is its next target the operating system? Do we want one company controlling everything? It is good to have companies battling against each other because the consumer winds up being the winner.

Are you currently using Google Apps or the Google App Engine? If not, do you plan to use either product in the future? Leave me a comment and let me hear your opinion. If you’ve got any thoughts, comments or suggestions for things we could add, leave a comment! Also please Subscribe to our RSS for latest tips, tricks and examples on cutting edge stuff.

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