Google has done a major disservice to its cult of developers by changing
the pricing terms of App Engine ridiculously while giving developers
short notice to react. In doing so, Google may have done severe damage
to their brand and the trust that developers put in them.
Google released app engine in 2008 on a set of premises:
You should design and code your application for performance, because
that is what you will be charged for.
The cost of spinning up your instances is negligible, and they will
be spun up when needed and spun back down.
Utilize Google’s proprietary APIs, and don’t worry about the lockin,
because Google takes your trust seriously and we will not screw you
Your applications will scale while costing you little.
If the service does not take off, we will give you three years
notice to move your application away. Beyond that, you have nothing
to worry about.
Sometime around May 2011, Google decided to change the rules of the game
The pricing model would change. Instead of charging for performance
(CPU), we would be charged for instances started. We were asked to
change how we wrote our applications.
We were assured that the new pricing would probably raise our bills
by up to 4X, but not anything like the 10X and above that we were
getting vexed about
We were assured that a comparison billing will be released before
the new pricing takes effect giving us enough time to make changes
to our application or move off if the new pricing is not
cost-beneficial to us
There was a tacit suggestion that Google would not betray our trust
too badly, even as we were all very upset at the state of things
There was an acknowledgement that the new pricing model was not
beneficial to Python applications (who were all of the early
adopters), and that a new Python runtime would be released to
Today, September 1, 2011, Google did the following:
They released the comparison billing, which showed many people’s
costs going through the roof (5-10X for large apps, 300X for small
apps ie some bills went from $5000 to $26000, and some went from $60
to $2000, and some from free to $60)
They said the new billing would go into effect in 2 weeks (really,
only 2 weeks heads-up?)
They gave us a 50% discount for 7 weeks (really, a 50% discount when
pricing are going up by up to 30,000%)
It’s inconceivable and downright insulting that they released a new
pricing comparison tool that they have been promising only 2 weeks
before it takes effect. This has to be one of the biggest “F$CK YOU”
that I know about in a development community. The only option for most
customers is one of the following:
Pay Google their new rates with a significant loss to you (ie suck
Screw your own downstream customers by shutting down your app
without notice or with very short notice
If shutting down, you will still incur a ridiculous bill to
download your data, because Google does not have a simple way to
request your data i.e. you have to write an app that downloads your
data over the internet and pay per the number of entities
(regardless of the size of those entities). (Amazon allows you send
them a drive, and they download your data and ship the drive back
to you for a fair and known fee).
This just reinforced either one or two things that the community has
been upset about:
The App Engine Management team is clueless and terrible.
Google does not care about customer relations or maintaining trust
or brand equity. I doubt they would have done this for a business
Google is a data-driven company. I have to believe that they did some
analysis of the cost structure before releasing the new
pricing. However, the way the new pricing was announced and the lack of
clarity does not suggest that. It felt like someone came up this new new
model, and attached some prices to it. They couldn’t say clearly what
they expected the impact of the new prices to be. However, now that they
seem to have an idea, they are still bent on screwing us (the developer
There are a few things Google could have done to show they didn’t just
say tell their developer base “to hell with them”.
Release the comparison billing 3 months before the new billing
Release the new billing only after the Python runtime with
concurrency has been released
Every software ecosystem thrives on the backs of their faithful
developer base. Once you start screwing them over, you stunt and start
to reverse the growth of this very important base. Google seems bent on
screwing this developers (something I doubt Microsoft would ever have
done in their heyday).
Unfortunately, a lot of the backlash has been on the Google Groups. We
hoped that we could talk to Google in-house and let them know of our
disappointment, and that didn’t make a difference.
Now, complaining on Google Groups is like crying foul to ourselves. That
is like an oppressed people telling themselves know that they are being
oppressed. For Google to take this seriously, we will need to shout it
outside and make this an issue outside our inner-circle. Let’s all take
to blogs, facebook groups, twitter, google plus, etc.
Also, I don’t know the legal ramifications, but maybe a class action
suit might be in order. In my opinion, we were deceived by Google, plain
and simple. To make matters worse, Google is giving us a set of unfair
options, preventing us from leaving gracefully. Two weeks notice is
inconceivable for development work that has been going on for years.