Google App Engine suffers availability problems

App-Engine-troubleGoogle’s App Engine’s Java service suffered problems for more than an hour

Nice financial results notwithstanding, Google had some trouble late today with its App Engine service for online applications.

Overall availability of the cloud-computing foundation, which can run online applications written in Python or Java, dropped at least as low as 88.1 percent, according to the Google App Engine status dashboard.

The dashboard showed problems serving Java programs–more than half of attempts to request an app’s Web page resources produced errors at one point–and in the delay to use a programming interface to manage tasks.

The problems appeared not to be permanent, though, and Python applications didn’t show the same troubles. According to the dashboard, problems began after 9 p.m. PT and were back to normal at about 11 p.m.

“We were taken down for several hours tonight by this. We had a lot of unhappy users and we felt powerless to do anything about it,” said Jason Cahill, an You vs. the Internet engineer who works on the Wordament game. His description of the outage:Google_App_Engine

We’ve been available to customers since April 1, and we’ve only ever had one outage before–which was planned weeks in advance by Google and on their blog. This time, there was almost no warning at all: They posted less than 3 hours before going offline. And, while their scheduled downtime was only supposed to be for 1 hour, they took us out from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m. PST. Our service was limping to life and then falling over for some of it; and then completely dead from 9 p.m. until 11. Even with our best attempts to harden our app for downtime, this was producing errors unlike we’ve ever seen or expected. The whole thing was handled very poorly by Google.

He wasn’t the only one to notice the problem: “Microsoft very graciously reached out to us tonight and offered to help us move to Azure. Since we are Windows Phone exclusive today, they are extra interested in helping us succeed,” Cahill said. “There’s no way we could have gotten this big and successful without a cloud platform, but this event made us think twice about ‘cloud redundancy.'”

App Engine can host applications written in Java, Python, and later, Google’s own Go programming language. These programs can tap into Google services such as online storage.

Its services are intermediate between Amazon Web Services, which provides a lower-level interface to computing nuts and bolts, and some higher-level services such as Google Docs or Spotify, which provide finished products that consumers can use over the Net.

Moving applications to the Net can cause problems, as shown by a massive, long Amazon Web Services outage in April. But the pitfalls of cloud computing must be balanced against the convenience and power–App Engine, AWS, and other services let customers ramp up operations very quickly and spend money only for resources used–and against the expenses and risks of running in-house network services.

Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the problems.

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