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 over.
- 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 on everyone:
- 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 mitigate things
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 it up)
- 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 customer base.
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 base).
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 takes effect.
- 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.
From my part, I have started the following:
- Blog Post:
- Google Plus Post:
- Facebook Page:
- Twitter Hashtag:
Other posts I have seen about this are linked below:
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.
Sept 8, 2011: Objective Gripes with New Google App Engine Pricing
This attempts to objectively address areas where the new App Engine pricing may not not fair, and what Google may do to alleviate these concerns.