The beta test -- with limited storage, bandwidth, and e-mail capabilities -- is open to the first 10,000 developers to sign up.
In a move that offers an alternative to startups considering Amazon's pay-as-you-go Web services infrastructure, Google on Tuesday announced a limited test of the new Google App Engine, an online development environment for building and running Web applications.
"Google App Engine gives you access to the same building blocks that Google uses for its own applications, making it easier to build an application that runs reliably, even under heavy load and with large amounts of data," said Google product manager Paul McDonald in a blog post.
Google App Engine includes dynamic Web serving, online storage using Google's Bigtable database and the Google File System, automatic scaling and load balancing, access to Google authentication and e-mail APIs, and a local development environment.
"I believe that App Engine will make launching a startup easier than ever," said Matt Cutts, head of Google's Web spam team, in a blog post. "At this point, you could build up a pretty killer startup incorporating technologies as simple as Gmail or as powerful as App Engine."
The Google App Engine beta test is open to the first 10,000 developers to sign up. During the preview period, applications will be limited to 500 megabytes of storage, 200 million megacycles of CPU per day, 10 gigabytes of bandwidth per day, and 2,000 e-mails per day (no spamming please). McDonald estimates that Google App Engine applications will be able to serve about 5 million page views per month under these limitations.
At some point, when Google App Engine has been more thoroughly tested, usage beyond these limits will require a fee.
Amazon Web Services can be used separately, whereas Google App Engine is more of an integrated platform.
Other more or less comparable Web app platforms include Salesforce.com's Force.com, Bungee Labs' BungeeConnect, and Xcerion's icloud.
Google App Engine programming must be done in Python. Google says that other programming languages may be supported in the future.
Google has a list of sample applications built using the Google App Engine in its applications gallery.