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Google Apologizes For App Engine Confusion

Higher App Engine prices may be here to stay, but Google is providing tools to help reduce costs.
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Google engineering director Peter Magnusson issued an apology Thursday evening through Google+ for the way that Google handled the App Engine price change.

Google announced in May that it planned to change the App Engine price structure toward the end of the year. But it was only a few days ago that developers had the tools to figure out what their bills would look like. The magnitude of the change prompted an outcry.

"It's clear we were wrong: Expecting developers to figure out their future costs from information in the admin console was simply too obtuse," wrote Magnusson. "We made a classic error: We're too familiar with our own product. So I apologize: We should have realized this and put out a version of side-by-side billing much sooner."

To help developers adapt, Google has decided to begin the new pricing model on November 1 rather than mid-September, as had been previously planned.

The company published a blog post Friday detailing changes it is making to ease the transition to the new pricing model.

Google is taking several steps to help developers adapt beyond extending the review period to November 1. It is also increasing the number of free Instance Hours per day from 24 to 28, which will help developers understand the impact of traffic spikes. It is extending its 50% pricing discount to December 1. And it has committed to providing usage reports in one day rather than three, which will allow developers to adjust to usage spikes sooner.

Google is also working on ways to help developers understand and monitor costs more effectively. The company plans to add a "billing" line to the graph that displays Instance usage in the App Engine Admin Console, and it's planning to provide a similar monitoring tool for datastore usage.

Finally, Google plans to make Premiere accounts, which include business-oriented features like support and offline billing, available prior to November 1.

To help developers adapt to the price structure change, Google is also providing advice about code optimization. This includes setting Max Idle Instances to a lower level to reduce Instances billed, managing resources more efficiently, and using Reserved Instance Hours, which are almost 40% cheaper than unreserved Instance time.

While not every App engine user will be able to make his or her applications run at an affordable level under the new price regime, some are finding that code optimization makes a difference.

Developer Emlyn O'Regan, for example, has documented various optimization techniques in a series of recent App Engine blog posts. While he doesn't appear to be able to optimize his code back to what he was paying--$0.51 per day--the changes he made will take his daily bill under the new price scheme down from $49.92/day to $1.92/day.

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