GAE offers a free to get started approach, along with an instant “hello word” initial environment, making sandboxing ideas and building helpful tools for productivuty a snap.
To get started, download GAE, press the plus sign in the bottom left corner. Set the directory you would like to work out of and your almost done. Well, at least you are already at the stage you need to be to start playing with the system locally, in what we call the development environment (No one can see your system but you.) Just hit the [play] button on the GAE dashboard and you are running with your first environment. Just click the Browser (the compass looking thing), or go to http://localhost:8080 in your browser, and you should see your first “hello word“! It is quite reassuring to see it work so smoothly (if indeed it does), and if this is the first time you have coded, trust me they have taken out a hell of allot of pain out of the tedium it can take to get here.
Without getting into the nitty gritty of code just yet, let’s push your baby to production (That means make it live/accessible to the world). That’s right, you are about to push a web application live to production! First create a new app at the google app engine home page and follow the steps there (setting up your yaml for upload). Your yaml file tells google which app your are updating when you do so. Not making sure your yaml matches your project is like you sending mail through the USPS without out a “from”/”to” address.
Once complete, press the blue arrow pointing upward (the “deploy” button) and it will deploy (AKA: push to prod, go live.)
Once deployed, you can update, monitor, or even share you application with the world. And all for free. Not that this baby would get allot of attention in its current state (just a “hello world”), but if it did, it would also be scalable. I mean 10 years ago this would have cost you quite a bit of time money, especially if you didnt know allot about server configurations, apache, linux, or windows server, or…well you get the idea.
There are a few sample apps you can play with on the GAE site. If you are ready, start developing some code i Python. Maybe had a hellow world message of your own.
When you start feeling saucy, try and create a model. A model is a data structure you can save, or persist, data to your system. Again to you newbies out there, this is the equivelent of your granfather telling you, “back in my day I had to walk up a hill in the snow to get to work, and up a hill in a blizzard to get back.” Setting up a database on a production server was a skill on its own, but to create one that is scalable, and without the need to architect it is amazing. You see, based on the models you create GAE intuitivley creates your “database”, stores it efficiently, and assumes where indexes need to be placed. You really don’t have to understand any of this, but if you want to you can look up those terms have at it: indexing, database, architecture, MVC…. Like I said, I’m just an old guy complaining about hills.
If you are still a bit timid about getting started, don’t worry there is a baby step in between these tween sized steps that can help you get ramped up before you start churning out lines and lines of code. Click on the “SDK Console” button on the GAE dashboard. It will open up a web page that is running locally, on your stage environment, that gives you windows into your system to hack around with. (This console lives inside your development app, so don’t forget to run your new app to get access to it.) Once in the console, click “Interactive Console”. There you will have a very rudimentary terminal that you can write temporary test scripts in. The output is shown on the right of the screen. This is a great place to get errors, make mistakes, and go nuts! (Note: The SDK Console also houses your development DB, so you can check to see what data you are saving after you have attempted to save it.)
Note: The easiest way to get started as a newbie, in my mind, is by using Python in GAE. Java, although awesome, is a bit more advanced.
I recently used GAE to create a few projects to help out the team. One for TeamCity monitor to view coverage reports and if a build is broken or not. And also one for Pivatol Tracker to help our press and marketing interpret what is coming out of the product pipeline, if its ready, and what are the stories of value within. I will post templates for those projects in the near future.