To see where things stand, I set up some accounts on four leading Java clouds, built a few toy Java applications, and watched the gauges turn. Even among the four I tried -- Google App Engine, Cloud Foundry, CloudBees, and Red Hat OpenShift -- there is a wide variety of approaches. Some of the clouds rely upon standard tools that take standard WAR files and deliver their information to the world. Others have so many proprietary twists that you might as well tattoo the code on your arm -- it's going to be with you for the rest of your life.
The cloud experiment: Java versionThe Java cloud offerings are steadily growing better and more sophisticated, but they're far from a finished set of products. Several of the tools here are perfectly open about their half-baked state. The sign-up forms often insist that we understand the cloud is just a beta application, for development only and not for production work. In fact, it might be more accurate to call the clouds postalpha or prebeta.
Even the more established clouds are constantly shifting because this is all something of an experiment. No one really knows how the loads and the costs will add up, so the prices seem to be changing, sometimes in dramatic ways. The cloud sellers don't really know how their costs will shake out, so they're guessing when they say it costs X dollars for Y million transactions. As the old joke goes, they're losing money on every click but hoping to make it up in volume.
Pricing may be the most difficult and challenging issue for both buyers and sellers for years to come. People are already cheesed off at the way Google stopped subsidizing its App Engine. Some users are complaining that their costs doubled or tripled with, irony of ironies, one click of a button. But who can blame Google? While the company has excellent financial engineers, I'm not sure if they can know the fair price for a round trip to the Big Table data store. It probably fluctuates with the rainfall in the northwest, where the hydropower is the cheapest power source for some of Google's newest data centers.