When Google released version 1.3.8 of the Google App Engine SDK in October, they introduced an instance console, showing you how many instances are serving your application and some basic metrics about these instances. I wrote a blog to consider the implications of providing this level of visibility to application administrators. It also pointed out some shortcomings of this first version of the console.
The most glaring problem was that the console showed an “average latency” which was just a straight average of the latencies of all the instances, independently of the traffic they see. Which is a meaningless number.
Today, Google released an update to the SDK (1.4), and along with it some minor updates to the instance console. Except that, as you can see below, the screen capture in their announcement happens to show three instances that have processed exactly the same number of messages. Which means that we can’t tell whether they have fixed the “unweighted average” problem or not. Is this just by chance? Google, WTF? (which stands for “what’s the formula?”, of course).
I decided it was worth spending a few minutes to find the answer. I don’t have any app currently in use on GAE, but it doesn’t take much work to generate enough load to wake up one of my old apps and get it to spin a couple of instances. Here is the resulting console instance:
If you run the numbers, you can see that they’ve fixed that issue; the average latency is now weighted based on instance traffic. Thanks Google for listening.
Apparently, not all the updates have trickled down to my version of the instance console. The “requests”, “errors” and “age” columns are missing. I assume they’re on their way. Seeing the age of the instances, especially, is a nice addition, one of those I requested in my blog.
In the grand scheme of things, these minor updates to the console (which remains quite basic) are not the big news. The major announcement with SDK 1.4 is that the dreaded 30 seconds limit on execution time has been lifted for background tasks (those from Task Queue and Cron). It’s now a much more manageable 10 minutes. This doesn’t apply to the execution of Web requests served by your app.
Google App Engine has been under criticism recently, and that 30-second limit (along with reliability issues) figured prominently in the complains. Assuming the reliability issues are also coming under control, this update will go a long way towards addressing these issues.
Just so you realize how lucky you are if you are just now starting with Google App Engine, here are the kind of hoops you had to jump through, in the early days, to process any task that took a significant amount of time. This was done a year before the Cron and Task Queue features were added to GAE.
Another nice addition with SDK 1.4 is that you can now retrieve the source code of your application from Google’s servers. Of course you should never need that if you are rigorous and well-organized… Presumably this is only for Python since in the Java case Google’s servers never see the source code.
The steady progress of the GAE SDK continues.
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