Google App Engine is teasing me

Version 1.1.9 of the Google App Engine (GAE) SDK was released earlier this week. The first item in the announcement covers the big news, that developers can “use the Python standard libraries urllib, urllib2 or httplib to make HTTP requests”. My first thought reading this was that I was finally going to be able to use timeouts on outgoing HTTP requests. I care about this because my earlier attempt to emulate a long-running process in GAE was stymied by the GAE quota system, something I think I can work around if I can timeout a request once it has spawned its successor (more precisely, once it has spawned the successor of the incoming request that created the new outgoing request).

I got the new SDK last evening and moved the code from using urlfetch to using urllib2 (with timeout). On my local machine it seems to work, but the quota system (that I am trying to finesse) doesn’t run in the SDK. So the only real test happens once you deploy the app in the Google environment. Which is when I realized that GAE uses Python 2.5.2 and that the timeout parameter in urllib2 (and httplib) came with 2.6. Slap.

I was especially disappointed because the links for urllib2 and httplib in the GAE 1.1.9 SDK announcement take us to the Python 2.6.1 documentation. The timeout parameter is right there at the top of these pages, staring at me. It would be more accurate for this announcement to point to the 2.5.2 documentation (here it is for urllib2 and httplib).

It doesn’t really matter of course because this is just a toy project. And a real scheduler seems to be in the works (see this pre-announcement and this work in progress). I just do this as a fun way to get a glimpse of what it takes to turn existing infrastructure into a *aaS product, something that is going on in different ways in many places these days. Linux wasn’t created to run on something else than hardware. Xen wasn’t created to support EC2. Python wasn’t created to support GAE.

And GAE wasn’t created to support long-running processes. But I haven’t given up.

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