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Node.js is now available on App Engine standard environment (googleblog.com)
310 points by steren on June 12, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 112 comments

Standard, in my opinion, is still the best bet of you want most of the things out of the box from GCP. Flex does allow a lot of customization but you miss out on Memcache, Task Queues, Auto tracing in Stackdriver etc which are sometimes really backbone of your highly scalable architecture given that you don't want to manage your own infrastructure.

The free tier is frighten awesome. I love using GAE standard backends for my hobby projects

I was looking into it a bit today, but was discouraged after hearing some comments about having to specialize on the application source level to accommodate the GAE environment, and that you have to use their proprietary non-relational database.

Are those things true, or as significant as they sound? (Not being able to directly port my source to another service sounds quite risky...)

Disclosure: I work on Google Cloud.

That’s ancient history, particularly with these recent launches, as Google Cloud has become a real platform.

This is vanilla node. You need not use Datastore, and can happily talk to a managed MySQL or Postgres instance via Cloud SQL (albeit sadly still via public IP and/or a proxy for now). The same is true of the recent Java 8 support, and will be true of all the new runtimes going forward (as mentioned downthread, the Google I/O talk is the best reference here).

Google Cloud Functions is similar, fwiw. You can even package up arbitrary binaries and exec them (ffmpeg is a favorite, as is imagemagick’s convert).

Better than Heroku? I'm still thinking about GAE for my upcoming app API :-) Cheers

Gigalixir has been wooing me. I've been writing phoenix apps lately and Gigalixir include 10k rows of postgres for free, plus no sleeps and no daily restarts. Definitely worth looking at.

Founder of Gigalixir here in case you have any questions. Also, happy to give out free credits for the standard tier. Gigalixir also works with many languages other than Elixir.

What does it include?

Not to mention that standard is enough to run a pretty significant free-tier site.

I'd way rather program in JS than Python [edited: thanks yathern], especially now that async/await is a thing in Javascript. Very cool work by the Appengine team.

> rather program in Node than JS

Node is JS, of course (with a different standard library). Did you perhaps mean to compare Node to python or something?

Thanks for the correction! I mean, "Rather program in JS than Python," but my hands typed faster than my brain was keeping up. Oopsie.

Yeah but the "standard" env is always behind(at least on the Go version) and on top of that you are even more locked in. The only real advantage of the standard environment is that you pay only for what you use. On the "fkexible" environment you must keep at least one instance live all the time. IMHO you should avoid GAE.

You might want to take a look at our talk from Google I/O about the new runtime


The new runtime is 100% idiomatic without any special apis. We do offer certain native libraries pre compiled system libraries (to support headless chrome among other things) and certain ENV Variables for gcp API tokens.

You should be able to lift and shift a GAE Standard Node.js app to any other provider with minimal overhead.

I can't make direct promises regarding the runtime update cadence, but I can promise that I work closely with the people responsible for this and they care a lot about getting updates out in a timely fashion. The new runtime stack makes this easier to do than previous GAE Standard runtimes.

(Disclaimer: I work for GCP)

What's the reasoning behind the headless chrome inclusion? It seems a very niche thing to build in.

Perhaps you should avoid GAE for hobby projects, but if you can afford it, it can save you some money in not needing any ops. For hobby sites you probably barely need ops.

Standard GAE is great for hobby projects due to the free tier. It's nice to still have a running server that I haven't touched in years.

By contrast, I deployed an app on Digital Ocean and, though they have a solid product, I eventually shut the instance down to avoid paying the monthly fee on an app I rarely used.

well, i don't use GAE too. All in with cloud functions. In fact, planning to migrate my payments backend to cloud functions this week.

> IMHO you should avoid GAE.

And you should stop telling others what works best for them without knowing anything about what their projects and needs are.

This surprises me. I had assumed incorrectly that flexible environments were the future of App Engine.

I'm pretty happy with using flexible environment for nodejs. However, the fact that this supports scaling to zero, and has headless chrome built-in, I could see using this for a low-cost headless Chrome environment.

I've had several projects where I've wanted a node server separate from the main app server on which I could use headless Chrome for pdf generation. It's never easy to justify the cost of an extra instance for that purpose. But with a zero scale capability, this could presumably be cheaper and easier to justify.

Same here! I was going with the assumption that standard environments are going away since they haven't been updated for years.

I wish they had python 3. It's still stuck on python 2, which will be unsupported in less than two years.

Hi, I'm a Product Manager on the App Engine team. We're actually (finally!) gearing up to offer Python 3.

Would you like to be an alpha tester? Here's the sign-up form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfLXViTUmtY6Ed_Gm9H...

Can you share even a smidgen of what took so long (10 years!)?

From various comments over the years here and elsewhere, I’ve been led to the understanding that Python 3 was “coming soon” several times.

1. Why now?

2. Is it true this time?

3. Will Python 3 keep up to date with new releases, or 5 years from now will we be stuck on 3.6?

4. What is the future and roadmap of AppEngine?

The feeling in the community is that AppEngine is another Google Reader, and death may be imminent. Can you reassure us?

5. What is the future of Standard and Flex?

Should all new projects be started on Flex?

Is standard ever going to keep up with language releases?


Awesome questions. We do understand from the company standpoint that its difficult to give the roadmap and the timelines of the product. However, a lot of the user's decision is completely based on the road map of the product. Without being clear on this, how would you expect users to use the product?!

See https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17297472 elsewhere in this thread for why.

How about .NET Core?

Ooc, why run .net core on gcp instead of azure?

I'd presume the most common are probably other experience with GCP, other applications on GCP, or prefer GCP tooling to Azure. I haven't compared pricing, so no comment there. Lastly, anti-ms pov.

For me there's main reasons are 1. Free tier 2. Features in that order

It is perfect for "hobby" projects that have no revenue today. If a "revenue strategy" emerges, it isofcourseeasy to enable billing but there is no 12 month $300 trial.

Awesome I have been waiting for this for soooo long

I agree, lack of python 3 support is what pushed me to seek alternatives (e.g. heroku) when wanting to build out a project with minimal server infrastructure overhead.

Hi lazypenguin -- in case you're still interested in Python 3 support on App Engine -- we're working on it. If you'd like to be included in a private alpha test, please complete this form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfLXViTUmtY6Ed_Gm9H...

Can someone from GCP explain why the App Engine standard environment has such long lead-times in terms of language support? What is required, infrastructurally, to ship a new standard-environment language?

Another PM on App Engine here.

Historically supporting a language on App Engine required modifying the languages libraries to work on proprietary parts of Google infrastructure. This entailed a decent bit of effort on our part, and also meant that some apps & code wouldn't execute correctly.

We now use technology based on gVisor (https://github.com/google/gvisor) in production for App Engine standard. This allows us to release new language runtimes unmodified. Node.js support is the first runtime based on this new stack.

We completely agree that we should be releasing support for new languages & major versions more frequently...

Are there plans to use the new tech for Go app engine? Go on app engine was a real struggle with the non-standard bits.

(PM on the team) To be able to deliver Node.js on App Engine Standard, we had to develop an entirely new sandbox environment. You can learn more about it by watching this I/O talk (starting at 15min): https://youtu.be/ogexnfng_hE?t=14m48s

Look at the deploy time for Express in Node.js standard compared to Flex! Much faster. Thank you, Googlers.

(PM on the team) Thanks! Also, subsequent deployments are faster than the first thanks to some caching in the build process.

I have a NodeJS app running on flex that I always thought was a little pricey, so I'll probably move it to standard.

However, I do have one question.

My app server currently polls another external endpoint periodically and does something based on the results. If I move it to standard will this still work? I assume not since it can scale to zero.

How about eventsource or websocket connections? Will those work (both websockets to the server and to external servers)?

Requests are expected to complete within 60s so a websocket connection is probably not sensible.


For handling incoming long-lived connections, you could pair with Fanout [1] (disclosure: founder). Basically the client sees a raw WebSocket, and your backend gets woken up with HTTP requests when things happen.

I haven't seen anything like this for outbound connections though.

[1] https://fanout.io

(Pm on the team) App Engine Standard does not support websockets at the moment.

I'm debating between GAE standard or Firebase now for my next project :/ I've always been confortable with nodejs but didn't want to bother with GCP (GAE flex). One part that I liked about Firebase is how it's easy to support multiple login providers (twitter,fb...etc). Is there something similar in GAE standard nodejs ?

(PM on the team) These are not incompatible, you can use Firebase authentication with App Engine. Get started at https://firebase.google.com/docs/auth/. The firebase Authentication Admin SDK has a Node.js client library that is compatible with App Engine (https://firebase.google.com/docs/auth/admin/).

I don't quite understand how GAE would affect using Firebase or not. Even on standard you would still use Firebase Auth, there is no GAE specific authentication.

There actually is some gae specific authentication


But it has nowhere near the features of Firebase Auth.

Firebase doesn't support Access Management with a limit to one project. So if you generate login:ci token it'll create token with access to all your projects and there are no other ways to manage it. I don't know why it still not implemented. Be careful.

We use Firebase (and Firebase Functions :fire:) for most of our stuff. Then have a few things running on App Engine. What are you building? I'm a big fan of firebase if it makes sense for what you are building!

Firebase user here. Played with GAE in the past and now running all the backend code in functions.

So as a coding n00b I tend to put my stuff on Heroku if only because at the moment that's what I know... and it is free. Any advantage to jumping into Google's App Engine?

App Engine autoscales. To be sure, this isn't a key feature for a lot of sites which don't achieve a ton of scale, but Google can keep spinning up new frontend instances and the Data Store essentially "just scales" if you use it properly.

Heroku is no doubt the easiest to set up and use. I find their free tier too restrictive, however, since (1) apps are put to sleep pretty aggressively and take time to wake up, resulting in failed requests and (2) they have a set quota for total free hours/month across all apps on your account.

GCP free tier provides a lot more in comparison (app engine hours, cloud storage, memcache, pub/sub, cron, egress, cloud functions and more), but you have to be willing to tolerate the vendor lock-in.

Yeah I'm slowly becoming more annoyed by how quickly Heroku puts things to sleep.

take a look at gigalixir.com. I'm moving an app over there right now and they don't do the annoying sleep thing, or the daily restarts. You also get a free 10k row db. Pricing is reasonable if/when you want to scale later too. More expensive than rolling it on GCE yourself, but you get all the convenience of the heroku workflow.

I will check them out. Thank you.

Founder of Gigalixir here in case you have any questions. Also happy to give out free credits for the standard tier. Gigalixir also works with many languages other than Elixir.

Been waiting on this for years.

Well, the out of the box experience for me is pretty bad. Just created a TypeScript based React App, using npx, which runs locally just fine and when deployed to app engine it just 500s with nothing in the log as to why.

(PM here), if you share a GitHub repository that reproduce the issue, we can investigate and fix issues.

Be sure to perform the build step before deploying.

Very nice. Now, maybe allow it to connect to a typical SQL database via Cloud SQL? It seems like the only hosted database you can use with this is Cloud Datastore, a proprietary NoSQL database.

Cool, this has previously been an issue. They haven't updated the docs I was looking at yet https://cloud.google.com/sql/docs/postgres/connect-app-engin...

(PM on the team) Good catch, I'm sending a pull request.

While you're here...

It's really unclear from this what the security best practice is for where to put the Cloud SQL password.

Do we just assume the password is public info and rely on IAM?

This discusses really clunky methods to use the legacy datastore or a bucket to store a password.


Seems odd when competitors (Heroku, Beanstalk) have a special system for keeping environment variables with the password in.

At this point I believe Google has a deep aversion to storing secrets in environment variables. The best way I have found so far is to use Cloud KMS to encrypt the credentials and have the deploy process be able to fetch and decrypt them on the fly. Some folks also store that and other config in Datastore, although I think that's really clunky. You can also use Google Cloud KMS-backed Hashicorp Vault: https://cloud.google.com/solutions/using-vault-for-secret-ma...

Can someone give me some estimated costs?

I was playing with the flex environment with an express app (nothing special: cloud sql, cloud storage, etc). It ended up costing like ~$80 when I forgot to shut down a zero traffic dev instance for a month. It starts two instances by default and even if I set manual scaling to 1, it still costs like $40 a month. (I ended up going with a $5 VPS instead)

Is standard environment any cheaper? Curious about some real numbers for development and when deployed at scale.

My experience has been it is way over priced. It costs over $40/month for a 1CPU/1GB RAM node while linode, amongst others is $5 + $20 for a load balancer. I noticed in the google pricing calculator that you can set the Cores/vCPUs per hour to 0.05 and it goes down to $7/month! I'm not if I can do anything do with 0.05 of a core though, or if it automatically increases if it decides to.

Wow! Any chance we'll see Ruby in the standard environment?

Is it possible to downgrade an existing flexible app to standard without changing A records? It seems there is a dedicated page for that, but it leads to a 404. https://cloud.google.com/appengine/docs/standard/nodejs/upgr...

(PM on the team) Migrating from Node.js flexible to Node.js standard should be pretty straightforward. Chances are you only need to perform a new deployment and remove `env: flex` in your app.yaml.

Trying this first thing tomorrow

That's great news. I've been using AWS EB (also great) but love datastore and making calls across to Datastore on GAE. Now maybe I can just put Node on GAE.

But damn those free AWS credits !!!

Edit: just saw that OS has the right dependencies for running headless Chrome / puppeteer. This is huge. Because GAE Standard was always quite sandboxed.

Are there type definitions for the Google Cloud packages?

Edit: For those also interested, here is the relevant issue https://github.com/GoogleCloudPlatform/google-cloud-node/iss...

The article talks about upsides to using Standard over Flexible but what (if there are any) are the downsides?

PM on the team. Flex allows bigger instance sizes, VPC access, custom base docker images with custom binaries. Generally, it's a bit more flexible. :)

Does this runtime have access to the Standard APIs? It doesn't seem like the docs have any mention of Task Queue/Memcache/etc.

The other standard runtimes have special packages, but I think for Node everything is just being lumped into the companion package https://cloud.google.com/nodejs/docs/reference/libraries

No. The real issue is that these APIs/platforms are closed source. Sooner or later you may need to move a service from appengine to a non-gae environment and you will find that nothing works. If you invest in tools/libs (i.e wrappers/ORM around the GAE APIs) the loss is even bigger.

Thanks for the response! You all are doing some good work.

Flex feels like a lower level of abstraction. You provide a docker file and what you want your machines to look like (vcpu, ram, storage) and it handles everything else. Standard is much closer to Heroku with the added benefit of being able to call APIs for managed services. If you want control over your environment (including what dependencies are available), you want to use Flex. In every other case, I think Standard is the way to go.

It only supports Node v8 (which sounds like an upside to me). The main difference is that you can't customize the run time image.

(PM on the team) This page details the differences and why you would pick one over the other: https://cloud.google.com/appengine/docs/nodejs/

Wow! I've been waiting for this for a long time.

This is helpful to people starting new projects. Using the Standard environment would cost significantly less than the Flexible environment which is one of the reasons I avoided GAE before.

Cool but being stuck on version 8 is a big issue for me so I don't think I could use it. Would prefer something like that over having to do a custom Dockerfile though if Node 9 or 10 were available.

8 is the current LTS version.

Isn't firebase cloud-functions from google doing mostly the same?

Firebase cloud functions are more AWS Lambda competition, where you write JS functions that follow a particular interface and can do certain things.

This is being able to deploy regular NodeJS servers with no special changes or modifications, and have them run an autoscaling sandbox that does a really good job of keeping the server alive (and charging you) only when absolutely necessary. Also scales up infinitely (up to your budget, anyway) in a pinch.

Wasn't Ingress/Niantic using App engine when they were going through their scalability problems? Nothing scales infinitely.

if you are talking about Pokemon GO, then no. i was on GKE (https://cloudplatform.googleblog.com/2016/09/bringing-Pokemo...).

You can deploy a regular NodeJS server via firebase cloud functions as well.

The execution and billing model is a bit different.

App Engine is great for full HTTPS servers, and is billed on an instance basis (it does scale to zero when unused)

GCF is great for responding to events in the cloud (Pub/Sub, Storage, webhook, Firebase database) and is billed on a per function execution basis.

The actual runtimes are quite similar, though GCF is still Node 6 based for now.

(I work for GCP)

I think Firebase Functions are more restricted in what/when they can run

Are there differences in the scaling characteristics of the nodejs standard environment and the python 2 standard environment? Does one environment scale faster than the other?

(PM in the team) Both runtimes are using the same autoscaler, we recently updated it: https://cloudplatform.googleblog.com/2018/05/Increase-perfor...

My headless Chrome app is currently running on GAE Flex. It requires a few extra packages like fonts-liberation and fonts-indic. Does GAE standard allow that?

Yes, Node.js on GAE Standard comes with all the OS packages needed to run Headless Chrome. Learn more at https://cloud.google.com/appengine/docs/standard/nodejs/usin...

Sounds like this is basically PCF/Docker for Google?

App Engine is a PaaS (platform as a service), as is PCF. Docker is a containerization platform, though, which is entirely something else. e.g. a PaaS might use Docker (many do).

Im using flex with node. love simplicity of app engine and suite of tools in gcp - cloud debugger is dope.

Does cloud fumctions support node 8 yet? Will make life easier

Looks like it doesn't support yarn.

Anyone can comment on AppEngine vs Heroku?

the lack of availability of node.js on GAE standard was one of the main reasons I decided to deploy my next.js app on Heroku instead. I may have to try it again to compare head to head...

Is there anything in particular that you'd like to know? E.g. performance, ootb tooling, etc?

Everything, but performance and pricing in particular.

Can you deploy a email or dns server/client on this or is it only for http servers !?

(PM on the team) App Engine is designed for stateless HTTP workloads. for an email or DNS server, I recommend using Google Kubernetes Engine or Google Compute Engine.

What a good new, finally! Is it possible to run a socket.io server?

Does it support running as a gRPC server?

Hey look, my quote is on there <3

How to handle app secrets though?

Wait, they didn't have this already???? Welcome to the present.

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