Building an application that runs "in the cloud" is easier than ever before utilizing Amazon's Web Services (AWS) and/or Google's App Engine. Both give individuals and businesses the ability to start small and think big, while being prepared for the potential that your website or online application will grow in ways that would require the kind of massive infrastructure that both Amazon and Google have already invested in. When comparing the merits of the two, it's tempting to pit them against each other, however it's really the case of selecting the right tool for the job.
Programming opportunities for these platforms has steadily increased on oDesk over the last year, and its unlikely that we'll see either company or platform going away any time soon. As you'll see in the graphs below the demand for Amazon AWS developers is higher on oDesk, and upon closer inspection of the trends pages for Amazon AWS and Google App Engine, you'll notice that the ratio of programmers to available jobs is also higher for Amazon AWS.
Amazon's Web Services, is an entire suite of services dedicated to providing cloud computing, database, and storage services. The main strength - and also main weakness - of AWS is in its extremely flexible configuration.
EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) is the main attraction, offering users the ability to configure any combination of operating systems and servers imaginable via Amazon Machine Images. There is an entire library of pre-configured machine images to select from.
Amazon offers fair pricing for these services, but the configuration can be complex if you are developing an application that wants to take advantages of load balancing and other benefits of the cloud, you have total control, but have to do many tasks explicitly.
Google App Engine
The Google App Engine, is a Google-centric approach to cloud computing, that allows users to develop online applications using Python and Java based API's that run specifically on Google's App Engine servers. Google's App Engine's main strength - and also its weakness - is its ease of use.
Many tasks are done automatically for you, which is great, unless you want them done in a very specific way, in which case you may be out of luck. Google offers a free trial of 500mb of storage space, and 5 million page views per month. Beyond that, pricing is comparable to Amazon's.
If you need flexibility, or are planning on integrating or migrating an existing web application, Amazon AWS is probably your best bet. If you need to get a simple application online quickly, and you or your development team are already comfortable in Java or Python, then Google App engine may be your quickest development path. If you are a provider looking to learn a new skill, Amazon AWS appears to be the more fruitful skill.