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Ferris: A New Framework for Google Apps Development

It's an odd way of setting a high standard, naming your flagship product after one of the last century's most notorious cinematic slackers, but the decision to call their new web application development framework "Ferris" (for Ferris Bueller) made perfect sense to its creators at Cloud Sherpas.

 "We're making it easy for developers," explained Cloud Sherpas' Michael Cohn. "And Ferris Bueller was all about easy."

Written in Python, Ferris is an open-source, model-view-controller (MVC) framework specifically designed for developers using the Google App Engine. The MVC architecture makes for a flexible, Rails-like framework for rapid app development. It automatically provides CRUD (Create, Read, Update, Delete) cycle scaffolding of actions and views. It includes a theme engine built on the Python-based templating language Jinja2.And also it comes bundled with an Oauth2 toolkit and a Google API client.

 At its core, Ferris is an MVC with the App Engine in mind, says its creator, Cloud Sherpas programmer Jon Wayne Parrott. In terms of its capabilities, it falls somewhere between microframeworks like Flask or Bottle and a larger, more complex Web app frameworks like Django or Pyramid, he said.

 "It leverages everything that's available by default in App Engine to make it easy to build applications rapidly," Parrott told ADTmag. "You don't have to fight with it at all to access everything App Engine gives you."

Google's App Engine is a suite of the tools and services for building and scaling Web apps on the company's infrastructure. Applications developed using the App Engine Software Development Kit (SDK) can be uploaded and hosted by Google, and those apps can then utilize Google's bandwidth and computing power. Google claims that it's one of the fastest-growing cloud messaging and collaboration platforms, with more than 50 million users and 5 million business customers. 

 The Atlanta-based Cloud Sherpas is a cloud services brokerage, which means the company serves as an intermediary between cloud vendors and buyers. Think next-gen SI or VAR for the cloud. Among other things, the company serves the Google Apps ecosystem, and it claims to be the largest Google Apps systems integrator in the world. The company has been named Google Enterprise Global Partner of the Year for Apps Implementation two years in a row.

 With all the frameworks on the market these days, it's hard not to wonder why we need another one, but Parrott insists that what developers are getting with Ferris is unique. "This is a highly focused framework for the Google App Engine," he said. "We think that's enough of a differentiator."

 Why build the framework in Python?

 "We just find it a lot easier to develop in Python than Java or (Google's) Go at the moment," Parrot said. "When it comes to pure Web development, it's hard to beat Python when it comes to pure speed and ease of use."

 Cloud Sherpas unveiled the Ferris framework at last week's Strata conference. It is available now for free under the Apache v2 license.

BTW: Parrott stars in a YouTube sendup of the 1986 movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off, the framework's namesake. Fair warning: It includes the shower scene.

Posted by John K. Waters on March 6, 2013