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Google's App Engine architect defects to Snapchat

Peter Magnusson hopes to avoid 'pissing off' former colleagues

Cloud security

One of Google's top cloud product managers has left the gold-plated confines of Page and Brin's search palace to work for one of his former top customers – the obscenely popular SnapChat app.

Peter Magnusson, the man who spent the past three years running engineering for Google's 'Google App Engine' (GAE) platform cloud, confirmed on Tuesday that he had left Google to join Snapchat.

Snapchat is an ephemeral mobile messaging service with an enthusiastic user-base of teens and young adults. The company is notorious in Silicon Valley for reportedly turning down a $3bn buyout offer from Facebook.

It is also notorious for being one of the few prominent companies to run on Google App Engine – the search company's answer to Microsoft's Windows Azure, Salesforce's Heroku, and Amazon's Elastic Beanstalk.

Magnusson formerly ran the engineering team for App Engine, and before that worked at Conformiq Inc, and Virtutech.

In an earlier version of a Wall Street Journal story outlining the move Magnusson was said to have been hired to help Snapchat "lessen its reliance on partners like Google" – a description that Magnusson subsequently disputed in the comments on the piece.

"Thx WSJ for pissing off all my old Google friends," he wrote in a comment. "A more correct statement is that we'll continuously evaluate alternatives, and likely over time develop more infrastructure ourselves, in particular in specialized areas of our apps. Google is a great partner, and the success of Snapchat would simply not have been possible without Google Cloud, and we expect to work closely together. Period."

The app has been hooked on the cloud from its inception, and uses the platform-as-a-service due to its relatively low maintenance overhead and broad infrastructure management. As with most services, though, as Snapchat has grown the economics of its cloud use are likely getting less and less attractive, encouraging it to explore other areas.

Snapchat will also hire staff to bulk up its security capabilities as well, the WSJ reported. The service suffered a data breach recently in which hackers harvested account details for 4.6 million of the app's users.

"It's a blast," Magnusson said when we contacted him on Tuesday. "Great team, ridiculous traction, lots of fun ideas in the pipe." ®

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