Google App Engine, the PaaS offering from Google has a new release version 1.4.0 of its SDK, paying special attention to requests that developers have been putting it for a long time and removing limitations that received a wave of negative reactions. The new SDK addresses some of those concerns head on.
The highlight of the new features as detailed in the blog post, has to be the Channel API. The Channel API allows for bi-directional communication channel that allows an App Engine application to push updates directly to the browser, without the need for continuously polling for a data update. This could have a huge impact on the kind of applications that one can now write with Google App Engine, especially real-time data applications and multi-player games. The same infrastructure behind Google Talk is reported to be driving the Channel API infrastructure.
One of the pet peeves of an App Engine developer has been that of that of a Cold Instance, where applications with variable traffic take more time for a response when it is invoked from a cold start. With this release, App Engine has addressed this with a combination of features: Always On and Warm Up Requests. The Always On feature allows you to reserve up to three instances of your application, never turning them off, even if the application does not have any traffic. Note that this is a premium feature and costs $9 per month. The Warm Up Requests reduces time to serve requests by anticipating the need for more instances and loading them before user traffic is sent to the new instance.
The next set of features clearly removes certain limitations of the API that were a stumbling blocks for several applications. Now requests from Task Queue and Cron Jobs can run for 10 minutes without interruption. The API Call size limits have also been increased significantly and 32MB seems to be the new magic number. Response size limits for URL Fetch, Memcache Batch get/put requests and Image API request/response limits have all been raised to 32MB. Email Attachments with the Mail API have been raised to 10MB in size.
App Engine has been in the news recently for reasons not exactly to its liking. A developer went public with reasons for moving away from the PaaS platform, that generated a lot of traffic with several folks agreeing on most of the limitations that were pointed out in the post. Google hopes that with the new release removing some of those limitations, doubts will be put to rest about several points raised along with a positive affirmation of the fact that is addressing developer requests, sooner rather than later.