Google App Engine, the PaaS platform from Google has seen a steady number of releases since the beginning of this year. At Google I/O, a new version of the Google App Engine API was announced and brought with it a great set of features including support for a new programming language Go and revised pricing options that try to make Google App Engine an option for the enterprise.
Greg D’Alesandre, Senior Product Manager for App Engine, detailed the new features along with a preview of the future plans. The focus is clearly to make App Engine a viable plaform for a wide range of businesses. And this means that enterprise grade features, service level agreements, a process to deprecate APIs rather than abrubtly changing them are some of the key features one can expect moving forward.
With 1.5.0 release, App Engine has introduced Backends, which are instances you can use to run long running processes. This addresses one of the key pain points where developer specific code had to run within certain deadlines and as a result of which, developers had devised unique ways to overcome these limitations. You can now, in an almost Amazon like manner, use an instances for as long as you want to run your processes. Backends are supported now in both Java and Python. The other key improvement is to Task Queues via a new feature called Pull Queues. They allow developers to pull tasks (one or more) from the queues, write a backend to process the tasks and then return the results back. The Pull Queues are even exposed via a public REST API, which could allow external systems to tap into them.
Other notable features include the High Replication Datastore as the default one instead of the Master Slave combination, increaded payload sizes for HTTP request/response and a restriction in using the Mail API. For e.g. any new application created can only have a 100 free email recipients per day, down from 2000.
While the new set of features are impressive, some of them have raised eyebrows. The choice of Go, as another option to develop applications is nice but it remains to be seem how much it could be adopted outside of Google itself. The main point that is of concern to developers would be the new pricing options once App Engine moves out of preview in the latter half of the year. One of the key reasons that developers typicaly flocked to App Engine were its generous quotas which kept the cost of running the site from free to very little. But with the new pricing strategy, this cost could higher. It would be useful if Google published before and after data to understand what it would cost now with the new model.
As much as Android and Chrome netbook seem to have garnered attention at Google IO, App Engine has positioned itself now as a solid PaaS platform. There has been a renewed vigor with which, the team is addressing roadmap items since the last 6 months and it could only get better. The focus is clearly now on making the platform attractive and reliable for businesses to take a serious note of it.