Google Cloud Platform Gets Developer Enhancements

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2013-08-08

Google Cloud Platform Gets Developer Enhancements

Google is expanding its developer tools in several of its key cloud products, including Google Compute Engine, Google Cloud Datastore and Google App Engine, as the search giant continues to add functions and robustness to the Google Cloud Platform.

The new tools, including Layer 3 load balancing for Google Compute Engine and improvements to the PHP runtime in the latest Google App Engine release, were unveiled in an Aug. 7 post by Greg DeMichillie, a director of product management, on the Google Cloud Platform Blog. The new features were first detailed to developers at May's Google I/O Developers conference and have now reached the release phase.

One of the key additions is the introduction of Layer 3 load balancing capabilities in the Google Compute Engine, to provide "Google-scale throughput and fault tolerance" to manage Internet applications, wrote DeMichillie. "Load balancing is critical in any highly scalable system, allowing you to automatically and intelligently route traffic across a collection of servers."

Using the new load balancing services, developers and administrators can "load-balance ingress network TCP/UDP traffic over a specific set of Compute Engine virtual machines (VMs) within the same region," while ensuring "that only healthy VMs are used to serve Internet requests through the use of HTTP-based health checks." The new tools also allow users to easily handle load spikes without prewarming their systems and to configure the load balancer via command line interface (CLI) and a programmatic RESTful API, he wrote.

"This initial release provides Layer 3 support and we'll continue to expand its capabilities on a regular basis," wrote DeMichillie. The new feature will be provided for free by Google through the end of 2013, and then U.S. usage rates will start at $0.025 per hour for up to five rules, and $0.01 per hour for each additional rule, plus .008 cents per GB processed, according to Google's pricing page.

The new features and productivity enhancements in the Google Cloud Datastore include Google Query Language (GQL) support, wrote DeMichillie. "Being able to search for data lies at the heart of all data-driven applications, and we've made that easier by adding GQL support—a SQL-like language for retrieving entities or keys from Cloud Datastore." Developers can also now access Metadata Queries, which will allow them to retrieve statistics on their underlying data, which is "useful when building your internal administration consoles, performing custom analysis or simply debugging an application."

Also included are numerous enhancements to the command-line tool to make it easier to use for developers, wrote DeMichillie. "Separately, we've also included support for those of you who use Microsoft Windows." Another major addition is new Cloud Datastore support for Ruby developers, he wrote, which will allow developers to spin up Ruby applications that rely on a managed NoSQL datastore. Earlier versions of the Cloud Datastore included code snippets and samples for getting up and running only with Java, Python and Node, he noted.

The other big addition for developers is improvements to the PHP runtime as part of the Google App Engine 1.8.3 release, wrote DeMichillie. "Our integration with Google Cloud Storage for reading and writing files has proven to be popular, so we expanded this in 1.8.3."

Google Cloud Platform Gets Developer Enhancements

The additions include improved support for working with directories in Google Cloud Storage—allowing developers to call functions such as opendir() or writedir() directly on Cloud Storage buckets, as well as support functions related to stat()-ing files, such as is_readable() and is_file(), wrote DeMichillie. Also new is the ability to write metadata to Cloud Storage files, as well as "substantial performance improvements through memcache-backed optimistic read caching," which improves the performance of applications that need to read frequently from the same Cloud Storage file, he wrote.

The enhancements arrive on the coattails of other recent improvements introduced for developers by Google.

In July, Google unveiled several new features in the Google Cloud Storage environment to make it easier for developers to manage, access and upload data into the cloud. Those new capabilities included automatic deletion policies, regional buckets and faster uploads as part of a wide range of services.

In June, Google unveiled a new Cloud Playground environment where developers can quickly try out ideas on a whim, without having to commit to setting up a local development environment that's safe for testing coding experiments outside of the production infrastructure. The Cloud Playground is slated as a place where application developers can try out all kinds of things, from sample code to viewing how production APIs will behave, in a safe, controlled place without having to manage the testing environment, according to Google. The new Cloud Playground is presently limited to supporting Python 2.7 App Engine apps.

The Cloud Playground is an open-source project that includes mimic, which is a regular Python App Engine app that serves as a development server; and bliss, which is a trivial browser-based code editor that lets users edit code in the mimic virtual file system, according to a June 24 post on The Google Cloud Platform Blog by Fred Sauer, a Google developer advocate.

Earlier in June, Google opened its Google Maps Engine API to developers so they can build consumer and business applications that incorporate the features and flexibility of Google Maps. By using the Maps API, developers can now use Google's cloud infrastructure to add their data on top of a Google Map and share that custom mash-up with consumers, employees or other users. The maps can then be shared internally by companies or organizations or be published on the Web.

Google also recently created a new Mobile Backend Starter that lets developers focus on building and selling their apps by automating the back end of apps development. The Mobile Backend Starter works with Google App Engine. The Mobile Backend Starter was first announced at the Google I/O 2013 Developers Conference, where it was the topic of the "From Nothing to Nirvana in Minutes: Cloud Backend for Your Android Application" presentation.

In January, Google announced that it was moving its Google Cloud Platform (GCP) over to the GitHub collaborative development environment to make it easier for software developers to contribute and continue the evolution of GCP. The GCP program has been growing since Google unveiled a new partner program in July 2012 to help business clients discover all of Google's available cloud services. GitHub is a rapidly growing collaborative software development platform for public and private code sharing and hosting.

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