Google introduced a host of new features for its App Engine platform Wednesday to make it more useful to developers who are increasingly relying upon it to run business applications. The upgrades were announced Wednesday at the start of Google I/O, its annual developers conference in San Francisco.

Among other things, App Engine Release 1.7.0 will gain the Google search engine’s ability to recognize and work with geospatial data, or geopoints, so developers may produce location-aware applications and gauge how far a mobile device is from a previously determined fixed point.

It will also support the two forms of secure sockets layer (SSL)–virtual IP for one host at one IP address, and server name indication for multiple domains sharing the same IP address–that produce encrypted communications commonly used by business with secure HTTPS domains. The first form of SSL is widely used and supported on customer sites; the second is a lower-cost form of SSL.

“This is what it takes to run a business, not something that hackers use to experiment with on the side,” said Greg D’Alesandre, lead product manager for App Engine. The platform recently crossed the one million mark for the number of active applications that it hosts, he added.

Google’s App Engine platform wasn’t conceived to run general purpose business logic. It was designed, something like Google itself, to handle the needs of large websites and applications–ones likely to need to scale up and down with traffic. For that reason, it launched in 2008 supporting only Python applications, known both for their speed and ease of modification. In 2009, Google recognized that more of a backend, business logic language also needed to be supported, so it added Java.

It was only last September that App Engine moved out of the preview stage to become a supported product. Google makes a number programming tools, APIs for both Google Maps and other functions, and development kits available to help programmers build applications fast, but business was slow to adopt an unsupported platform. Its early adopters were mainly independent developers and Silicon Valley startups. Now Google appears to be positioning App Engine as a long-term host for more general purpose business applications.

In addition to geopoints and SSL encryption, it added the following features:

— Previously available only in North America, App Engine is now available in Europe to premier support accounts. D’Alesandre said it was the premier business accounts in Europe that asked for App Engine data centers closer to their customers to save milliseconds in website response times and customer interactions.

“App Engine is available in more than three data centers in Europe at any given time,” he said. The availability allows App Engine users to store their data in Google Cloud Data Store as well, since Germany, the U.K., and other countries have laws against storing data originated within their borders on American servers. The multiple location approach also provides redundancy in case of a problem at one data center. “It’s really important to us to insure resiliency and avoid outages,” D’Alesandre said.

— In addition, Google is offering another business-friendly service, PageSpeed Service, which inspects and rewrites a customer’s static webpage content to match best practices for efficient serving, then distributes them to Google servers in its content distribution network. PageSpeed Service is available to customers deploying high replication datastore applications, which can survive outages at one or more data centers. It will charge $0.39 per GB of outgoing bandwidth.

— Google previously imposed a 150-MB limit on the size of applications to streamline App Engine operations and prevent any one customer from bogging down its systems. But 150 MB was a low and difficult limit to stay within for rapidly changing business applications, conceded D’Alesandre. He announced a lifting of the limit Wednesday to 1 GB and, in the future, App Engine users will be able to purchase the right to run larger than 1 GB apps.

— App Engine will support serving mobile applications geared to both Google Android and Apple iOS devices through its Cloud End Points, designed to simplify the developer’s task of building targeted, mobile apps.

— Updates to the App Engine server log API allow customers to get information on their specific server out of a host log. The first 100 MB is free; additional information is available at $0.12 a GB. The information will be more searchable than it has been in the past, D’Alesandre said.

This article first appeared in Informationweek

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