Google will make a strong pitch to enterprise programmers at its I/O developer conference Wednesday with the unveiling of a business version of its App Engine application hosting service and with new cloud portability initiatives in partnership with VMware.
With the announcements, Google hopes to tap into what it sees as rising demand from enterprises to create and host custom-built applications in a cloud architecture to have more deployment flexibility and reduce infrastructure management costs and complexity.
"What we hear loud and clear from medium and large enterprise customers is wanting that cloud platform to build their own applications on," said Matthew Glotzbach, Google Enterprise director of product management.
Google launched App Engine two years ago primarily for developers of consumer-oriented Web applications who wanted to host their software on the Google cloud infrastructure.
While businesses liked the App Engine concept, many felt the product lacked some key enterprise features required by IT departments, so Google is now filling those gaps with this new version, said David Glazer, a Google engineering director.
For example, App Engine for Business has a central IT administration console designed to manage all of an organization's applications, as well as a 99.9 percent uptime service-level guarantee and technical support.
App Engine for Business also lets IT administrators set security policies for accessing the organization's applications, and features a pricing scheme of US$8 per user per month, up to a $1,000 monthly maximum. The product is currently available to a limited number of customers, but Google hopes to broaden access to it later this year.
Later, Google will let developers host SQL databases in App Engine for Business, offering another option to the Google Big Table data store, and add SSL to protect application communications.
Through a partnership with VMware, Google is working to provide enterprises that use App Engine with portability capacity, so that they can deploy their applications in a variety of Java-compatible settings, whether in App Engine itself, VMware-based private or partner clouds or another hosted application platform service such as Amazon's EC2.
"App Engine for Business is making the cloud a friendlier place for enterprises to deploy the applications they build, bringing the benefits of the cloud to IT organizations," Glazer said.
"By working with VMware and by building on standards for how applications run in the cloud, we're able to bring cloud portability to those enterprises," Glazer added.
The collaboration includes integration of the VMware Spring Roo rapid application development tool with the Google Web Toolkit, as well as linking the VMware Spring Insight performance tracker with Google's Speed Tracer technology.
"It's the beginnings of platform-as-a-service offerings that might interest the enterprise because of the portability and because it's from large, credible players," said Forrester analyst Frank Gillett.
"Google still has some hurdles to clear with many enterprises about their comfort level with a bunch of things, but this announcement broadens the availability and appeal of platform-as-a-service and gives people who prefer to code in Java, as opposed to Microsoft .Net Framework, an alternative," Gillett said.
Google still has a lot of work to do to increase enterprise adoption of its Google Apps suite, but App Engine for Business and the VMware partnership give it a Java development framework that professional Java developers can use to create Google applications, said Rebecca Wettemann, a Nucleus Research analyst.
Now Google must grapple with the issue of trust, which isn't a trivial matter. "Google has added more business features and functionality to App Engine, but the question is: Does the enterprise developer trust Google to support their apps? That's what we'll be watching very closely," Wettemann said.
"It's key for Google to tell customers about its product road maps and what it plans to do. That's going to be very important. CIOs like to plan and predict. They don't like to be surprised," she said.
Google's announcements are notable moves to meet the requirements of enterprises, but they won't make Google a household enterprise computing name overnight, said Gartner analyst Yefim Natis. "There is still a lot Google has to prove before it can be considered an alternative to IBM or Oracle or Microsoft," he said.
All eyes will be on whether Google can make good on its 99.9 percent uptime SLA for App Engine for Business, and on how good its SQL support will be in the real world, he said. "The proof remains in the pudding," Natis said. "Google is learning, and this is progress. It's proof they're serious about the enterprise."