Google Tries to Offer a Grown-up Cloud

Google (s goog) has tweaked its App Engine platform as a service to make it palatable for business customers, the search giant said today at its developer conference in San Francisco. Its goal is to get corporations to build their in-house software on App Engine for Business as opposed to hosting it in their own data centers or on another cloud. But while App Engine for Business is a logical next step for Google, it still has a ways to go when it comes to providing a truly competitive PaaS that developers will use to build enterprise applications.

App Engine for Business corrects certain issues that bother developers about App Engine, namely by providing “enterprise-level support” (in other words, trouble tickets and subsequent responses) and SQL database capability (due by the third quarter).
Google’s Use of Big Table had also frustrated them as it locked them into the App Engine platform. Google’s response was that it knew how to build a scalable infrastructure, and so if you wanted to scale your app, then App Engine and the Big Table limits were the way to go.

To be fair, App Engine was designed to attract developers trying to build consumer web services, and Google last May integrated App Engine with (s crm) so business application developers could test it out. However, App Engine competes with services like Microsoft’s (s msft) Azure, Heroku and the recently announced VMforce platform (GigaOM Pro, sub req’d) from VMware (s vmw) and And so far Google does well at providing web-based apps to folks interested in breaking out of an Office-dominated world (and the office), but less so when it comes to providing flexibility and the higher levels of services that those building their own enterprise apps in the cloud require.

Perhaps because of its previous weakness at providing the service and an enterprise-friendly platform, Google has worked with VMware’s Spring Source division to develop a way to move apps from one cloud to another based on Spring’s Java framework. Oftentimes, it’s the weaker companies that work hardest to force interoperability and choice for customers, seeking an advantage.

The ability to move applications from one cloud to another helps advance the cloud computing agenda because customers won’t get locked into one platform or infrastructure — a worry for anyone spending time and money building applications in the cloud. Google and VMware are hoping that their partnership and use of Spring makes enterprise customers that use Java to build in-house apps more comfortable building them and hosting them in the cloud. Apps built using Spring will run on App Engine, Amazon’s (s amzn) Web Services and any other platform that can support Java.

The Google and VMware partnership is less about them working together than Google saying it will make sure apps built using the Spring framework will run seamlessly on App Engine. Google is also releasing tools that will allow any developer to add some code on top of the platform, which makes it possible to run any app on any device that supports a browser. That’s a nice feature. For more on platforms as a service and supporting enterprise cloud apps, attend our Structure 2010 conference on June 23 and 24 in San Francisco.

Google’s cloud efforts so far aren’t that compelling for businesses, but perhaps that’s a good thing, as it’s forcing Google to open up and support cloud interoperability in ways it hasn’t in the past with its insistence on Big Table. Its infrastructure may be top-notch when it comes to supporting the search engine, but Google still has a lot to learn about supporting businesses in the cloud.