Google App Engine violates stateless nature of Web

New version lets server-based apps push notices to users too lazy to hit 'refresh'

It didn't last long, but WikiLeaks' decision to move to Amazon's cloud to counter DDOS attacks did a lot to bolster the reputation of public clouds as a way to handle spikes in demand, legitimate or not. (Cutesy cloud-computing jargon refers to this as 'cloudbursting.')

Google is doing its part this week as well, upgrading the Google App Engine platform and SDK to add push notifications -- the function that made Blackberry famous in mobile email.

In this case the push is from the new App Engine Channel API, which allows server-based apps to pop up notices on a user's screen in near-real time despite the stateless nature of the browser, which usually requires an agent running on the client to constantly check for changes on the server.

The new version of App Engine also expands the length of time a task can run from 30 seconds to 10 minutes, and expands the size of the data block an app can request from another site from 1MB to 32MB, and allows for four simultaneously active data stores rather than just two.

App Engine still isn't a cloud platform at the level of Amazon's EC2 or Microsoft's Azure, each of which still takes flack from end-user companies planning cloud rollouts for being either not scalable enough, or too large to be useful.

Earlier promises to make apps running on App Engine more portable -- a persistent problem with cloud apps -- didn't make a huge impact.

However, the enhancements to App Engine do go a long way toward making it more than just an afterthought for end users interested in cloud computing, or a place for dev and test crews to test new ideas for Web apps without gumming up their own servers.

Kevin Fogarty writes about enterprise IT for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @KevinFogarty.

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