Summary:

The new Google App Engine release gets more global with better European data center coverage, plus better search APIs, SSL support for custom domains, and more integrated PageSpeed optimization. On the flip side, the Cloud SQL database still isn’t fully baked.

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Google App Engine got some important feature updates Wednesday as well as new European data centers that could make the platform more attractive to developers outside the U.S. That should help prove to skeptics that Google is serious about its platform as a service and about developers as a key constituency.

The fact that Google App Engine will now run on more than three European data centers means that developers over there can get to work without worrying about data restrictions. “That’s a really big deal for our European customers who want local data centers not only for better performance but also for legal reasons. Their apps will run out of the EU and their data will reside there,” said Greg D’Alesandre, GAE senior product manager in an interview.

Several European countries, including Germany, have rules that mandate that personal data be kept in Europe.

Some of the new GAE features directly address key requests from developers. For example, there is now SSL support for custom domains.  The lack of that was a problem for some GAE developers, as reported by GigaOM yesterday.

Here are the other major talking points from today’s Google I/O session.

Enabling location-aware search

Google beefed up its search APIs, adding Geopoint support. That means developers can store latitude and longitude which can then be incorporated into search results. “You can do location-aware queries. Geoqueries are very common for mobile apps. Who is near this person and what’s the closest restaurant?” D’Alesandre said.

Cloud SQL still not there yet

Those who had hoped Google would announce general availability of Cloud SQL did not get their wish, although everyone can sign up for the database service now. Previously, it had been limited to use by 10,000 customers. “We’re running 50 million queries a day on it, but general availability comes with things like SLAs and some of those aren’t finished yet.”

The company detailed the Google App Engine 1.7.0 release is outlined in a blog post and was introduced to developers at Google I/O on Wednesday afternoon.

Cloud Endpoints for Android and iOS

Google also unveiled new Cloud Endpoint technology that promises to make it easier to build mobile backends for Android and iOS phones with GAE. “Right now developers need a client library to make sure authentication is working right and they don’t really want to learn about all that stuff. Mobile developers just want to quickly bring up a back end and read/write info into it,” D’Alesandre said. Cloud Endpoints abstracts out a lot of that by handling things like Oauth-2 protocol support — a task most developers would gladly do without.

Integrated PageSpeed

Finally, Google better integrated PageSpeed into the AppEngine, making it easier for developers to enable the technology — which optimizes the display of static pages– with a button click.

The improvements and the new data centers do show that GAE is a priority for Google, but it’s still unclear if the company will be a power as a development platform. After all, there are a lot PaaS options coming on line — Microsoft Azure, Heroku, and others are battling it out for the hearts and minds of developers. And, given Google’s myriad businesses — consumer electronics, search, advertising, the much anticipated infrastructure as a service  — some still wonder if it can sell its PaaS to masses of developers.

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