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A Brief History of App Engine

If you read all that, you may be wondering why this book is called Programming Goo‐ gle App Engine and not Programming Google Cloud Platform. The short answer is that the capabilities of the platform as a whole are too broad for one book. In particular, Compute Engine, the platform’s raw virtual machine capability, can do all kinds of stuff beyond serving web applications.

By some accounts (mine, at least), App Engine started as an early rendition of the Cloud Platform idea, and evolved and expanded to include large-scale and flexiblescale computing. When it first launched in 2008, App Engine hosted web applications written in Python, with APIs for a scalable datastore, a task queue service, and serv‐ ices for common features that lay outside of the “container” in which the app code would run (such as network access).

A “runtime environment” for Java soon fol‐ lowed, capable of running web apps based on Java servlets using the same scalable infrastructure. Container-ized app code, schemaless data storage, and serviceoriented architecture proved to be not only a good way to build a scalable web app, but a good way to make reliability a key part of the App Engine product: no more pagers.

App Engine evolved continuously, with several major functionality milestones. One such milestone was a big upgrade for the datastore, using a new Paxos-based replica‐ tion algorithm. The new algorithm changed the data consistency guarantees of the API, so it was released as an opt-in migration (including an automatic migration tool). Another major milestone was the switch from isolated request handlers billed by CPU usage to long-running application instances billed by instance uptime.

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With the upgraded execution model, app code could push “warm-up” work to occur out‐ side of user request logic and exploit local memory caches. Google launched Compute Engine as a separate product, a way to access computation on demand for general purposes. With a Compute Engine VM, you can run any 64- bit Linux-based operating system and execute code written in any language compiled to (or interpreted by) that OS.

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