Google lures cloud customers with promise of making it easy to leave

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Google is teaming up with an emerging startup that has created an open-source implemention of the programming interface for its platform-as-a-service stack to give customers the freedom to move their applications off the platform. The move represents a groundbreaking push to address the portability issues plaguing the public cloud.

While security and other early concerns have largely been addressed, the difficulty of moving workloads between the top platforms remains a major pain point for organizations that wish to avoid becoming locked into a single provider. The partnership with AppScale Systems Inc. effectively removes that risk and makes Google App Engine that much more attractive.

Born out of a research project at University of California, Santa Barbara’s computer science department, the startup’s namesake technology allows applications written for the platform to run on any kind of infrastructure, including on-premise hardware and competing clouds, without modification. That’s a tremendous boon for the roughly six million services currently running on the platform, but at the same time poses something of a catch to organizations hoping to take advantage of that interoperability.

Although it can be deployed anywhere, AppScale still requires developers to build their applications to Google’s specification, which ultimately does constitute a form of lock-in. That’s true not only from an architectural standpoint but in a much more tangible operational context as well, since using the project on a competing platform will always produce more overhead and complexity than the native interfaces.

This gives GCE an inherent advantage over rivaling services, but that’s a sacrifice many organizations are probably willing to make in exchange for the interoperability afforded by the technology. The ability to run cloud applications on-premise in itself provides a compelling reason for CIOs to embrace AppScale, especially now that the project has Google’s official backing.

The partnership will see the search giant collaborate with the startup on incorporating the latest enhancements to its cloud platform into the software. The first priority of the joint effort is upgrading AppScale to the newest 1.9 release of the App Engine API.

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