Google adds cloud-based SQL database to App Engine

The new feature adds a database option to Google's proprietary Big Table

Google has created a relational database for its cloud-hosted App Engine application development and hosting platform, a much-requested addition, the company said on Thursday.

For now, the database, called Google Cloud SQL, is available on limited preview mode, which means that the company will hand-select the developers who get access to it.

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During this preview period, Google Cloud SQL will be free of charge. Google will announce pricing a month before it starts charging for it.

"You can now choose to power your App Engine applications with a familiar relational database in a fully-managed cloud environment. This allows you to focus on developing your applications and services, free from the chores of managing, maintaining and administering relational databases," wrote Navneet Joneja, product manager for Google Cloud SQL, in a blog post.

An import/export feature will allow developers to move on-premise MySQL databases to Google Cloud SQL, where Google will handle back-end maintenance and administration tasks, while replicating data to multiple data centers, he said.

Google Cloud SQL also has a control panel for developers to engage in front-end administration of the databases. With Google Cloud SQL, App Engine developers get an option to Google's proprietary Big Table database.

John Rymer, a Forrester Research analyst, calls this move by Google "very significant."

"SQL is far more widely used by developers than key-value stores like Big Table. Absence of SQL options for App Engine has been a big barrier to adoption," he said.

Google App Engine was launched in 2008 for developers of consumer Web applications who wanted to host their software on the Google cloud infrastructure.

In mid-2010, Google unveiled an enterprise version of the service called App Engine for Business, but eventually folded it, although the company has said that its key features will find their way to the regular App Engine. The SQL database was one of those features.

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