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Google has added the Java runtime to its App Engine, that (semi-)free service that lets you build and host web apps on Google's very own cloud distributed infrastructure.

When App Engine was first introduced, almost a year ago to the day, it stuck with Python, a favorite among code-happy Google Oompa Loompas. But after countless request from developers outside the Mountain View Chocolate Factory, the platform has now embraced Java as well.

"We wanted to give developers something that they could be ecstatic about, but we knew we would have to marry the simplicity of Google App Engine with the power and flexibility of the Java platform," Google engineers Don Schwarz and Toby Reyelts wrote in this evening's post to the official App Engine Blog. "We also wanted to leverage the App Engine infrastructure - and by extension Google's infrastructure - as much as possible, without giving up compatibility with existing Java standards and tools.

"And so that's what we did. App Engine now supports the standards that make Java tooling great."

According to Cnet, the service's new incarnation runs version 1.6 of the Java Virtual Machine (JVM). So, in theory, it can also handle code written in such languages as Ruby on Rails and JavaScript.

Where appropriate, Google has wrapped its App Engine APIs in such standards as the Java Servlet API, JDO and JPA, javax.cache, and javax.mail. And there's a secure sandbox "that's powerful enough to run your code safely on Google's servers, while being flexible enough for you to break abstractions at will."

But the company acknowledges that existing code may not run straightaway. "There is a vast amount of Java code out there, much of it written without consideration of sandboxing, and we can't test it all. We know that there will be some rough edges when it comes to compatibility, but we're looking forward to working with you to smooth those out."

Meanwhile, Google has made a few other tweaks to its year-old service. You can now grant access to data behind your firewall. You can set up so-called "cron jobs," tasks scheduled to operate at particular times. And you can import data from an existing database.

At the moment, there's only room for 10,000 eager Java heads on the new service. You can sign up here - if there's still space.

Even when Google expands the new App Engine to world+dog, it will be free. Up to a point. Google charges when you exceed certain resource thresholds. ®

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