A fantasy becomes reality

One To Watch: CapeDwarf, Google App Engine apps on JBoss AS

Elliot Bentley

New Red Hat project brings GAE APIs to JBoss AS, allowing apps to be run on private servers – and could lead the way to a new standard.

The risk of lock-in may be a major turnoff for many companies investigating cloud platforms, but vendors often struggle to find a sweet spot between openness and proprietary APIs.

For Java developers on Google App Engine, however, they may find solace in a new JBoss project which allows applications written for GAE to be deployed on JBoss AS – recently renamed as WildFly – without any modifications.

CapeDwarf, named after a species of chameleon, has been in development for over six months, with Red Hat and Google engineers cooperating to ensure interoperability. Using CapeDwarf, apps written to run on GAE can be easily ported away from the public cloud platform to run on private servers.

In addition, with Java EE’s multi-tenant support unlikely to arrive before Spring 2015, even those not currently using GAE may find CapeDwarf’s APIs useful. A custom CapeDwarf cartridge for OpenShift, Red Hat’s open source cloud platform, is also in development.

Around two thirds of the API’s specs have now been implemented, with existing JBoss APIs such as Infinispan, JGroups, PicketLink and HornetQ powering things behind the scenes.

Importantly, Google themselves have not only given the initiative their blessing but become directly involved. Earlier this year, project lead Aleš Justin told InfoQ that Red Hat was engaging with Google “quite a lot”, but it was only last month that Google engineer Ludovic Champenois took to the official Cloud Platform Blog to praise CapeDwarf and highlight Google’s contributions.

Most of the collaboration between Google and Red Hat has gone into producing an open source Test Compatibility Kit (TCK) project, wrote Champenois. Google is providing tests used for the internal App Engine product, in order to allow Red Hat engineers to verify CapeDwarf’s implementation of its APIs.

Gartner analyst Yefim Natis has written recently that he sees “a great potential lurking in this initiative”. With a proven, practical implementation, backed by both cloud-savvy Google and enterprise-friendly Red Hat, Natis reckons that CapeDwarf has a real chance to turn the GAE API into “a standard programming model for cloud”.

Another cross-industry effort to develop a common API, the Cloud Application Management for Platforms (CAMP), is due in September. While Google have been involved in CAMP, it seems unlikely they will be implementing the API any time soon.

Google’s support of CapeDwarf may not be quite as open – it’s hardly opening up its API for general adoption, after all – but it may provide some comfort to customers unsure about moving across.

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