At GCP NEXT, there was a lot of attention placed on new capabilities and support for cloud-native apps. However, there are lesser-known capabilities for supporting classic enterprise applications, which is what mainstream enterprises look for.
Not every company can rewrite their applications to take advantage of the latest Google App Engine PaaS capabilities. Yet they enviously look at the advanced features and management capabilities provided for new applications.
Google has started to address this, and one example of "you can have your cake and eat it too" is the Google App Engine Flexible Environment, formerly known as Managed VMs.
In the App Engine Flexible environment (still in Beta), traditional environments such as Java 8 and even Python 2.7 and Python 3.4 are supported, as well as newer systems like Node.js, and Go. One can customize these runtimes or provide their own runtime, such as Ruby or PHP. There's no denying that Java and Python are among the most popular programming languages in use today.
The benefit of running in App Engine Flexible is that GCP provides automatic management and scaling of the workload underneath the covers and provides a way to balance the load across instances.
For example, with network traffic splitting, incoming requests to the app are routed to different versions of the app. This enables enterprises to roll out updates to their apps slowly, or perform A/B testing. (i.e. does the new version provide better shopping cart to check-out conversion?) This means that some of the networking chores are now automated.
Also, the systems are health checked, OS updates are applied, and VMs are located on appropriate regions. Thus you achieve a balance of new-world benefits as well as legacy app support.
Rather than having enterprises treat GCP as a provider of VMs (i.e. traditional Infrastructure-as-a-Service) and still be forced to undertake many of the painful system management efforts, enterprises can now examine using this flexible environment as an alternative.
They can focus on the developing and deploying their apps (written with traditional languages) and gain some of benefits of cloud native applications based on a PaaS.
If Google can see more popularity of App Engine Flexible as an in-between solution crossing the IaaS and PaaS world, it will be a great on-ramp to its PaaS.
My takeaway? There's so much attention placed on new GCP features such as machine learning, it's easy to neglect some of the efforts being placed on support for classic, mainstream enterprise applications on GCP. Google recognizes that both the new and old app workloads are important, and is working (along with partners) to enable a smooth transition of enterprises to use their system.