Q42 hones in on innovation with Google App Engine and Compute Engine

Software developer Q42 relies on Google Cloud Platform tools such as Google App Engine and Google Compute Engine to create innovative projects for the web, mobile, and the Internet of Things.


For software developers at Q42, being called a nerd isn’t an insult – it’s a badge of honor. “We really love elegant programming done as quickly as possible, and we especially love challenging projects that push the limits of what’s technically possible,” says Kars Veling, owner and chief technology officer of Q42.

The company develops web, mobile and Internet of Things projects, areas that demand rapid application development. “We can create something in just a few days,” says Veling. “Heads of big IT departments don’t realize things can move that fast.” Such an environment requires tools that can help developers build applications quickly and creatively while removing distracting administrative tasks. At the same time, the company needed a stable, easily maintained environment for heavy, long-term development projects. For Q42, Google Cloud Platform helps achieve both goals.


Q42 uses Cloud Platform components such as Google App Engine and Google Compute Engine across a number of development projects, such as the company’s recent work on Philips’ hue line of smart light bulbs, which can be programmed with a smartphone. “App Engine and Compute Engine give us the tools we need to create and test our vision for client projects, at the speed that we need,” says Veling. “We never want to slow ourselves down on things like maintenance tasks for databases and development platforms. We want to be free to fire code and create applications.”


In creating an online platform and APIs for the hue light bulb program, Veling and his team combined Compute Engine and App Engine with Node.js and Redis to build an all-cloud platform that easily adapted to the product’s immediate popularity (the light bulbs sold out globally four days after the program launched.) “Helping hue users operate their lights and make sure their devices are communicating with their hue bulbs involves about 1,200 transactions a second, or about 100 million transactions a day, so lag time is not an option,” says Veling.

Node.js, meanwhile, helped the company easily build APIs for fast, scalable applications, an important consideration for hue, which depends on real-time applications that can transport significant data across distributed devices.

For automating scalability and offloading maintenance tasks, Q42 turned to App Engine. “Considering that we were running on 137 instances within a few days of hue’s availability, that makes a big difference,” says Veling. “We didn’t need to burn our developers’ time on managing servers or doing updates and database administration.” The fact that App Engine is built on Bigtable was also a plus – it manages data with an extra layer of built-in encryption, which eased Philips’ concerns about protecting customer information.

Q42 also used App Engine in a recent website overhaul for the Rijksmuseum, a national art and history museum for the Netherlands. The company built a dataset for one million images, including 200,000 high-resolution images, along with a social platform called Rijksstudio that lets people save the museum’s masterpieces to their very own online galleries. “To date, 210,000 personal studios have been created without any extra ongoing maintenance on our part, since scale is embedded in App Engine right from the start,” says Veling.

App Engine’s Traffic Splitting feature helps Q42 developers push projects out the door and test the impact of their programs. “We can see what happens if we anticipate a 5 percent increase in traffic, for example – everything from conversion rates to hosting expenses,” says Veling. That transparency helps the company catch problems before they happen, as well as lower their costs.

Google Cloud Platform helps Q42 developers focus on their passion for building Web applications that are not only useful, but also friendly. “Google keeps Q42 looking forward at what we can accomplish for our customers, without worrying about looking backward at how we have to maintain and manage the infrastructure,” says Veling.