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I personally wasn't a big fan, I liked C++ (and Python - there was an embedded Python interpreter in 09-10 that was a casualty of the rewrite, and IMHO Python was a lot more productive than Java for experimentation).

There were some pragmatic reasons though. It's very difficult to multithread C++ correctly, while Java at least has a proper memory model and thread support (note that this was before C++11; at the time C++ had no standardized memory model at all). Debugging core dumps in production sucked. Most of the newer parts of the company (GMail, Docs, Google+, etc.) were written in Java, and the rewrite let us share code with them. Compile times sucked, and Java let us pluginize the architecture, load code at runtime, and build & push each component team's codebase independently (as well as shut them off independently if they started crashing).

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