Google Enterprise – Cloud Computing Keynote – Insight Client Event – Manchester Sept 9th 2009

On Google:

Google gave a keynote on Cloud Computing, their stand was focussed on promoting their cloud based Enterprise computing suite – Google Apps.  What came across in my discussions with their representative was the keenness to compete with Microsoft in the area of cloud based productivity services.  They were also eager to emphasise their experience has been proven in area of cloud delivery gained through their consumer based services.  Their keynote was delivered by Robert Whiteside – head of Google Enterprise UK, Ireland and Benelux.  Overall the talk was well attended, but being the last talk of day, some delegates would have already departed than stay to attend.

Google’s presentation followed a clear and well known set of topic headings.

Trends – Consumerisation of IT:

Robert outlined the what is commonly understood that Innovation is strongest in the consumer market. For example, the iPhone  bringing simplicity and comprehensive services to an existing consumer device – making it ‘easier to use’ has dramatically changed that particular consumer market.  He outlined the reversal of the place of advanced innovation changing from the environment of the corporation to the environment of consumer over the last 15 years.

We recognise that the “Consumer market is Darwinian in nature” – consumer can switch vendor almost immediately (e.g. internet search engine).–Howeverm that is not the case of Enterprise or business user where technology whether good or bad does have a residual time of residency.

Within the ‘Darwinian’ consumer market we have a ‘Natural selection of Technology’. For example look at the way Facebook and Twitter have come dominant their respective markets, in terms of mindshare, user base and in spite of a good deal of competition.

The people that use consumer technology at home have bring those expectations of ‘ease of use’ and ‘consumability’ into their workplace, they are after all the same people!

Robert emphasised that Google has established their credentials in the consumer market place, and therefore understand how to give the simplest and best user experience and can apply to the benefit of the enterprise user.

Trends – Cloud Computing:

Here Robert again talked about the well understood evolution of the internet from simply published static content to a fully fledged application platform that we experience today..

Read(BBC). Search(Yahoo, Google), Buy(Amazon), Trade (ebay), Talk (Skype), Publish (blogger), Share (Twitter) and Collaborate (Google Apps)

He wisely avoided debating the definition of cloud computing or the various delivery models but simply stated that for cloud users it is “ Data and applications reside in the cloud – infrastructure free IT – accessible & available as needed”.  In comparison he mentioned all the effort and cost required for on-premise (pre-cloud) solutions – hardware, software, patching & maintenance, storage, support, administration and change control.

Other key trends he mentioned were where now we have the internet as a platform, it is the browser increased functionality that makes it possible to realise the fullness of the internet as an application platform, that combined with the ubiquitous availability of connection to the internet (at least in much of Western World).  Also there is now a very rich mobile access experience where powerful phones, reliable connection and speed bring about a very compelling location independent experience.  He also outlined that Google haven’t ignored the disconnected worker, and they have the ‘Google gears’ project as a means to run offline application in the browser.

He talked through the concern about security, in which the Google argument and premise is that the cloud enables the ‘engineering out’ of certain security issues such as data loss from remote or disconnected devices e.g. laptops being stolen, usb storage devices being lost.  Within the cloud model where users log on, access and manipulate their data and log off  but don’t move data out cloud the security facilities remain essentially uncompromised.

The biggest driver or trend toward the cloud is the economic model presented, the mega-economies of scale made make it possible to bring in powerful new capabilities that weren’t achievable with previously computing models. An example of this is multi-language group chat (instant messaging) with real-time translation between the languages of the various participants.

Google has in part achieved these mega-economies of scale through it’s very deliberate planning around the construction and location of it’s data centres, for example their Oregon state, situated to take advantage of cooler climates, good infrastructure connectivity and cheap local electricity generation – some of it by sustainable means (hydro).  Only very few companies can afford to build infrastructures such as these which such a demanding scope and feature set, something that is out of the question for regular companies seeking use or construct data centres.

Through the provision of cloud services from such massive and highly efficient infrastructure allows Google to bring to market true utility scale computing services. A fact that Robert related to what is described by Nick Carr in his book  “The Big Switch” – ‘This time, it’s computing that is turning into a utility’. Companies are able to switch their IT spend from a heavy capital spend focus to a monthly subscription and operational expenditure mechanism by utilises cloud computing services from companies such as Google.  When in at a time where Gartner says “ $8 out of $10 in IT is ‘dead money’ “ this is an extremely attractive proposition. IT can also switch focus from dealing with mundane, run of the mill IT issues – ‘patching, upgrades, hardware, change control etc.’ to being business focussed and move to a position to be in dialogue of line of business issues and help push their business forward.

Google Apps Suite:

Then Robert moved on relating how Google has taken what they set out to achieve “to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” and make that relevant to enterprises.

To date Google has indexed the contents of the Web, made Video a medium of the internet, has plans a foot for the digitalisation of the World’s Books, is a News (real-time  – not quite yet) and content aggregator, and is also working with Enterprise content too.

Robert outlined that ‘Google Enterprise’ is about bringing the breadth of what Google do on the internet to the business context.

He gave the following overview – Google Enterprise about 5 years old.

  • Apps & collaboration online [receiving about 3K signs up per day]
  • Security and compliance
  • Search
  • Geo

Their Google Apps suite provides:

  • Messaging :-  Gmail, Gtalk and calendar
  • Collaboration :– Google Docs, Sites & video (sites & documents allows people to work on same item in real time)
  • Security and perimeter services

They’ve learnt a lot using apps simply and to great scale from their consumer experience. In delivering it via the cloud they some good analyst data to show it is reliable and compares more favourably in comparison to the average down-time of on-premise solutions. In fact their SLA is 99.9%, and in 3 years there have been 2 outages (the very pubic 1.5 hours last Tuesday) made Google miss the SLAs and so compensated it customers appropriately.

Their Google Apps suite focuses on collaboration and communication tools, because they realised that these are staple to how every organisation needs to communicate, organise and interact. But these are very complex infrastructures to assemble, run and maintenance in an on-premise scenario. Google’s service releases IT department from that burden and allows the organisation to thrive on use of Google’s app suite. It provides a constant seamless stream of innovation and is essentially a versionless system, not hampered by a regular issued upgraded application. An example of significant savings in this area is the ‘Daily Telegraph who’s savings on software licensing only was enough to justify the business case to switch from a cost perspective.  For a service at £33 per user per year it is a compelling cost case.

Other key reference metrics for Google Apps – 1.7 million business using it, 20K Motorola employees have been moved to Google apps.

However Robert stated that a key principle of Internet services is the openness, and so though they can migrate data-into Google apps, there is an open API to take data out, so that there is no lock-in to the service on the data side.

Summing up Robert gave an overview of what services companies should consider as possible candidates to move to the cloud.

  • Build one business case at a time
  • Look to move the most complex or costly in-house applications into the cloud, while perhaps not justifiable for every app, this will release the most time or funds from IT back into the business

When considering choosing cloud service providers he gave the following hints and tips.

  • What is the cost for 1 user?  If it is a true cloud service, the costs should be clear and transparent, and the unit cost should also be uniform irrespective of volume requested.
  • Does it provide true elasticity?  It should provide unrestricted demand modelling either for increasing or decreasing volume requirements

In-conclusion Google:

Google Enterprise is youthful compared to the more established players in the Business & Enterprise software and services market.  However, Google’s track record has shown them to be extremely innovative and competent in developing appropriate services & markets for those services they create.  Google is a founding member of cloud computing paradigm and brings tremendous resources and know-how to bear on how it build and serves it enterprise grade products.

Google does have a long way to go to perhaps establishing a really credible bridge-head into the Enterprise service market, but with the high rate of innovation it delivers as well as a very compelling price point. It will certainly make it on the ‘short list’ for many businesses considering making use of ‘collaboration as a service’ genre of cloud offerings.

The true scale of their enterprise ambitions perhaps lie in the forthcoming releases of Google Chrome OS (perhaps not the 1st), and what impact and shift Google wave brings to mechanisms by which collaboration occurs.  I can certainly see Google Enterprise stand tall amongst its peers in Enterprise software and services market.

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