Google's Enterprise Strategy May Be Solid After All

There has been some doubt lurking in the trenches about whether Google has a solid, organized enterprise strategy. But there have been some recent developments that indicate that Google might have a viable game plan to become a player in the enterprise space. Yesterday, Google rolled out Google Apps Directory Sync, a tool that will let businesses sync the user account information in Google Apps with Microsoft Active Directory or Lotus Domino. Google says it’s using technology from Postini, security and compliance company Google acquired in 2007, to import information from users’ LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) systems, which includes mailing lists, groups, and user aliases, to a user’s Google Apps account. This utility will help many businesses, schools etc. who are currently using Google Apps save a lot of time and energy when it comes to importing information to their Google Apps system.

Another way that Google is strengthening its place in the enterprise cloud is through the company’s recent plan (unveiled at Google Campfire) to enhance Google Apps security by adding a Secure Data Connector (SDC) to its engine. SDC is built around having an agent inside the firewall, which connects to servers inside of Google. This gives Google servers policy-controlled access to data that businesses have chosen to expose. Basically, SDC allows secure access to data behind firewall for use in cloud based apps hosted on App Engine.

Google also announced that SDC and Oracle’s Siebel customer care and CRM software will be connected to the engine, showing an example of using the SDC to build an app behind a firewall. With SDC and a partnership with Oracle (who just bought Sun Microsystems and their cloud strategy), Google can compete with Salesforce, Amazon and soon Microsoft, offering enterprises a cloud-based application that can combine the Apps engine with secure data behind a firewall.

The ability for these apps to adapt to change easily in the cloud is an advantage to putting Google Apps in the public cloud, says Rajen Sheth, Google’s Senior Product Manager of Google Apps. Sheth recently wrote a response to a McKinsey report, “Clearing the Air on Cloud Computing,” that claimed that large corporations could lose money through the adoption of cloud computing. The report paints cloud computing as over-hyped and maintains that cloud computing services like Amazon Web Services (AWS) overcharge large companies for a service the companies could do better on their own. The study also says that while cloud computing is optimal for small and medium-sized businesses, large companies will spend less if using traditional data centers and recommends that large companies focus on virtualizing storage. Sheth wrote in his post:

While the cost advantages of cloud computing can be great, there’s another advantage that in many ways is more important: the rapid pace of innovation. IT systems are typically slow to evolve. In the virtualization model, businesses still need to run packaged software and endure the associated burden. They only receive major feature enhancements every 2-3 years, and in the meantime they have to endure the monthly patch cycle and painful system-wide upgrades. In our model, we can deliver innovation quickly without IT admins needing to manage upgrades themselves. For example, with Google Apps, we delivered more than 60 new features over the last year with only optional admin intervention.

Sheth says that McKinsey’s report focuses only on hardware costs and neglects to recognize the value private clouds have when it comes to scalability and and the ability for cloud environments to adapt to on-demand solutions and innovations. He says the massive scalability of apps in the cloud is best exemplified by a recent online town hall meeting held by President Obama, which used Google Moderator. Sheth says the “White House was able to instantly scale its database to support more than 100,000 questions and in excess of 3.5 million votes, without worrying about usage spikes that typically would be tough to manage. Because of the cloud, there was no need to provision extra servers to handle the increased demand or forecast demand ahead of time.”

So perhaps Google is slowly but surely creating a solid enterprise plan-the three areas above seem to show that Google has a focus and direction where they are taking Google Apps, App Engine and enterprise class technologies that they acquire and integrate.