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This article is in response to the October 30 ComputerWorld article “Google Apps, once a leader, falls behind cloud app rivals.”

As I was reading today’s ComputerWorld article entitled “Google Apps, once a leader, falls behind cloud app rivals,” I was reminded of a classic media quote: “if it bleeds, it leads.”

This article is a great example of how IT professional and veterans constantly have to push themselves to reframe the challenges facing our organizations. This is because the mainstream adoption of smartphones, tablets and BYOD have fundamentally changed these challenges.

First, let’s look at the article’s discussion of Unified Communications (UC), which is a good example of how we need to adjust our assumptions to match the current realities. Although many attempts at UC integrate legacy PBX systems with a user’s proprietary desktop email client, the challenge is really about providing a unified experience where employees can chat, text, talk and video conference seamlessly across multiple devices. Over the last several years, I’ve observed an increasing number of employees that don’t want a desk phone but that do want the ability to instantly start a live video chat with one-click directly from their inboxes. This example is exactly the type of functionality provided by Gmail and Hangouts in the browser. And Google’s continuous releases of native support for iOS and Android provide full featured support for BYOD culture. In short, I’d argue that Google is well positioned as a leader when it comes to UC. After all, it provides users with a highly-reliable UC solution that works the way they do and also eliminates the need for operational investments or maintenance support.

Beyond his discussion of UC, writer Juan Carlos Perez asks: is “cloud email” still enough to attract prospective customers? Of course not. But cloud email is only one small component of Google Apps. Today, when it comes to maintaining legacy desktops and datacenter infrastructure, IT departments spend a disproportionate amount of time “keeping the lights on.” According to many estimates, more than 70% of annual IT budgets are consumed by these tasks, and, to compound the waste, the investment typically provides little to no competitive business advantage.

In contrast, over the past year Google industrialized its data-center-on-demand offering known as Compute Engine. With this advancement, all IT professionals now have direct, real-time access to one of the largest consolidated infrastructure and platform offerings as a pay-per-use cloud service. As for the desktop, ChromeOS and Chromebooks are built on a new management paradigm that provides the same radical reduction in support costs and increase in user productivity as Gmail did for email. So yes, cloud email is not enough, but Google Apps is about the entire enterprise platform.

Finally, as we start to look at the future of Enterprise Social Networking, I think that Google’s thinking is a few steps beyond where most people are today, and so its strategy needs to be inspected a bit further. As part of my day-to-day responsibilities, I’m involved in many different ESNs. Interestingly enough, only one of them is my enterprise’s. The other dozen are cross company, and each of these ESNs uses a different platform, including Jive, Chatter, homegrown and, yes, even Yammer. All of these platforms are different in many ways, but the one thing they all assume is that I’m going to live in the ESN. However, the harsh reality is that I can’t live in all these separate and (intentionally siloed) platforms.

Does this scenario sound familiar to anyone? I remember years ago, before mainstream smtp/internet email, we would invite customers and premium partners into internal systems. We’d create accounts, get them VPN software and they could have a window into our internal organization. But then we all figured out that these private silos actually inhibit collaboration, so we opened up connectivity between organizations. What about you? Have you noticed that you now have multiple “inboxes” to sift through in each of your disparate ESNs?

Google has recognized this pattern, and instead of building silos it’s working on clever things like automated taxonomy. Have you noticed that your Google+ posts are now automatically indexed with hashtags based on their content?  Yeah, it’s not something everyone notices, but it’s surprisingly accurate. It seems Google knows a thing or two about indexing content.

Better yet, it accomplishes the core mission of an ESN; the “network effect.” When my post is tagged, I click on the hashtag and I’m now connected to a worldwide community of more than half a billion active users. It doesn’t matter if I’m collaborating on #ITSM or #cloudcomputing, I’ve got access to everything going on and it’s directly integrated with my Gmail inbox.

When you take a look across the enterprise, Google’s approach to continuous innovation is focused not only on delivering the technologies that IT departments need, but also on eliminating the root cause of high maintenance legacy technologies. Cloud platform solutions allow us to break free of rip-and-replace upgrade cycles and relieve IT administrators from the trenches of infrastructure support so that they can focus on information technology that delivers business results. It seems Google is taking a page from Wayne Gretzky’s book and “skating ahead to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.”

The post Why Google Apps is Still a Cloud Leader appeared first on Cloud Sherpas.

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Cloud Sherpas [www.cloudsherpas.com] is a leading Google Apps Reseller, systems integrator and application developer. Our Google Apps Certified Deployment Specialists have migrated tens of thousands of users from legacy, on-premise messaging systems to Google Apps and Google App Engine. We help organizations adopt cloud computing to innovate and dramatically reduce their IT expenses. SherpaTools for Google Apps [www.sherpatools.com] is a free app from Cloud Sherpas that enhances the functionality and ease-of-use of Google Apps for both administrators and end-users.