Google's enterprise strategy

An interview with Google global VP of enterprise, Amit Singh

Amit Singh

Amit Singh

Tell us about Google’s strategy for enterprise IT

Google’s enterprise strategy is really built around three pillars. There’s the Cloud, and we’ve been in that business for several years bringing forward consumer-based Cloud products, but with features, controls, et cetera that businesses care about along with service level agreements and support and a partner ecosystem. There is mobility, which is an area that really works to the advantage of people who have requirements of devices... and the last is around social and bringing social and collaborative concepts into the enterprise.

So, it’s Cloud, social and local. We increasingly live in a world where applications are Web-enabled so you can start to build a new platform for IT using the building blocks of the internet. It starts with core and simple capabilities like Gmail — a Gmail Cloud service is now more reliable, has more functionality and is cheaper [than] any enterprise can run by itself.

It is an example of a Cloud service at massive scale. However, we have other parts of the Google Docs suite where we are seeing very high adoption. The idea is if you’re living in the Cloud you can collaborate on documents. Think of it as a replacement for Microsoft Office.

The functionality being delivered on an online platform is very fast. The analogy is Salesforce compared to Siebel — there was a time when Siebel functionality was so far ahead and then, because it was on-premise, with different version releases and really long development cycles, innovation is just not as fast. [In contrast], we have a release a week for some of these products.

What innovations will you be rolling out to your enterprise customers?

More products are coming in the geo-location space where businesses and governments can move their geospatial data into the Cloud.

We’re essentially bringing all of Google’s Cloud services — Google Apps, Google Earth and geo products, Google Commerce Search — to business.

Google’s Cloud platform is starting to emerge as an option for companies and businesses and education institutions. It started out with Google App Engine, which is now our fourth largest Web property. We have 200,000 developers on it and, you know, examples like the Royal Wedding, which had a peak query usage of something like 200 million queries per second.

Who do you compete with in that space? Is it Amazon Web Services?

[Yes], to some extent. It’s actually mostly proprietary stuff to be honest. People still want to buy servers and buy the licenses upfront and really they’re doing themselves a disservice by not looking at new online platforms. We are in a similar category as Force.com with Salesforce, although they sort of appeal to a different audience. We appeal to when you’re looking for scale and reliability — really big systems. Just don’t buy any more databases and servers. I mean we’re well past that now.

The trouble in Australia is once you move out of cities and regional hubs you are very limited in terms of connectivity. How do you see that within the Australian context?

A lot of our products aren’t very bandwidth intensive, so Gmail, Docs work fine over a broadband connection. It doesn’t need to be a T1 connection or, you know, and we’ve found some customers have actually seen the bandwidth usage go down by using the products. A large percentage of email that we get every day is spam and we capture that at source, so it doesn’t come down the pipe to you. Most traditional on premise solutions capture it on premise, so 90 per cent of the bandwidth used is mail that you don’t actually want. We’ve actually seen it the other way, which has been quite interesting.

CIOs are really trying to make their organisations more mobile. How does it fit with your strategy?

We’ve built mobility into the fabric of all our products. The whole idea of the Web platform is all the information is available. In terms of mobility, we have been really focused on manageability to try and take the devices that are proliferating and providing layers of security and manageability.

Part of that is included in the Google Apps Suite so you have some simple controls and password protection. Two-factor authentication is a core part of the Google Apps Suite. The latest release of Ice Cream Sandwich in Android has enterprise encryption, so you have a great platform now that is an encrypted device.

Android also has the ability to build apps; it’s an open source system and the whole idea is that we want people to build a new generation of applications, mobile applications.

Imagine you’re in an enterprise. You have all your data locked up in the backend, and you are trying to get it out and deliver it in a simple manner. You can obviously buy the apps from those vendors and that’s a good thing. However, you want to connect the dots for people and you want to do so in the visual interface. The Android development platform allows you to build a new generation of apps which really enhances the productivity of your employees.

We will continue to make investments in mobility and in manageability. Our Cloud products are inherently mobile and that’s our big advantage. Fundamentally, other platforms are designed for desktops and they’re trying to extend, but we live in a post-PC world.

How do consumer platforms such as Google Plus fit into an enterprise strategy?

The whole idea of Google Plus is it’s really a new platform for fine grain sharing, so it has the concept of Circles and where you can share within a group. Imagine doing that with a team; you have search built in, so it becomes a knowledge base. You can search for all the organisational history as people are talking to each other and find the experts that are out there based on their profile as well as based on what they’re saying about things.

It’s basically Facebook for enterprise, but with better features and more controls. Along with that, we have built into this platform a multi-bay video conferencing facility. It is video conferencing from any device at any time integrated with Google Apps with a calendar. You can share documents and webcast them in real time. You can watch training videos together and ‘hang out’. We feel it’s the next thing in broad enterprise productivity because I think most people say the time of individual silo-based process oriented efficiency has run its course. That was the PC era of individual productivity. The next set of innovation is coming from teams and so our products are built for teams.

So, do you see the Google Plus product as being an enterprise product rather than for individuals?

I think it’s both. That is the beauty about all our products. And what’s interesting is a lot of CIOs actually know that. They see it in their enterprises, but their last gen infrastructure, the PC-based infrastructure doesn’t lend itself to these things.

So, we are providing that next generation architecture.

Talking of mobile, where do Chromebooks fit into this strategy?

If you live in a post-PC world you either live on the Web or you’ve virtualised your apps, either professionally through Citrix or VMware, et cetera. Really, why do you need a PC? It’s expensive to manage and maintain and we think that over time the PC will be replaced by different kinds of things, smart phones, tablets and yes, Chromebooks. We’ve built a device that costs $US1 a day available on a monthly fee basis supported, provided directly from Google, which can dramatically change and it comes with a 3G plan and all that stuff, so it’s highly mobile. You can take it anywhere and it’s a first class experience. It’s very fast. Boot up time is less than seven seconds, so you’re always online.

When are we going to see that in Australia?

Good question. We’re going through approvals. It’s just a process.

How do they fit into a desktop virtualisation strategy?

A Chromebook comes with a Citrix receiver so it’s perfect if you virtualise your desktop. You can run Web apps or you have a virtualised desktop for legacy apps that you may need occasionally.

Enterprise IT is not just about the products, it’s about the services. How do you see that for Google?

I have a team of deployment folks, but the goal for us is to build this ecosystem, so we have eight to 10 qualified, certified product experts in the partner channel that comes in and implements the products and gives advice around change and so on.

We’ve also built a lot of tools over time that just can obviously take your old data and convert it into the new data.

Our clear strategy here is to continue to grow that ecosystem at a pace that can sustain them. And we are doing the same thing on the Cloud platform side — we are training them on delivering really great outcomes with our platform because that is a build option.

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