The Three-Horse Cloud Race

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-02-21 Print this article Print


Customers have different reasons for why they chose Google, Microsoft or IBM. eWEEK asked Google's Girouard how the company can compete with Microsoft and IBM, the incumbents in the enterprise collaboration market.

Girouard pointed to history for incumbents giving way to newfangled approaches in computing. Just as the evolution from mainframes to the client/server model gave birth to Microsoft, the client/server era is giving way to Google and its cloud, Girouard believes. As for the naysayers who think Google is a one-trick search pony, Girouard said:

"We are hiring and building out. We hired people from IBM, Microsoft, EMC and VMware and have 1,000 people who are the best and brightest in the enterprise. We're not sitting here with just people who know consumer Web search and advertising."

Even so, IDC analyst Melissa Webster said that Google has quite a challenge on its hands, not only against Microsoft and IBM's legacy on-premises installations, but against the nascent cloud offerings from those giants. Webster told eWEEK:

"Google is a newbie when it comes to enterprise software, and so Microsoft and IBM ought to be able to leverage their decades of experience to deliver superior enterprise cloud platforms for collaboration, content management and communications. 2010 will be a very telling year, as these two titans enter the market here in a serious way."

However, Webster said Google's per seat cost is very low, posing a problem for the incumbents. She wonders whether enterprise buyers will pay more for a richer product offering.

Microsoft, meanwhile, is betting big on Microsoft Exchange 2010, SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 this year, all of which were built from the ground up to work on-premises and as an online service. The company plans to build new capabilities into these online services over the course of 2010, Markezich said.

Markezich believes customers will because of Microsoft's ease of migration and track record in security. He also took a swipe at Google Apps, which was first rolled out as a consumer product:

"We chose not to take Hotmail, Live Spaces or Windows Messenger and make them enterprise services. We took our enterprise products and used those as the platform for our cloud services. That allows a whole other level of security and regulatory compliance you won't see in a consumer-oriented service."

IBM's Poulley believes IBM will woo more enterprises such as Panasonic to its cloud because its service is best suited to "securely extend the enterprise perimeter to the cloud. Companies don't want two types of directory management and security administrations." 

He believes the key to IBM's success in 2010 and beyond will come from IBM LotusLive Labs, the company's effort to develop new collaboration software with the help of business partners. This will include extensions into third-party apps.

For example, Poulley demonstrated at Lotusphere 2010 a bridge between LotusLive Engage and He took a contract created in, reviewed it, kicked it to an electronic signature process, signed it and shipped it off, all within LotusLive Engage.

Of course, Google, Microsoft and IBM all acknowledge on-premises solutions aren't going anywhere. There are too may installations of legacy Exchange, Lotus and other proprietary solutions for this type of software to disappear into the clouds anytime soon.

However, Girouard argued that all collaboration apps will move to the cloud in the next five years.

He said: "Where are the new apps being built? What app that is not a cloud app has been launched in the last five years? There are none. The best non-cloud app I can think of is probably [Apple's]  iTunes."


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