Google Touts the Apps in the Cloud

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2008-06-10 Print this article Print

Google product manager Rishi Chandra expects the cloud to be the main venue for application development in the future.

BOSTON-A Google product manager said the next 10 years in enterprise applications will develop in the cloud, a fitting sermon from a serious cloud computing player presenting at the Enterprise 2.0 show here June 10.

However, for every benefit of the cloud, there are questions about security, privacy and other niggling issues that crop up. And while enterprise application innovation could be carried out in the cloud from now on, on-premises applications from SAP, Microsoft, Oracle and other providers will be around for a long, long time.

Rishi Chandra, product manager for Google Apps, made a plausible case for cloud computing, which he defined as data and computing power that is hosted on the Internet and delivered by a Web browser. He noted that his company has an excellent track record for keeping users connected to their data and keeping that data secure.

However, after underscoring offline access as a key ingredient to keeping users tied to their data when they can't be connected to the Web, Chandra was asked how Google defends data stored on laptops from offline access provided by Google Gear.

The question was salient for two reasons. One, Google introduced offline access for its Google Docs trio of word processing, spreadsheet and presentation applications in April.

Two, Chandra said his boss, Google Enterprise General Manager Dave Girouard, had his corporate laptop stolen out of his car while he was attending a Giants game at AT&T Park.  

If Girouard is eating Google's own dog food-that is to say, storing data offline on his laptop-wasn't he concerned that someone took his laptop? Wasn't Girouard concerned that a user with a bit of decryption skill might tease the data out of his machine?

Earlier, Chandra said Girouard's biggest concern was whether to get a Mac or a PC because he wasn't concerned about people accessing his cloud-stored data because of the security of Google's servers. But Chandra side-stepped the question about offline access by answering generally that it was a concern.

Perhaps he misunderstood the question or didn't know the answer. Or perhaps he wasn't comfortable speaking for Girouard. eWEEK is meeting with Chandra in a few hours and will ask.

Other pronouncements from Chandra: Collaboration will be done in the cloud through open-source wikis and other tools, not as a siloed, individual on-premises service. "The cloud is the right platform for this," he said. Could this be a reference to Microsoft Office and SharePoint?

Also, the enterprise applications innovation will start with consumers using cool new apps in the cloud. Chandra cited search, instant messaging and VOIP (voice over IP) as examples of consumer-to-enterprise capabilities.

Perhaps the best example of this is the way social networking tools, popularized on consumer sites such as MySpace and Facebook, have been adopted in the enterprise. Some companies are using Facebook to set up corporate colleague-finding networks.

Sometimes the innovation bridge between the consumer side and enterprises is indirect. For example, IBM's Lotus Connections is increasingly starting to resemble Facebook and others of its ilk, particularly after IBM announced a friending capability in Version 2.0 of its product June 10.

Moreover, while industry analysts and naysayers bemoan the fact that Google doesn't "get the enterprise," Chandra made a compelling case for why Google, which spent most of its 10 years as a consumer-oriented Web services provider, is well positioned for the enterprise.

He said the consumer space is Darwinian, with thousands or millions of users winnowing out the services they don't like and championing the offerings they adore. Google's search might be the best example, with 60 percent of users worldwide voting with their queries for Google over Yahoo and Microsoft.

In theory, if Google could get some of its search success to rub off on its nascent Apps business, it would be in good shape.


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