Google's Cloud Utopia Doesn't Mesh With Enterprise

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2008-05-09

Google's Cloud Utopia Doesn't Mesh With Enterprise

The words "Google" and "cloud" are becoming as common in sentences together as "Google" and "search."

With more than 3,000 businesses signing up for Google Apps daily, the company is widely viewed as a new challenger to Microsoft and IBM in the collaboration applications front.

Google may be seeing rampant adoption of its Google Apps, but the enterprise infrastructure cloud has proven to be a more elusive animal, said Dave Rosenberg, CEO of open-source data integration software maker MuleSource.

"The current enterprise is not going into the cloud," said Rosenberg, whose company launched an integration-as-a-service offering in September. "We're seeing a lot of people who are using our software or other software between external systems, but the idea that we're all moving to the cloud is still probably five years away."

Google's cloud consists of software and services delivered through a Web browser. Unlike traditional software packages from Microsoft and IBM, there is no server or client software to install.

The software is hosted by Google-or whomever the provider happens to be-and should be available anytime, anywhere, from any device connecting to the Internet, wrote David Girouard, vice president and general manager of Google Enterprise, in an op-ed that ran in May 6.

With that as a starting point, Girouard, who has the challenging job of putting Google's pre-pubescent enterprise business on the map, proceeds to regale readers on how Google employs a cloud model for collaboration to make work easier for businesses.

It is a breathlessly utopian view, to say the least, but different from what other vendors are attempting to do. Yet some vendors are ratcheting up their cloud offerings to help their customers move everything to that model.

Sun May 7 announced its Hydrazine initiative to move all computing resources to the cloud. Earlier, on May 5, Sun made its OpenSolaris operating system available on Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2).

Yet Rosenberg was unimpressed, noting that just because something is hosted, even if it is open source, does not make it a truly a shared infrastructure.

So does MuleSource have the key to the cloud kingdom? No. Rosenberg said while there is call in the market for MuleSource's integration-as-a-service offering, customers are treating it as basic next-generation data integration. These customers take data from one place to another.

This means customers are barely scratching the cloud surface.

Google's Cloud Utopia Doesn't Mesh With Enterprise

=Proprietary technology, lack of standards hamper cloud}

One of the reasons for why enterprise customers are slow to migrate to the cloud is because APEX PAAS (platform as a service) and other SAAS (software-as-a-service) providers keep customers tethered to their own technology.

" APEX is locked, NetSuite and other guys are all trying to lock you into their silos, which defeats the whole purpose of SOA [service-oriented architecture], when you keep adding more silos without mechanisms to get the data in or out," Rosenberg said.

Proprietary technology is not the only culprit. Even though Google's App Engine leverages the open-source Python language, Rosenberg said programs written on the App Engine can only be written in Python. Google has assured that more language support is forthcoming.

These limits keep vendors and customers from truly cloud-based computing, where Web software is interoperable with other languages and platforms. What is needed, he said, is a common open programming language for the cloud. Something like's APEX, but for infrastructure, allowing Java virtual machines to run in the cloud, he said.

Rosenberg kicked the responsibility back to IBM, Sun or Hewlett-Packard, which he said must build out the massive datacenters to put a stake in the ground for the future of cloud infrastructure in the enterprise.

If those Big 3 vendors can get the cloud infrastructure ball rolling, it could open the door to smaller vendors, such as MuleSource, which is poised to ply its trade in data integration.

Rosenberg's rant is a more sobering view at a time when the industry continues to be enamored of and lulled into Google's dream world of cloud ubiquity, as Girouard wrote:

"The real, long-term change is just beginning to be felt, and anyone thinking about our economic future should consider this: Access to information is a democratizing force, and the cloud makes it inexpensive and easy to collaborate and share information."

This may be so in Google's very focused cloud collaboration effort, where customers use word processing, spreadsheet and presentation applications  under the protection of Google's Postini apps.

But for the greater enterprise infrastructure backbone-the nuts and bolts of systemic computing-there is clearly still a gulf between the hype and the reality.

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