Serena to Dump Microsoft Exchange for Google Gmail, the Cloud

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2008-11-13

Serena to Dump Microsoft Exchange for Google Gmail, the Cloud

Serena Software expects to save $750,000 per year by shedding Microsoft Exchange Server in favor of Google's Gmail application for its 800 employees, officials of the Web development software maker told eWEEK Nov. 12.

The move, slated to be completed by the end of 2008, is a coup for Google. The search engine provider has been struggling to entice customers to switch from the Microsoft Outlook e-mail client and Exchange Server on-premises application to its SAAS (software as a service) Web mail, word processing, spreadsheet and other applications.

These applications and data associated with them live on Google's hosted servers, which customers access through the Internet. This method, also called cloud computing, is becoming more popular for cost-conscious companies, which may also be tired of maintaining the servers that house their data.

Ron Brister, senior manager of global IT operations at Serena, told eWEEK Serena has subscribed to Google's GAPE (Google Apps Premier Edition) service, the paid version of Google Apps, for $50 per user, per year.

Click here for a video of Google Enterprise President Dave Girouard discussing the cloud and Microsoft.

Brister said it cost Serena roughly $1 million a year to use Exchange once all of the CALs (client access licenses) and software assurance were factored in; he expects Serena to pay only a quarter of that to use GAPE.

GAPE includes Gmail, Google's Postini messaging security software and 25GB of mailbox space, as well as greater uptime and 24/7 phone support. It also includes other Google productivity and collaboration applications, such as Google Docs word processing, spreadsheet and presentations, and Google's Sites wiki.

However, Brister said Serena so far is only using Gmail and the Postini assets to protect and serve Gmail, largely because Serena staffers are using Microsoft's SharePoint collaboration software. While there is no current plan to jettison SharePoint, he conceded that that may change as Serena staffers get more comfortable with the cloud. Brister added:

What we're finding is it's becoming pretty viral and it's getting used, taking less of an emphasis off of things like SharePoint, which becomes static and stale much more quickly when you have something much more collaborative in the cloud and as easy to use as Gmail. It's become each of the users' preferences rather than anything we're dictating.

Google, Microsoft Duel

And why not? Serena is already paying for it to the tune of 50 test users so far, so why not embrace all of GAPE? Brister said he expects to port the rest of Serena's employees to Gmail by the end of 2008.

Microsoft, which ironically is rolling out its SAAS Exchange Online and SharePoint Online solutions Nov. 17, did not respond with comments about the switch.

The move to Gmail and Google's cloud began about a year ago, when Serena CEO Jeremy Burton said he wanted to help the company innovate while cutting costs. Serena began using Gmail in an exploratory mode in December.

The decision to switch didn't come without some soul-searching, Brister said, noting that his peers in IT wondered how could he leave Microsoft, which has "paid all of my bills for years and years. Well, it makes sense for the business, and it works."

Much has been made about whether Google can successfully wrangle (Google would say "save") customers from Microsoft's large, strong grip on some 220 million in-boxes of corporations and smaller companies all over the world.

There have been some cases where Google Apps has wedged its way in the door, joining Microsoft Office. Capgemini's embrace of Google Apps in September 2007 comes to mind.

But instances where Google Apps supplants Microsoft Office entirely are far fewer, particularly for the paid GAPE offering, which Google began offering in February 2007.

That could change as Gmail and other Google Apps become more fit for enterprise use. Gmail in particular has been rolling out features that could appeal to business customers, thanks to new tools such as Gmail voice and video chat.

In the meantime, Microsoft remains king of corporate productivity and collaboration. Google is hoping for some extinction-level event to stamp out the incumbent, and has made no secret of viewing Microsoft as a dinosaur.

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