Google July 7 took its core Google Apps out of beta and said Fairchild Semiconductor has moved its 5,500 employees to Google Apps Premier Edition (GAPE) from IBM Lotus Notes, the latest coup for the company’s growing effort in cloud computing.
Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar and Google Talk are now out of beta more than two years after Google created the SAAS (software as a service) suite as an alternative to on-premise to Microsoft’s Office and SharePoint collaboration software. These applications join Google Sites and Google Video for business as more polished products.
Google hosts Google Apps on its own servers. Users access standard editions of Google Apps for free, but businesses can pay $50 per user, per year for GAPE, which includes a service-level agreement, greater security, 24/7 support and more storage, among other perks.
“Google Apps is becoming less of the early adopter decision and is really now starting to hit that mainstream point,” Matt Glotzbach, director of product management for Google’s enterprise group, told eWEEK. “We’ve come to appreciate that the beta tag just doesn’t fit for large enterprises that aren’t keen to run their business on software that sounds like it’s still in the trial phase.”
Glotzbach, who said 1.75 million businesses are using Google Apps, counts the October 2008 migration of Genentech’s 17,000 employees to Google Apps as a key milestone for the platform. At that point, Google put a “laser focus” on smashing the remaining barriers to broader adoption to Google Apps in businesses, he said.
This is a crucial move if Google is to poach more customers from Microsoft and IBM, the largest collaboration competitors. Google is also competing with Cisco and several smaller SAAS players, including Zoho.
To ratchet up its play to grab more paying customers, Google in January added offline access to Gmail. This functionality is a boon to corporate road warriors who travel and need to access their e-mail data while flying or in other areas where there is no Web access.
Google Seeks More Paying Customers with Gape
For GAPE customers, Google in May added Google Apps Connect for BlackBerry Enterprise Server. This plug-in lets GAPE customers access e-mail and global address lists from the cloud to the corresponding apps on managed BlackBerry mobile devices.This is also huge for company employees on the road.
In June, Google introduced Google Apps Synch for Microsoft Outlook, a plug-in that lets GAPE customers access Gmail, calendar and contacts through Microsoft Outlook.
These were all key moves in helping Fairchild Semiconductor switch to GAPE for its 18 offices all over the world, Glotzbach said. Fairchild executives were unavailable to comment on this move; Glotzbach said the company wanted a more modern collaboration platform.
Fairchild started with a proof-of-concept phase of 50 users moved on to an early adopter phase of 400 users worldwide. Finally, the remaining employees to Google Apps to Lotus Notes in less than three weeks.
Glotzbach also said Google is testing new features for GAPE customers, including mail delegation and mail retention. Mail delegation allows administrative assistants to screen and send e-mail on behalf of other knowledge workers.
E-mail retention lets IT administrators set up policies to determine when e-mail will be purged, a utility designed with data retention rules such as Sarbanes-Oxley in mind. These tools will start rolling out to all GAPE domains over the next weeks.
Finally, Google is boosting the reliability of Google Apps, which suffered from a handful of widely publicized outages in the last year, by providing live replication of data to other locations for near instant disaster recovery.
This replication simultaneously serves a user’s e-mail and calendar data from two different data center locations at all times. This service is performed for all Gmail users, not just GAPE customers.
But for those users who aren’t ready to bid the beta tag goodbye, Google said users can re-enable the beta label for Gmail from the Labs tab under Settings.