Google Blurs Enterprise, Consumer Apps

Q&A: Product Management Director Matt Glotzbach brings Google's enterprise plans into focus.

Matt Glotzbach has a lot on his mind and in his hands these days.

As the product management director for Google's Enterprise Division, Glotzbach is charged with helping the Mountain View, Calif., company extend the penetration of its search and applications into the business market. Particularly important to this vision is Google's notion of cloud computing, or SAAS (software-as-a-service) applications hosted on Google's servers and paid for per employee per year. While most traditional high-tech organizations prefer to keep their consumer and enterprise assets walled off from one another, Google doesn't subscribe to that old-line philosophy.

Glotzbach said he and his engineering team meet with their counterparts on the consumer side almost daily to make sure they see eye-to-eye on how best to situate products. This is an important task for a company that would love to usurp Microsoft's place in the pantheon of office productivity software. Just don't expect Glotzbach or anyone at Google to admit that. Glotzbach spoke with eWEEK Editorial Director Eric Lundquist and Senior Writer Clint Boulton after his keynote speech at Interop New York on Oct. 25.

Where do the lines blur between consumer and enterprise for Google? For example, you just announced Google IMAP for Gmail. Was that from the consumer or enterprise side?

It's difficult to draw the lines because we intentionally try to keep them really blurry inside the company with the intent of not creating artificial boundaries or artificial walls. There is a group of engineers that are dedicated to the enterprise, but as we refine the model, we find the teams don't even know that.

The IMAP news is a great example where there are benefits on both sides of the house. From an external perspective, this is a huge benefit for the business space because you can use Mac mail or Outlook mail with a Google back end. There are huge benefits on the consumer side as well, specifically for the power Outlook user who loves Gmail for its Web interface but wants to sit behind the Outlook interface when [he or she] can. The lines are blurry by design.

This comes up because there's some perception that the technologies you're using in Google Enterprise are hand-me-downs from the consumer side. So, there is innovation going on in Google's enterprise business?

Absolutely. On the acquisition front, we recently acquired Postini, and that was purely an enterprise piece. Postini's security services are not necessarily that germane to the average consumer. What we quickly did was looked across the board and said, What are the really unique and interesting things that Postini has to offer [so] that, when we put the Google technology and the Postini technology together, you really get a one-plus-one equals three capability?


There was a report recently from UCLA-Berkeley, which was looking to replace its e-mail system. They were thinking of the cloud, or software as a service, but decided not to go that route because of compliance and legal issues. They had questions like, What if someone's e-mail was subpoenaed by the government? Would Google have an obligation to tell them or not? How does Postini deal with these issues?

The laws are evolving, and, to some extent, it is a moving target. That creates a lot of fear in the buyer's mind, so it is definitely an area of conversation that we have with all of our large customers and prospects. The five-person business could probably care less about this. The large state university cares a lot about it.

Postini does address a number of these issues. Postini's capabilities include legal compliance, archiving and data retention. The integration of the Postini capabilities on top of Gmail and Google Apps for businesses was one of the primary motivations of that acquisition. The idea was being able to provide all of those facilities to a customer still in a software-as-a-service model, where you didn't have to maintain your own servers for the purpose of legal discovery and backup. There are very real policy issues that we believe we have good answers to.

In the wake of the Postini asset integration, do you think there's been a change in perception of the GAPE (Google Apps Premier Edition) platform?

It's been really well received. People question all the time, 'Is Google serious about this enterprise business? Do you really care about it, or is it a side thing that you're doing while you're driving the ads revenue?' Obviously, we're extremely serious about it, and I think the Postini acquisition, being Google's third-largest acquisition ever, is emblematic of our level of commitment to that space.

Will Google address the nitty-gritty applications of the enterprise, such as human resources, ERP (enterprise resource planning) and financial applications?

Our focus and our strength is around leveraging the user model. We learn so much by watching what users do. I don't see the same level of synergies and abilities to learn and evolve at the pace that we want, so I think what you'll continue to see from us is more of the end-user-focused applications. It doesn't mean that there is not an opportunity to open up the platform and allow others to build from that platform.

Mobile enterprise applications are a huge driver out there when we talk to CIOs. They really want to get applications out on handheld devices. What is Google enterprise doing today to help them along the way?

First and foremost, we're going to make sure you constantly have a great mobile experience on our applications. Historically, people have mobile as being an afterthought. Our mind-set is that it is one of the primary UIs.

The IMAP announcement is a great example of that. We didn't necessarily need to reinvent the mail client for every device. A lot of smart phones have a great mail client, and they support IMAP. Now, you have a really rich mobile experience for mail on any smart phone.

You said you don't dwell all day on Microsoft Office. Could you expand on that a little bit?

Our teams aren't motivated by, 'How do we beat Microsoft today?' We wake up and say, 'How do we deliver more value for the end user, and how do we build more applications that users are going to love and use nonstop?' That's the motivation. You've got a chance to work on an application that hundreds of million of people are going to touch.

On the business side, the game has changed. I almost never work independently anymore. It's all about a collaborative environment. Can you do that with traditional tools? Sure, but it's hard.


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People misunderstand or misinterpret Google Apps. Google Docs, Spreadsheet and Presentations are great examples. People look at them as lightweight versions of the traditional office technologies. I view it differently. They're not lightweight versions; they're actually power-user versions. I watched somebody create a dashboard in 5 minutes with Google Spreadsheet using features that let you pull real-time data from the Web, such as news feeds. You can probably do something like that with an Excel spreadsheet, but if you go and paste the data it will instantly be static and stale and it would take a heck of a lot more than 5 minutes to do.

What other assets is Google looking at to pad its enterprise portfolio?

I think you'll see richer enterprise-class features around some of the more mundane stuff around integration.

Interoperability is a big thing for us. We recognize that, especially in the large enterprise, you're not going to just turn off all of the installed stuff. There's going to be a migration period, and you may interoperate between [Microsoft] Exchange servers, and some [IBM] Lotus Notes servers and some SAAS applications.

But Google Apps is very much a platform where we can bring existing Google technologies into Google Apps. We get told all of the time, 'It would be really cool if I could get YouTube in Google Apps, where I could do a little private video-sharing within my company. It would be really cool if I could have Blogger inside Google Apps to encourage blogging inside the company as well as outside the company.' But there's not some top-down master schedule that everyone has to conform to.


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