Google Aims to Be the Platform For Businesses

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 12-18-2007

Google executives are prone to preaching about technologies from the consumer market that cross over to the business side of the house to become business productivity tools.

As Vice President and General Manager of Google's Enterprise business, Dave Girouard stands at the intersection of this crossroad for Google, and knows all too well about the multi-billion-dollar potential of selling such products to big businesses with thousands of employees.

Since joining Google in 2004, Girouard's purview has grown from selling Google's Search Appliances to selling suites of Google Apps tailored for enterprises.

As a testament to Google's intent to compete with some of the larger enterprise fish in the market, the company July 9 agreed to buy security SAAS (software as a service) startup Postini for $625 million. Essentially, this buy was designed to add a layer of security (and therefore credibility) to Google's Apps.

Girouard sat down with eWEEK Senior Editor Clint Boulton Dec. 12 at Google's Mountain View, Calif., campus to discuss Postini, Google Apps and SAAS in the enterprise.

Gmail is the application where you first applied the Postini assets, adding policy management and message recovery, along with configurable spam and virus filtering. Are there plans to add the Postini technologies across the rest of Google Apps, such as Docs, Spreadsheets and Presentations?

It's a good potential. Postini's been grown around SMPT, e-mail and instant messaging, but the same concept of policy enforcement and being able to know what's coming and going certainly applies to Docs and Spreadsheets and all of that stuff. Those are things that you can do through APIs but it's an obvious opportunity for us but it's not something that we're doing for today.

I fundamentally believe—and most people probably think this is crazy right now—that third-party hosted, Google-hosted information is going to be more secure than if you host it yourself. The biggest source of leaks in corporate data is from laptops. Most data leaks are accidents. For example, if I send you a spreadsheet and I didn't mean to send it to you, there's no way of undoing that. But if I invited you to look at a spreadsheet and figured out a minute later, damn, that's that guy from eWEEK, I didn't want to send it to him, I can just turn it off and you would not have it.

We really believe there is a chance to move apps that grew up as consumer apps into a business environment and do that in a pretty productive way. That's the central thesis of what we're doing today: letting our infrastructure be available to third parties so they can build applications. We're doing a fair amount of this between what we do with Gadgets and what we do with our Maps API and things like that. You'll continue to see us do more and more of that.

How will that work for the enterprise? If I'm a third-party business and I come to you, what would you offer me?

Today, you could build a mapping application that tracks all of your trucks and where they are in a day. That's from an enterprise version of our Maps API. Eventually, somebody could say they want to build their own project tracking application for the construction industry. Well, why not be able to run that on Google? It's expensive to build data centers and install servers even if you use virtualization technology. Allowing people to leverage our infrastructure is something we'll do more and more of over time.

Google Apps embraces the SAAS model for collaboration software, but what is likelihood Google will offer on-demand CRM (customer relationship management), ERP (enterprise resource planning) as a service, a la Salesforce.com?

I think we're smart enough to realize we're not the guys to build everything. The things that have consumer analogs make a lot of sense for us. We learn a huge amount from what consumers do and how they interact with our products like Gmail. We wouldn't have the advantage or that insight for CRM. We'd have the infrastructure to do it. But I think Salesforce.com is very good at what they do so I think we'd be much more inclined to work with them and others like them.

What are your goals for Google's Apps for the enterprise for 2008?

We're getting amazingly fast traction with small businesses, and now we're starting to see bigger businesses more. We definitely have some large businesses that are evaluating or piloting Google Apps. They like the vision that you ought to have some different types of solutions out there like Google as alternatives to IBM or Microsoft.

Any of the big guys, like Accenture or IBM Global Services, they all look at SAAS and it doesn't quite fit their model. They're used to saying, 'SAP installation, send in the school buses and we'll put people on site for a year.' SAAS is different, it's easier. What I would hope and expect in the coming months is that you're going to see big companies coming out and saying 'we're using Apps and we're using them to scale.

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