Google exec touts company's fledgling SaaS efforts

Company expects to attract corporate users to Google Apps service, says Glotzbach

Matthew Glotzbach, director of product management for Google Enterprise, says corporate customers still need to become more comfortable with hosted application delivery before it will really take off. Glotzbach sat down with Computerworld during the AIIM International Conference last week to talk about Google's fledgling Google Apps software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering and how the company plans to compete with traditional application vendors like Oracle and SAP AG and with new hosted offerings from top vendors like Microsoft.

Are corporate IT managers customers ready to trust hosted products with their data?

We have tens of millions and hundreds of millions of users who trust us with their data, be it search history, Gmail or credit card information. It's easy to believe that our systems for managing and storing data are going to be as secure, or in most cases more secure, than your average enterprise system. It's really more of an emotional argument than anything else. This cloud is an intimidating and somewhat abstract idea. We're quickly dispelling this myth that these cloud based or services-based applications are somehow lightweight versions of traditional apps. Because these apps are connected up in the cloud, they facilitate a collaboration and sharing that is nearly impossible for traditional apps.

How do you get disgruntled packaged software users to consider hosted apps?

Cloud-based applications are just built differently. One benefit is ongoing maintenance support and upgrades. They're not thought of as versions. You're not on version 1 or version 2 -- there's a constant stream of updates. From an IT perspective in a large enterprise, it's even less about the cost associated with that than it is the hassle. It's difficult to upgrade to the latest version of some application. You may have customized so much that upgrading to the new version is nearly impossible. That is definitely one thing we hear a lot. There are just things you can do in a cloud model that you can't do with traditional software. On the e-mail front, we give 25GB of storage to our business users and 6GB to consumers. That's just not something you can do with Lotus Notes or Microsoft Exchange.

Why aren't hosted products widely used in large organizations today?

One peace of mind that IT departments have when they run things in house is that they can go look at the servers and hug them. When we move to a cloud model, there's an arm's length attachment along with all the benefits. You can't point at the server that's holding your data. Google is one of the strongest global brands, but you tend to think consumer. One challenge we've had is building enterprise credibility.

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