Should CIOs Take Google Seriously? - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // CIO Insights & Innovation
Commentary
8/23/2007
01:03 PM
John Soat
John Soat
Commentary
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Should CIOs Take Google Seriously?

I haven't seen any evidence that tech execs have Google on their lists of top-tier enterprise application providers. Am I missing something?

I haven't seen any evidence that tech execs have Google on their lists of top-tier enterprise application providers. Am I missing something?I recently interviewed Sun Microsystem's CIO Bob Worrall. He told me that he'd been in Moscow recently and spoken with a group of 50 young entrepreneurs. When he asked how many, as part of their business plans, had incorporated plans for traditional IT data center architectures, only two raised their hands.

The point seems to be this: young people are enamored of the potential of online services, like those from Amazon.com, Salesforce.com, or Google, which recently introduced its Google Apps Premier Edition, a set of software-as-a-service offerings that includes e-mail, calendar, word processing, and spreadsheet capabilities, among others.

Google describes GAPE this way: "With Google Apps, you can give your employees the next-generation communication and collaboration tools they need to manage electronic communications, share and publish information, and stay connected while on the go."

The Burton Group, an IT research firm that specializes in enterprise architecture issues, recently published a report entitled "Google Apps in the Enterprise: A Promotion-Enhancing or Career-Limiting Move for Enterprise Architects?"

The report recommends organizations must be comfortable with three key areas if considering Google's applications: First; the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model in general; then, the capabilities of Google's applications; and then, Google as a company.

"Don't be seduced by Google's low price point," said Guy Creese, a Burton analyst, in a statement about the report. "The product's rudimentary feature set combined with Google's unique company culture could spell disaster if unwisely deployed."

Nice use of the word "unique," by the way. And forget for a moment that just about any technology, if unwisely deployed, could spell disaster for an organization. The point is that Google is too new to the game, that it's software is too unsophisticated and basically untested, and that Google has yet to earn its bones as an enterprise player.

"Google has helped the industry question long-held beliefs and is contributing largely to the adoption of SaaS solutions," said Creese. "Unfortunately, Google can't capitalize on these market changes because GAPE currently has weaknesses that large enterprises cannot ignore."

Sounds reasonable. But implicit in the title of the Burton Group's report is that enterprise architects -- and ultimately, of course, that means the CIOs they report to -- ascribe a certain amount of seriousness to Google's apps as alternatives to standard enterprise applications from Microsoft, Oracle, or SAP. That's the notion I have yet to see any evidence of.

Granted, any forward-looking CIO worth his or her salt is exploring the potential efficiencies and cost savings implicit in the software-as-a-service model. But it's too early in the curve for Google to be taken seriously for anything other than the most rudimentary jobs. Or am I missing something?

If you're considering Google as an enterprise app provider, please let me know. Otherwise, which vendors are your best bets for software-as-a-service and other online services models?

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