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The argument for cloud computing: Part 4
Analysts and vendors are touting the power and cost effectiveness of cloud computing to meet and solve business problems. But as all the hype settles, are businesses and solutions actually ready for deployment? This week we talk to some vendors and analysts to find out their opinion if cloud computing can really deliver. Deepak Ramanathan, Head of Marketing, Asia Pacific, Google E nterprise, shares his view on the benefits cloud computing can bring.
NWA: Analysts and vendors may say that cloud computing has moved beyond the hype but are businesses ready for adoption? What has been holding up adoption till now? What are the compelling business and technical arguments (if any) for adoption? What would a complete solution look like?
Cloud computing is being adopted by many companies already and we've seen barriers disappearing over the last 18 months. Now most connections are fast and reliable. In addition, with offline delivered through Google Gears, you can access these web applications without actually being online, so when there is no connection like on a plane, you can still email and create documents. You'll also find that the level of trust in cloud providers is changing fast. In the case of Google, our core is running a reliable, safe, and secure cloud operation that meets external and independent SAS 70 Type II certification requirements. So we've been able to scale our operations for all of our products with minimal issues over the last decade. We also introduced through our Apps Status Dashboard greater levels of transparency with Google Apps, allowing anyone to find out instantaneously the current status of any of the applications in the suite. This along with our within-48 hours incident reporting, has allowed Premier edition Admins and CIOs to better serve their internal customers, and they've told me that this has made a major difference to their processes. Finally, I hear about data safety being raised as a concern. In general, hosted software is extremely reliable, safe, and secure. As I mentioned, our systems is fundamental to our business, we use purpose-built security applications and encryption for managing and storing data. When you compare on-premise distributed systems today, the amount of data that goes missing from laptops, USB drives, and end-point corruption is extraordinary. With cloud computing, those risks are substantially mitigated.
Cloud computing makes sense for businesses today, especially in trying to reduce costs. Web applications, like Google Apps reduces the traditional costs and labor associated with deploying, maintaining and upgrading business technology. Since software lives in the cloud and is ‘versionless’, it can be improved as often as needed without tying up the IT department or inconveniencing users. IT departments can redeploy resources to focus on core business application development, helping the business with IT solutions for "real" issues, as opposed to looking after an email, intranet and productivity tool infrastructure. Further, in today's environment where employees expect better IT within their business, they can access innovative tools, be more productive and collaborate on documents from wherever they find themselves.
NWA: How is Google trying to change the perception that your offerings are merely consumer or search focused? While you are known as an online powerhouse, are businesses receptive to the idea of Google working in the enterprise?
It’s true, we started with a mission to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. This led to a large number of consumer products that made a significant difference to people's lives in terms of finding, managing, communicating and collaborating. We wanted to bring this new innovation model to businesses so that employees, who experience these powerful web applications as consumers, can feel empowered at work. In fact, the rate of innovation is phenomenal in the "cloud" leveling the playing field for all businesses, giving them access to the best tools immediately, not having to waiting for software upgrade cycles, and schedule refreshes. In 2008 alone, Google Apps delivered over 60 product improvements to its cloud suite including the launch of Google Sites and Google Video, video and voice chat in Gmail, templates in Docs, synch tools for Outlook and Blackberry, and many others.
We are seeing an incredible amount of take up of Google Apps with more than 3,000 businesses signing up every day, more than 1 million businesses already using it, with more than 10 million active users, and thousands of university deployments. And the CIOs I talk to are recognizing that to be ahead of the technological curve, it’s important to understand how the Google Apps suite can be integrated into their business to enhance productivity, improve collaboration and significantly reduce cost.
NWA: In terms of security, how do you work with customers to prevent potential unauthorized access, inappropriate use and loss of control of proprietary corporate information and applications? Who is and should be responsible for corporate policy distribution, management and control?
Today, we are responsible for the safekeeping of data for tens of millions of users. We take this responsibility very seriously, and we have gone to great lengths to live up to the trust of our users. We recognize that secure products are instrumental in maintaining the trust users place in us and strive to create innovative products that both serve their needs and operate in their best interest.
Ultimately, the customer owns the data they host on Google Apps, it’s encrypted and our privacy policies and contracts ensure that we are liable for any breach that occurs. Every company’s corporate policy differs in this regard, and as part of any deployment, and similar to the old IT outsourcing model, these are areas that we recommend to be reviewed.
NWA: Given that Google seems to be offering solutions together with SI partners like NCS, how do you address performance issues? Quality-of-service commitments and service-level agreements from cloud computing vendors may not meet corporate availability, legal, budgetary and insurance requirements. Who is responsible for loss of revenue/profits from a significant cloud-computing outage, high network load or insufficient bandwidth access as a result of a denial of service?
We know how important these services are to our users. But like any IT system, 100% uptime is impossible to guarantee. In fact a recent independent study compared scheduled and unscheduled downtime for on-premise solutions like Exchange with cloud solutions like Google Apps and found that there are 3 to 5 times more outages with the on-premise solutions. This goes back to the fact that we are in the business of providing web based services and applications, and so we are constantly monitoring our systems and looking for ways to strengthen and improve our infrastructure. Our datacenter architecture is designed to prevent failure, and we design and expect our software to keep running in the event of a failure. Data is replicated multiple times across our clustered active servers, so, in the case of a machine failure, your data will still be accessible through another system. Because we use Gmail and Google Apps as our corporate email and collaboration tools, you can be sure that we are totally committed to keeping these products up and running and responding quickly to any technical issues.
To assure organizations of high reliability, we offer an SLA for 99.9% uptime for Google Apps through Google Apps Premier Edition, as well as 24/7 support for critical issues. We set the SLA at a high level that we fully expect to meet, and furthermore, we expect to raise that bar over time.
To ensure full transparency into the performance of Google Apps, Google has put up an Apps Status Dashboard which can be accessed via http://www.google.com/appsstatus#rm:0/di:-1/do:1/ddo:0
We have credits in place and in the rare instance of an outage, we'll ensure that our Premier Edition customers are quickly credited for the inconvenience. Some customers decide to cache data on their own premises as part of the solution for even a greater level of redundancy.