Google making steady progress in the enterprise

President of Google Enterprise says 58% of Fortune 500 are using some Google tools already, and new cloud products are encouraging conversion

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Amit Singh

Google Enterprise is making inroads on many fronts, winning converts to everything from its productivity tools to its cloud offerings. Network World Editor in Chief John Dix recently caught up with President of Google Enterprise Amit Singh for a progress report and to discuss what comes next.

Give us the Google Enterprise elevator pitch.

If I were to describe it in just a few sentences, Google is a technology company building platforms for the cloud, and we’re out to make the Web faster and safer with Chrome, and offer mobile people the same great experience with Android. Obviously, all of that is built on our expertise in data centers, and we layer services on top -- we started with search but then moved on to video, email, document storage, all those kinds of things.

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We’re seeing a pretty secular platform shift from PC-centric languages and platforms to mobile-centric, and if you are mobile and multi-deviced, then by nature you are building on Web services, whether our own or your own on our cloud. So that’s the pitch in a nutshell.

Is the main appeal of the Google Apps portfolio still mostly the low cost?

It started that way because it was everything packaged together for $50 per year from any device. But people love the capabilities built into the products because they can get work done faster -- collaborative document editing so you don’t have to go back and forth with attachments, or click one button and you’re in a video conference with somebody. It really speeds up the enterprise. Any cloud technology should be a lot less costly than legacy technology, but they should also make new things possible.

And you’re reaching large enterprises now, as I understand it. 

Yes. Fifty-eight percent of the Fortune 500 are using our products now, everything from search appliances and Google Apps to our geospatial products.

What’s the single most successful enterprise product, beyond search?

Google Apps, closely followed by the Google Maps API, which enables people to embed Maps in their websites. 

Give us some examples of enterprise wins.

Costco, Office Depot, Dillard's, Guardian Life Insurance, these are all Fortune 500 companies in the U.S. using Google Apps. And in terms of customers in government we have the Department of Interior, the largest department in the federal government, states like the state of Wyoming, and city governments in Pittsburgh, Orlando, Los Angeles and Boston.

Internationally we have Woolworths, the huge retailer in Australia, ANA, the largest airline in Japan, Roche Diagnostics, the list goes on.

Do many of them use the whole kit and kaboodle, or just select products?

Increasingly, yes. A few years ago customers would come for Gmail and Calendar, but now more and more people are using Chrome as their default browser, Google Apps (including Google Docs and storage), the Google Drive product, and Hangouts for videoconferencing. So yeah, they’re using large portions of the suite. And they also use the administrative controls; device management is built into Google Apps so you can remote wipe devices or enforce use of passwords or two-factor authentication and a variety of things like that. 

Do you use Hangouts internally? 

Yes. In fact, we unplugged all our legacy videoconferencing systems, all the Tandberg and Polycom rooms. They were quite expensive. Our goal with Hangouts is to deliver high quality at a much lower price.

I haven’t used it. Is it comparable to Skype?

I hope it’s a lot better than Skype. Skype is one-to-one and this is one-to-many. For businesses the limit is 15 people per videoconference on any device and any browser, and it is very high quality, including high definition video.

Is hi-def the default?

It steps down, depending on the quality of your connection. So if you don’t have a high quality connection it will eventually go to picture only, then voice only. 

So no video in your company other than Hangouts at this point?

Correct.

Will you ultimately scale up Hangouts?

Yes. It’s part of our Google+ family of products. The next generation Hangouts product just came out so you now have it everywhere; every Android phone has Hangouts. You can obviously get it on the Web on any device. And so our hope is videoconferencing is that next killer app, so with very low friction you can connect with people anywhere.

You folks put up some astounding numbers for Google+, but some of the anecdotal evidence would suggest it’s not working quite as well as the numbers would suggest.

The numbers don’t lie. We have 190 million active users. These are real numbers for 30-day actives, the standard metric everyone in the industry uses. So that’s the number of active users in a 30-day period, making Google+ the second most active social environment in the world.

I find it a little odd because I don’t see that much activity in, for example, the Network World Google+ account. Hey, sometimes I can’t even remember how to log into Google+.

Use your Gmail credentials.

I can, but why do you make it so hard? When I’m in Chrome and open a new tab, there are icons for Gmail, YouTube, etc., why not add Google+ there? Is there even a Web destination I could use?

It’s called Plus.google.com, but if you’re logged into Gmail or Chrome it is right there in the black menu bar which says + John. That will take you there directly.

Frankly, I don’t find your various user interfaces to be very intuitive. 

One of the things Larry is really focused on is trying to make Google+ the fabric underneath all of our services, so there’s one sign in and you’re in. There used to be separate sign-ins for all the different properties. So over the last few years we’ve consolidated all of that to a single sign-in which connects all our products together. 

Let’s turn to the Chromebook. Is that mostly a consumer play at this point? 

We launch most of our products for consumers first to get traction, and then, over time, add capabilities to make them relevant to enterprises. We’re just scaling distribution of the Chromebook now, making them available in 6,600 outlets. One place where we’re seeing traction is with students. Some 3,000 school districts now use Chromebooks, and almost all of them also use Google Apps. So once they live in the cloud, collaborating using a pure cloud environment, the Chromebook is a great next step. And then within enterprises we have seen adoption in retail, and some companies are using them to deliver a virtualized desktop.

Last question: Where do you stand today with cloud and where do you need to go?

We’ve been in the cloud since we were formed as a company. Externalizing all of the data centers and networks for other people’s consumption is what we’re working on now. And we feel like we’re actually quite competitive. We’re seeing Amazon customers move, which is usually a good sign. They typically move for speed, scale and consistency. If you are an Amazon customer and have Netflix in the cage with you, you’re kind of out of luck. We don’t have that. We provision services across a very wide network, so a lot of people mention the consistency benefit. Having said all of that, we are still working hard on all the components, and the last major bit came out of preview at our I/O conference where the Google Compute engine was announced. So we have all the layers of our computing infrastructure available for developers anywhere.

Are there any other pieces that have yet to come?

Just filling out more pieces of the manageability of it, so Phase 1 was getting into the space with App Engine, which is our platform-as-a-service offering. We now have about 250 to 300,000 developers on App Engine. And over time we create storage and SQL and high performance data store and then Compute Engine. 

At Google I/O we also introduced fractional billing. So you pay only for the percentage you use. If you use 15 minutes of VM time you pay for 15 minutes. Whereas with AWS, even if you only need the VM for 15 minutes, you pay for an hour. 

So through the last couple of years we’ve worked on all of those little things that go into creating an enterprise product, billing, support, etc. Those are all in the product now.

Are you dedicating infrastructure to this, or is it the same infrastructure that powers everything else that is Google?

The same infrastructure. That’s how it’s different also. The same stack that runs Gmail and Search is what you can use as a developer to run your app.

And are you guys still building all your own stuff?

We do everything from scratch. We build our data centers, our networks, the software, how to manage them, all of that is done by Google Engineering.

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