Ian Hardenburgh looks more closely at how Microsoft and Google will compete with each other in the cloud space.
Google's cloud portfolio has come a long way from simply provisioning Google Docs, essentially a cheaper online alternative to competing productivity suites like Microsoft Office and OpenOffice, to offering a fairly robust platform for integrated software development, as done with Google App Engine and the Google Apps Marketplace. However, Google has not yet proposed any infrastructure-based service, such as what Microsoft has done with its Azure VM Role and Hyper-V private cloud solution, or even something less proprietary, such as Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud. So far, Google's strategy seems to be focused elsewhere, as they look toward a different segment of the enterprise cloud market — the SaaS one.
With Microsoft's concurrent advances with both private and public cloud technologies, it seems as if they intend to slowly move their existing clientele over to the public end of the equation. In other words, one day, everything will run entirely on Windows Azure. A typical scenario for an enterprise would be to build their infrastructure in a private cloud, or with Hyper-V, and once it has reached an acceptable level of sustainability, move it to Windows Azure. There, the enterprise can begin to take advantage of a compute-based cost model, as well as an application platform, such as with services like the Azure Web Role and SQL Azure. Google, initially being a search engine and display advertising company, has come into the game late and doesn't have the familiarity and know-how with software that Microsoft has built up with users over the years. There is no Google server, no Google database, and no business intelligence product, and to a certain extent, no full-fledged productivity/office/collaboration suite that matches the capabilities of Microsoft Office and SharePoint. Yes, there's Google Apps, which now includes the likes of Gmail, with a number of contact management features. And yes, there's the Apps Marketplace, which includes a whole slew of tools that can sync up and extend the capabilities of Google Docs. But these are all rather new revelations. And I suppose this is why Google has pushed Chrome as a hardware independent alternative to your typical operating system, with the ability to install and use applications with little-to-no infrastructure needed outside of an Internet connection.
Chrome, and even the Chromebook, might prove to be a viable strategy for Google, in the face of the cloud enterprise. It can allow for relatively seamless adoption across a company of users, most of which only need a relatively limited set of capabilities when it comes to word processing, spreadsheets, email and contact management. The per person cost of such an implementation could produce astronomical cost savings as a replacement for licensed on-premise software, as well as immediately reduce the cost of hardware, with the Chromebook. Furthermore, with Google Docs open XML formats, and with third-party companies like Salesforce offering integration with their own platforms, Chrome lays the groundwork for staging organizations in the cloud.
Microsoft had a fairly sizable head start on Google in terms of migration. However, Google has now provided the means for a different looking cloud. Largely, it seems as if Google's strategy going forward is to become a purveyor of SaaS applications, to fill in the gap between productivity software like Google Docs, and ERP software, like Microsoft Dynamics. The Google Apps Marketplace might cut it for now, but this is something Google needs to consider, perhaps through a major acquisition down the road. Also, Google Apps itself has yet to prove itself a worthwhile option to office staples like MS Word, and Excel — something I'll be exploring in my posts on Google and how it fits into the enterprise cloud to come.