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Posts Tagged ‘GMail

google_apps_logoGoogle has finally made Gmail and Google Apps for Enterprise their focus area – these are no longer just one of their experimental areas.

Within just last couple of weeks there were a few significant updates to Gmail/Google Apps (probably more than we’ve seen for the whole year before that!):

* [Update] The push calendar and contact sync might actually be not as exciting as some reported initially. First of all, it does not include email. Secondly, calendar and contacts are synchronized via Microsoft’s ActiveSync protocol. Which basically means that Google on the server side pretends that it is Microsoft Exchange. The problem is that if in fact you have corporate Exchange server and want to keep getting your email from it, but also your private data from Google – you won’t be able to do that. There’s just no way to specify two ActiveSync servers in Windows Mobile or iPhone.

And consider other improvements introduced within last couple of months such as:

Some of these were so obvious shortcomings that you can’t help thinking “what took them so long?”

My guess is that what we are seeing is the result of Google internal resource reallocations. When the economy downturn started, Google started closing many of their projects and imposing restrictions on Google’s famous 20% time projects (it used to be: spend 20% of your time on anything you like – not any more).

The fact that Gmail and Google Calendar are getting so many updates lately is a clear sign that these were identified by Google as their priority area. Erik Schmidt seemed to confirm that on their quarter results call:

“By focusing on the one million Google Apps business customers, [you] can get enterprise-quality applications hosted by Google at a dramatically lower price,” Google’s Schmidt said.

I guess for us this means that 2009 can be the year when Google really tries to push harder to make Google Apps a success. And by the way, the talk of how they are complimentary to Microsoft seems to be over. This Thursday they are holding a customer testimony webcast on migration from Exchange to Google Apps.

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With all the outages plaguing the SaaS and Cloud Computing vendors recently there seems to be lack of independent rating system telling customers just how reliable each particular cloud service is.

For example, see Richard Watson’s notes from the recent Catalyst event in Prague:

When discussing SaaS, I’d like to see a SaaS suitability rating for each class of applications, like an electrical appliance energy efficiency rating, or credit-worthiness. So maybe we’d give ‘AAA’ to the productivity suites that Guy Creese surveyed yesterday evening and maybe a single ‘A’ rating to CRM.

My guess is that it takes time before such rating emerges (although this might be a chance for someone to just set the standard rating which everyone will start using – like Gartner did with their market quadrants – anyone? Burton group?)

The more practical approach meanwhile is to simply start tracking the outages publicly so needless to say I was pretty excited when I found such a page linked from Kevin Kelly’s blog: Cloud Computing Incidents Database.

This is a wiki page so I highly recommend everyone in the community to start participating and adding information on any incidents: outages, security breaches, and so on – happening in our emerging SaaS/Cloud space. It looks like at the moment the site is still not well attended. The last week’s Gmail outage was not listed – and I added it to the table:

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Google Apps (including GMail) were out (again) for commercial customers this week. Considering the August outages not that long ago, this can be a significant PR blow for Google’s enterprise efforts. Or this could be a great opportunity for 3rd-parties to get in and make Google Apps enterprise-ready.

Here’s a quick summary from Slashdot:

“A prolonged, ongoing Gmail outage has some Google Apps administrators pulling their hair out as their end users, including high-ranking executives, complain loudly while they wait for service to be restored. At about 5 p.m. US Eastern on Wednesday, Google announced that the company was aware of the problem preventing Gmail users from logging into their accounts and that it expected to fix it by 9 p.m. on Thursday. Google offered no explanation of the problem or why it would take it so long to solve the problem, a ‘502’ error when trying to access Gmail. Google said the bug is affecting ‘a small number of users,’ but that is little comfort for Google Apps administrators. Admin Bill W. posted a desperate message on the forum Thursday morning, saying his company’s CEO is steaming about being locked out of his e-mail account since around 4 p.m. on Wednesday. It’s not the first Gmail outage.”

The discussion mostly revolves around half of readers saying that on-premise systems are even more susceptible to failures, and another half (proud IT people) saying that their systems are never down and they can do their jobs better than any folks at Googleplex. No surprise.

However, this comment caught my attention (I am leaving everything as it is in the original post):

“The problem is not downtime- it’s lack of any way to mitigate the problems, and a complete and total lack of any customer service from Google. There is NOBODY you can call when there’s a problem. PERIOD.

Compare and contrast. Google:

  • If Google hoses someone’s account, they’re completely fucked. Google will shrug and say “meh, whaddya gonna do?”, and point to their user agreement.
  • If someone breaks into their account or changes the password, they’re completely fucked. Google won’t block access, can’t prove who is who, getting logs will be a slow fight to the death, etc.
  • If the user deletes a bunch of mail (or someone else does) or there’s a bug with their email client (ie if they’re using IMAP or POP access), they’re completely fucked. Google won’t do a restore. Their backups (if they even have any) are for “oh shit” system-wide fuckups (like, I’m guessing, the current one- I bet the accounts got deleted and they’re restoring from backups.)”

If you carefully read between the lines you will see that these are valid concerns and they are not something you could not fix technologically. Will it be too long before we get applications providing such fault-tolerance and administrative control for Google Apps (and competing platforms)?

  • Archiving/backup/recovery outside Google (on-premise or in a competing cloud),
  • Dial-tone availability to maintain email flaw and possibly some (most recent?) data,
  • Access auditing,
  • Offline access (probably will be provided by Google Gears eventually).

The list could go on and on. Sounds like the more outages Google has the bigger is the potential demand for external safety bags other vendors could provide…

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© 2008-2012 Dmitry Sotnikov

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