Posts Tagged ‘Google Gears

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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As Microsoft is ramping up its cloud story it seems that Live Mesh is starting to be positioned as one of the key elements. For example, now the Mesh framework got renamed to just Live Framework – quite a promotion unless there’s something else added in there.

I am quite skeptical about the technology and here’s why:

So the Live Mesh project has two components: an application for file (and other data in the future) synchronization and a set of APIs other developers can use. Let’s have a look at both of them.

The Live Mesh application (as I mentioned in my other blog, and as Joel also noticed) is just another version of Groove. Groove was a team collaboration product with brilliant underlying synchronization architecture which allowed aid agencies to effectively communicate in regions like Africa or Afghanistan. However, it never really got into mainstream.

We recently discussed the reasons why with Ilia from and came to the conclusion that for mainstream users it makes much more sense to exchange emails for ad-hoc communications and connect to SharePoint sites for project-related stuff than to set up Groove and communicate within the Groove spaces. Is Live Mesh much different from that? Not really. It has a web UI so you can access the data without installing the client – but does that make it radically different? Is it again falling somewhere in-between email/file uploading site and real team portals? If that will be the case I am not sure this second attempt will be any better than the first one (i.e. Groove).

Live Framework about which we will soon learn more is presumably the underlying APIs for data synchronization across devices and with some offline capabilities. Is that a big deal? Offline is a big deal but not for data only – people want to have the whole web applications offline and Google’s Gears or Adobe’s AIR seem to be addressing the need in a much more comprehensive manner.

I can sort of see how I could use generic data synchronization in my applications but from what I have heard so far (PDC might change it all) it seems to have too many limitations: client download is required (and I have not heard of redistributable version or in-browser implementation) and Live ID needs to be used to authenticate (if that’s the case the system will never take off outside Microsoft – just imagine Google requiring gmail account to access a mesh-up with Google Maps – there would have been 0 of them on the net.)

Will Live Framework repeat the fate of another cool technology which never found a valid application – WinFS?

Microsoft obviously has much more cloud-related stuff which they will start sharing even more in a few weeks. But so far they seem to be producing a lot of isolated over-engineered solutions which do not make up a convincing story. Let’s see if in a few weeks we will have a completely new perspective on their efforts.

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© 2008-2012 Dmitry Sotnikov

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