6 Lessons Google Learned About the Cloud

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Google may be famous for making the search experience online ultimately convenient, subsequently defining how users find their way inside the labyrinthine maze of the World Wide Web; its recent forays into providing Web applications that work, however, is making it the benchmark for future providers of the next-generation computing technology known to many as the cloud.

Cloud computing, according to Joen van Driel, country manager of Google Southeast Asia, is a host of applications using a shared infrastructure delivered via the Web browser. "We are, [in a way], providing whole infrastructures to host critical applications," van Driel said of Google's cloud offerings, during his keynote speech at this year's Computerworld Philippines' CIO Forum focusing on cloud computing.

Google is currently opening its doors to enterprises through its subsidiary, Google Enterprise, which seeks to bring the Google experience inside office walls. To date, van Driel said Google Enterprise offers four key products to enterprises: Google Search, which brings "the same experience as Google.com but within [the company's] own secure environment," the Google executive explained; Geolocation tools, such as Google Maps, where the company sells the technology to organizations so they can put various layers over their maps; Postini, a hosted messaging security service; and Google Apps, from which Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Docs, among others, can be deployed.

Van Driel, through his keynote speech, shared six lessons Google has learned along the way to its several year-long journey into providing cloud services to the general public.

Lesson 1: The cloud and the Web are intrinsically linked

"The Web is key to the cloud," van Driel explained. "It's about accessing information 24/7 without being stuck in the office." The Google executive claimed that the Web is a far more reliable and secure environment than any enterprise may have. Additionally, van Driel said, part of the Web fosters continuous innovation, which fuels cloud services. In this light, van Driel said Google is all in on the cloud experience being delivered through mobile phones, because it serves as an "accelerator" of cloud adoption due to its complementary nature with the cloud. "Google will place a very big bet that [the] cloud [will be delivered mostly] on smartphones," he claimed.

Lesson 2: The cloud changes the game of collaboration

With the cloud, employees can share information and work as a team. Before, this can be achieved by sending over one file to a number of users who would edit it, creating multiple versions of one file.

"[With that system], you don't know [which edit] is the latest. It's a messy way to work with a team," van Driel points out. With a cloud-based collaboration tool, employees can just store the file on the cloud and work on a single file. "One of the key elements of the cloud is that it improves the effectiveness of [your] people," van Driel noted.

Lesson 3: The cloud changes the security paradigm

Firms are always up on their toes when it comes to securing their data, and for good reason. Data is essentially the most important business driver which, when compromised, can crumble the organization's foundations. In the dog-gone days of yore, van Driel shared that data is kept safe in data centers protected and secured by billions of investments. Despite this, there are still blind spots that can be leveraged by outside forces to do harm on any firm's data. "At least 60% of corporate data are still residing on unprotected environments," van Driel explained.

"These things get stolen, [and thereby] compromising your data." The business of securing data through technology, however, is not the main business of most, except, at least, for IT security vendors themselves. "If you spent your money on the business that you are good, then that is the best way to achieve ROI," he pointed out. The best way to keep data secure in the cloud, according to van Driel, is to let established organizations keep corporate data secure, so that firms can focus on their core businesses.

Lesson 4: The cloud is a fundamentally better cost equation

According to research firm Gartner, at least 80% of the IT budget is spend on "keeping the lights on," van Driel shared. "But today, it's very hard for IT people to keep the infrastructure running," he related, adding that systems have become more complex and have, over the years, failed to add value to the business.

Because the cloud provides economies of scale, where firms use only what they need with the option to scale up whenever necessary, van Driel claimed it is a more financially viable option. "It [just makes] sense to spend on cloud for these things," he added.

Lesson 5: The cloud changes the development model

On-premise software solutions often take at least two to three years of development before an update is released. With the cloud, however, the delivery of updates comes at a rapid pace. Van Driel shared that in 2008, Google Apps pushed more than 100 features releases to its various programs. "In 2009, we saw at least 160 new releases for Google Apps," he added. What is amazing, he said, is that the cloud takes away the pain usually associated with upgrading a software or migrating to another one.

"All new releases and feature updates are automatically pushed," he added. With this setup, vendor lock-in is not an option anymore, since any business can shift cloud providers anytime they wish (or at least in most cases). "The cloud changes the business environment, because it's a different buyer-seller relationship," van Driel quipped.

Lesson 6: The cloud is driven by consumers, not the enterprise

Contrary to what most users would believe and vendors would claim, the technology we know today as cloud computing wasn't hatched for use inside the hallowed walls of an expensive corporate data center. "It is the consumers, not the enterprise, who are the main drivers of cloud adoption today," van Driel noted. The Google executive said most workers on their personal time would use cloud services--such as e-mail and social media--and be satisfied by it, so they are demanding the same user experience from enterprise applications.

"People are happy with the consumer cloud experience, so they want it translated into the corporate environment," he added.

This is primarily one of the reasons why Google's own cloud apps-making services, the Google App Engine and the Google Marketplace, have grown quite a steady following. Google App Engine, considered an infrastructure-as-a-service, allows users to build applications on Google's infrastructure. Google Marketplace, on the other hand, offers a host of applications designed for Google users, which can be deployed on Google Apps installed on any firm's server. "It is actually one of the fastest growing platforms on Google," van Driel said.

This story, "6 Lessons Google Learned About the Cloud" was originally published by Computerworld Philippines.

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