The Enterprise Cloud War: Google And Microsoft Partners Weigh In

Google's Big Move

Google is a giant in the consumer space with its search engine and host of cloud-based services and innovative technologies. But the Mountain View, Calif.-based computing powerhouse is now in a full-throttle bid to establish itself as a leader in the enterprise software market.

It's a path that puts Google on a collision course with longtime nemesis Microsoft.

Google's got the technology and has recently made a series of hires to boost its enterprise and channel programs. The company boasts more than 200 channel partners, and that number is growing fast.

At the same time, Google's enterprise revenue only accounts for 5 percent of its overall business, a number that can complicate priorities.

Will Google succeed in the enterprise space? Depends on whom you ask.

Chris Hertz, CEO of New Signature, a Microsoft partner based in Washington, D.C.

"Plenty of companies have tried to move from consumer to enterprise and not made enough money quickly enough, only to abandon enterprise goals and refocus on the consumer," Hertz said. "On the other hand, Microsoft is a sure thing that has demonstrated continued relevance by successfully transitioning to a cloud services business model."

Google's "behavior doesn't strike me as enterprise-ready, or even in alignment with most enterprise expectations on core areas like cloud privacy."

Hertz points out it's only been a few months since Google incurred the wrath of education officials for scanning student Gmail accounts. He compares that embarrassing episode "to the maturity of Microsoft's stance on cloud privacy."

"Talk is cheap when it comes to being enterprise, and actions speak louder than words."

Tony Safoian, CEO of SADA Systems, Google and Microsoft partner based in Los Angeles

Google "will continue to double-down and triple-down on the Google Enterprise business because the market opportunity is huge, and will grow dramatically for the foreseeable future," Safoian said.

But Safoian sees the market shifting so that Google's enterprise cloud products will comfortably coexist with Microsoft platforms and technologies.

Other successful cloud software vendors have strong relationships with Microsoft, Safoian said, citing SalesForce, Oracle, SAP, BMC, "and Google will be no different."

Lane Campbell, board member of Durmic Consulting, Microsoft and Google cloud reseller based in Chicago

Google's advantage is that it has built a platform from the ground up for the age of cloud computing.

"If they say it has a feature, then it's there and it works great," Campbell said.

On the other hand, "Microsoft has forced their legacy platform forward from the days of in-house IT taking care of everything. It was built for legacy environments and, while it has been updated to be used in the Office 365 environment, it's still nowhere near as reliable nor as polished as Google's system."

Enterprises looking for compatibility with legacy apps and devices that worked with Exchange Server likely will migrate through to Office 365. Those looking for stability and reliability will find their way to Google Apps, Campbell concluded.

Delcie Bean, CEO of Paragus IT, Microsoft partner based in Hadley, Mass.

Google "might have it backwards" when it says it's making the cloud easier for businesses to use, Bean said.

"For established enterprise consumers who have lived their professional lives on Microsoft products, the user experience of switching to Google is quite painful. I think the UI of Google's apps will need a dramatic improvement if they truly are going to compete."

Allen Falcon, CEO of Cumulus Global, Google partner based in Westborough, Mass.

Microsoft's status "as a major incumbent" in the enterprise puts the software giant in the disadvantageous position where "the best Microsoft can do is the status quo," Falcon said.

Microsoft will fight to avoid losing mind share and market share, as Google and other companies bring fresh, innovative solutions to the market, he said.

"Microsoft's strategy has been to grow the breadth of services through a closed ecosystem. It all works because it's all Microsoft. As other vendors challenge parts of this ecosystem and companies begin to pick and choose, Microsoft's strategy will need to respond," he said.

David Northington, CEO of Cloud Sherpas, Google Partner based in Atlanta

"Cloud Sherpas built a business working with visionary CIOs to help them recognize the potential of bringing Google's consumer-grade applications to the enterprise," said Northington.

"As enterprises face complex Microsoft enterprise agreement renewals and hefty price increases, it's no surprise to us that they are choosing Google Enterprise solutions for their business. It's simply pragmatic."

Speaking to Google's developer community at the recent Google I/O conference, Amit Singh, president of Google's enterprise business, said the company's overtures to big business "signal our second act." Singh also pointed out that Google now is doing business with 60 percent of the Fortune 500 for at least some enterprise solutions, evidence, he said, that the enterprise strategy is paying off.