On March 22, we posted a Q & A with Burton Group analyst Guy Creese about potential “gotchas” for companies considering Google Apps Premier Edition. Recently, we heard back from Google Enterprise product manager Rajen Sheth in response to Creese’s analysis.
Storage Soup: Guy Creese pointed out that Google partners with Postini for email archiving, but doesn’t offer archiving for documents and spreadsheets Do you plan to offer document archiving as well?
Sheth: I think we actually have a better story than what’s typically done with documents. Within an enterprise, documents are all over the place–they might be sitting on your laptop, they might be sitting on a file share somewhere, they might be in your email. What we provide is one central place that people can access [files]. If I want to search through all the documents I’ve ever made or gotten, I can just do a Google search on Docs and Spreadsheets.
In terms of bringing it out of Google’s repository, there are a couple of things that can be done. Number one, we allow the export of files in multiple file formats, and the second thing is we offer an XML API, which means you can access that data through XML and pull it out to a records management system or any other system, really that wants to leverage that data.
Storage Soup: Does that mean Google has no plans to get into that kind of records management or archival space?
Sheth: No. We consider ourselves a user collaboration package rather than a records management package, but we want to integrate with records management and email archiving systems people already have.
Storage Soup: What about the point Creese brings up about keyword search vs. some of the records management searches with other products–is that something Google might bring into Docs and Spreadsheets for retrieval?
Sheth: On a separate side of the business we offer clustered searches and taxonomies through Google Search Appliance. There has been some talk about offering that through these products, but what we’ve found with user studies, both with consumers and in the enterprise, that collaborative tagging of documents for future retrieval is more popular. People rarely do more than type in a couple of keywords–we’re working on a variety of things on our search capability where the front end remains the same, but on the back end we do the heavy lifting to figure out what people want.
Storage Soup: Creese said that “[Software as a service (SaaS)] companies will eventually get to the point where they can’t save everything. Even with storage prices dropping, as more and more corporations put their data into software as a service there’s going to be a tipping point coming, where either it starts to become expensive to save everything for the service and the service therefore raises its rates, or it’s just too difficult to find what’s there.” What’s Google’s response?
Sheth: I actually disagree with that. When we provide 10 GB [in Gmail inboxes] we’re doing that with the knowledge that we can serve that and serve that well at the price point that we’ve offered. There are things that are unique about how Google structures its data centers–we use commodity PC servers within our data centers and many of them to bring down storage costs, rather than large back end storage systems. So as a result of that I think we can serve storage for a much lower cost than most organziations are able to. So when we put out a package like this with a certain storage quota we do it with every intention that users will use that storage to the absolute hilt.
We’re already running millions upon millions of consumers on these services–in terms of scalability, we’ve already scaled the services to support many users. We’ve also already tested it with a large company–ourselves. Our users are very, very heavy email and document users, and we use our own systems, the same ones we have for our customers. We essentially battle-tested it to make sure that it could handle the load.
Storage Soup: Yahoo announced yesterday that they’re offering unlimited storage with their email. Is that where Gmail will go eventually?
Sheth: I think we’d go in a little bit different direction. What we’re focusing on is that when we give you a quota, we want to give you a variety of ways to use that quota, including large attachments. We want to offer a variety of ways to use that Gmail quota appropriately–provide very high quotas and provide more tools to use that storage.
Storage Soup: What’s Google’s response on Gmail’s limits on sending emails out to no more than 500 people per day?
Sheth: The issue that we have is that we want to protect our users from spammers. We don’t want spammers to use Gmail, whether it’s the regular edition or the premier edition. We also don’t want Gmail users receiving spam. That said, there is the need for the ability to deliver to multiple sets of users. A lot of organizations already have these mailing lists set up and can use them [with Gmail]. Over time, we see other parts of our product portfolio as candidates to help solve these types of problems. For example, we have a product called Google Groups, which provides the ability to have larger groups and group page, and it’s something people can use right now, and we consider it a good candidate to bring into the [Google Apps] platform down the road as well. We have groups with thousands and thousands of users.
Storage Soup: Creese also points out that Google lacks an equivalent to PowerPoint in your productivity suite.
Creese: My response to that is we’re definitely not trying to duplicate Microsoft Office. The way I would think of it is that Office is very well designed for individual productivity–an individual preparing something to present to a group of people. We’re focusing Google Docs and Spreadsheets on collaborative use case scenarios.