BOSTON--Google sees all enterprise trends pointing toward cloud computing, and it wants a piece of the action.
"The next 10 years of innovations are going to be in the cloud. Enterprise software is not going away, but there is a transition taking place," said Rishi Chandra, product manager for Google Enterprise.
Chandra, speaking at the Enterprise 2.0 conference here, laid out his case for why Google stands to gain more business customers in the coming years. Foremost is Google's strength in the consumer market, which he said will eventually translate into a stronghold in business computing.
"The cloud has arrived. It's not a question of when, but how fast it will arrive. Google runs itself off of Google apps," he said.
Chandra acknowledged that several well-established competitors, including Microsoft, Amazon.com, Salesforce.com, and others are converging on the same market: delivering business applications via the Web with the same reliability and security as existing on-premise systems.
He downplayed competitive rivalries with Microsoft. "We are competitors with Microsoft. But we don't think about it in a competitive way. We are working to bring apps and a new way of using apps to the market today. We're all about end user focus," he said.
Microsoft, of course, has its own cloud-based plan. While Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie may worry most about open source, Google's larger ambitions are clearly on his mind. Microsoft has discussed some of its cloud computing plans under the Live Mesh umbrella. More details are expected later this year.
Chandra said four trends in the industry are playing to Google's strengths. First, he said Google sees technology innovation being spurred by the consumer market. The consumer world is more "Darwinian" than the enterprise world. Users are unlikely to stick with an inferior product. "The cost of switching is zero in the consumer world. Millions and millions of testers in the consumer world help the enterprise market. As a result, users are getting better technology than the enterprise world. IM, search, VoIP, all have foundations in the consumer world," he said.
Google has learned several lessons from the consumer market, Chandra said. "Simplicity wins. Not lowest-common denominator simplicity. Instead, you build a powerful, robust tool that is easy to use. That technology from the consumer space will translate into the enterprise."
Another trend, Chandra said, is the rise of the "power collaborator" within companies. "In the enterprise, things are still built for the power user. Software is built by experts for experts. Increasingly, people work in teams. We believe that you need to do a complete rethink to accommodate this new generation of employees. It shouldn't matter what OS people use, or in what geography they're located. Software is based on open standards. This is the vision of cloud computing and why we think this is the vision for the next generation of enterprise computing."
Also, the economics of enterprise computing are changing, Chandra said. Companies are being forced to deal with scalability to handle the increasing flood of content, video, and photos. He cited Picasa, Google's photo site, which handles 7 million images per day. "There is a huge benefit that we can share with the market because of that," he said. Google's App Engine, basically a scalable hosting platform, offers "almost unlimited scalability. Honestly, we don't know where this is going. There are others like Amazon and Salesforce.com in this market. But the opportunity is huge," he said.
Finally, Chandra said the barriers to adoption of cloud computing by enterprises are beginning to fall away. In what might have been a competitive dig aimed at Amazon, which has experienced several outages in the past week, Chandra cited reliability as a major concern for businesses. "Reliability, with the notion that Web apps were based in a consumer world, it was expected that they were somewhat flaky. Now, Google cannot go down. Customers will leave us if that happens. We have invested in this," he said.