This week Google unveiled a campaign to bring small businesses under its cloud service. The effort is called Going Google, a subscription to a range of office applications run through the Google network and servers. Google wants $1,335 to set up 10 users with a package of apps which enable collaboration, video and hosting, as well as messaging. Yearly administration is another $3,300
Analysts say this push will crowd Microsoft, whose Office and Exchange apps now rule on workstations around the world. But the effort also recalls the HP 3000 enterprises of the 1980s: a full range of software such as HP Deskmanager for mail, HP Word, graphics and more, all driven by HP 3000 centralized servers. In time HP tried to push New Wave to bring PCs into the host application loop, a plan with feet of clay from its very first day. Where Going Google differs is in the administration. 3000 users had a local DP manager to call when problems cropped up. The solutions didn't always come immediately from their computer department. But the responsibility rested inside the organization.
In contrast, a Google customer will have to endure service outages as if they were an Act of God. No matter how big the service group, everyone can get hacked. This morning Twitter went offline completely for about two hours, victimized by a Distributed Denial of Service attack. The IT group at Twitter's HQ has had a very long day already, one that's not over since Twitter services are still spotty as of this afternoon.
This is the reality of the 2009 cloud: A broad reach that HP could only fantasize about in the 1980s, even while 50,000 of its employees connected via an HP Desk network. Jump forward a couple of decades and collaborate with anyone without building network infrastructure. Just remember to tell your management that working in the clouds means you risk running afoul of Internet demons.
No IT solution is without risk. Both homesteading and migrating customers hear about risks of making a transition -- either a move to dependence on new non-HP partners, or pushing IT apps to a new environment. You can prepare yourself for your own disaster recovery, or defense from DDoS. Or you can rely on Service Level Agreements that will be tested when problems arise.
A one-stop solution still isn't a part of Going Google. You won't find a Bill of Materials app in the lineup, just like MANMAN wasn't part of a HP-supplied Desk suite. In a best case MANMAN could be programmed to accept Deskmanager mail, using APIs for MANMAN, or FORTRAN inside MANMAN's code. The same kind of integration must be available from cloud apps like Google Docs, or whatever HP puts inside its cloud computing solution.
Maybe popular apps like Oracle's finance suite or SAP will find a place in the cloud. Or in a more probable solution, your in-house apps run someplace else, where an IT staff defends against DDoS and other surprises. But the more you have to customize your computing -- a good practice to enhance its value -- the more your staff remains tethered to the cloud.
A very small percentage of 3000 sites went all-HP with software, in part because customization was harder in 1989 than it is in 2009. Open source, full-disclosure APIs, source forges and public class libraries are all improvements over those old 3000 choices. IT experience and insight have not become antique skills, though. It's easy to see that a choice of an enterprise-replacement cloud solution will still require programmer savvy, as well as system analyst experience to communicate a company's business rules and requirements. You can outsource for most of that savvy and experience with any number of 3000-facile third parties.