Google Apps vs. Office 365: your choice, but don’t be misinformed… (Part 2)

This is second installment of a multi-part blog series (read Part 1 and Part 3 and Part 4 and Part 5) where I review an article entitled “Google Apps vs. Office 365: your choice” where I provide a different perspective in this ongoing battle for dominance in the cloud between Google and Microsoft.

So, let’s cover the area of technology platform for the respective cloud offerings from Google and Microsoft and dive a bit deeper into the author’s claims that Google Apps provides a better cloud platform in the following areas:

  • Browser support and the author’s claim that with Google Apps, you’re not restricted to using a “fat client” to do “serious work”
  • Multitenancy

Browser vs. Fat Client

officeBoth Office 365 and Google Apps provide browser accessible capabilities through their respective offerings that allow information workers to create, share, and collaborate on documents. Mr. Nauges made a comment about users who wanted to do “serious work” having to invest in the Office client version as if to say that was a bad thing. What if I’m in an occasionally connected environment or an environment with no connectivity at all and need to have ability to author or review documents and capture the results of those activities? With Google Apps, I’d need a fairly stable, “always on”, internet connection.

Through Office 365, I have the ability to work offline and then resynchronize my changes when I’m in a location that has an adequate internet connection. Sure, one would argue that with the pervasiveness of the internet and the various connectivity options, that connectivity is a thing of the past. Well, tell that to the thousands of organizations who to this day are frantically trying to increase their infrastructure budget to address network connectivity challenges for their business users or consumers who’ve invested in various internet services providers and run into sporadic spurts of internet connectivity due to oversaturation of the provider’s respective networks, resulting in downtime (and hence, lost productivity) of the consumer trying to access his/her online collaboration and information sharing environment.

Office 365 wins in this category, as it provides the power of choice. You can choose the browser, the phone, or you can choose the Office client installed on the PC, based on what option better suits your business scenario. And contrary to all the hoopla about the speed of internet services, there is NOTHING faster than accessing locally on your computer.

For those unfortunate CIOs who, as cited in the Mr. Nauges article, were “tricked into deploying Microsoft BPOS, the precursor of Office 365”, has anyone bothered to ask them why they chose BPOS over Google Apps to begin with? You’d be surprised at the answers you get, and they wouldn’t necessarily contain the negative impressions that he would like you to believe.

One thing Mr. Nauges failed to mention were the growing number of unfortunate CIOs who were tricked into deploying Google Apps, only to realize that it has nowhere near the number and level of features and capabilities of its competitor and introduce “hidden costs” that they didn’t anticipate in their budget. Just ask Capgemini, Serena Software (who used to be a Google Apps Sweetheart), and the State of California (isn’t that where Google is located? Smile), who made the switch to Google Apps, only to come back to BPOS/Office 365. It’s all about the power of choice and finding the right tool for the job at a predictable price point.

Multi-tenant vs. Multi-Instance

Multi-tenancy isn’t exactly THE deciding factor as to what defines a cloud solution. Characteristics of a cloud computing solution, as defined by the National Institute for Standards & Technology (NIST) include:

  • On-demand self-service: A consumer can unilaterally provision computing capabilities, such as server time and network storage, as needed automatically without requiring human interaction with each service’s provider.
  • Broad network access: Capabilities are available over the network and accessed through standard mechanisms that promote use by heterogeneous think or thick client platforms (e.g. mobile phones, laptops, and PDAs)
  • Resource pooling: The providers’ computing resources are pooled to server multiple consumers using a multi-tenant model, with different physical and virtual resources dynamically assigned and reassigned according to customer demand.
  • Rapid elasticity: Capabilities can be rapidly and elastically provisioned, in some cases automatically, to quickly scale out, and rapidly released to quickly sale in.
  • Measured Service: Cloud systems automatically control and optimize resource use by leveraging a metering capability at some level of abstraction appropriate to the type of service (e.g. storage, processing, bandwidth, and active user accounts)

So by the very definition of cloud computing, one could argue that neither Google Apps nor Office 365 are *true* cloud computing solutions. Office 365 isn’t multi-tenant today, but Google hasn’t come out and definitively said they provide an environment that supports rapid elasticity? And if it doesn’t, does it make it less of a cloud computing solution than Office 365? Do consumers care as long as their data is protected and made available via secure controls that they can control? Again, you, the consumer have the right to choose. It’s all about the power of choice and finding the right tool for the job at a predictable price point.

In the next post in this series, I’ll discuss mobile device support with respect to the two cloud offerings from Google and Microsoft.

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