We all remember Sarah Palin. Like many, I too got excited about the difference she would bring to the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign. She showed well at events, and she looked good on paper. Then came her interviews, and suddenly she was the new Dan Quayle — or, basically, another person who trades on looks and luck and doesn’t figure doing homework is actually necessary.
Google, when it came to the idea of cloud computing, initially showed well. Certainly, it is the powerhouse in search. However, if you’ve been watching the company lately, you’ve got to wonder if the folks at Google can even spell “potatoes,” let alone “enterprise.”
EMC, which held its EMC World last week, was built from the ground up to be an enterprise vendor. It didn’t just hire an enterprise CEO in order to look like an enterprise vendor — it was built that way.
Given that companies from Netscape to Microsoft have struggled with being enterprise vendors — the effort killed Netscape and took Microsoft over two decades to achieve — this is a good time to consider what it means to be an enterprise vendor and compare Google to EMC, which — along with IBM, Oracle and HP — defines a good one.
I’ll close with my product of the week: a small, easy-to-use backup product that fits in your wallet from the company that defines ease of use, Clickfree.
What Makes an Enterprise Vendor?
Some days, I think Apple has it right. It never wanted to be, and never will be, an enterprise vendor. That is because selling to enterprises requires a massive commitment — and in the end, you are selling in volume at relatively low margins.
What makes up for the pain of being an enterprise vendor is that you actually can, as an executive, get to know the majority of your important buyers. You can’t do that in the consumer market; there are just too many of them.
There are four types of people — in addition to the folks who actually end up using your product — you have to learn to embrace when you are an enterprise vendor. They are the CIO, the CFO, the IT buyer and the industry analyst. Miss any one of these and you won’t be successful on a large scale.
EMC World is an example of EMC embracing most of these folks, including industry analysts. EMC also has special events organized to brief industry analysts collectively. The CFOs generally get special treatment from the field teams, because getting these folks to go to events is nearly impossible.
However, the offers EMC creates are designed with CFOs in mind. That means a CIO who pitches the offering can walk out of the meeting with a chance of getting funding instead of wondering how soon the ax is likely to fall.
When it comes to quality, enterprise vendors put a massive focus on it. For EMC that means having the execs responsible for quality and customer loyalty report to the CEO. That’s because losing a customer in the enterprise space can cost you as much as three times the money it took to get acquire it in the first place, and it can take you up to five years to recover.
Products also tend to focus on scalability, reliability and customization. Enterprises have unique needs, and generic products — particularly when it comes to things like storage and document management — generally don’t do the job. Finally, enterprises have massive security requirements. That’s because most are publicly traded and operate in areas that are highly competitive. In addition, because they have so many employees in one place, they are a huge target for identity theft, so privacy is also incredibly important.
That means a vendor in the enterprise space has to be rock solid when it comes to security, and that is one of the reasons EMC controls RSA, considered to be the leading large-scale security vendor. With cloud computing, another EMC company — VMware — takes the lead, helping to assure the firm is positioned for the cloud future. It isn’t uncommon to see partnerships emerge, like the one announced last week with AT&T, to uniquely serve this class.
Pretty Face, Empty Head
We’ve all seen good-looking, seemingly intelligent people who, for whatever reason, don’t seem to feel they need to do all the work to get ahead. Sarah Palin and Dan Quayle were like this. Sarah Palin couldn’t seem to be bothered to read newspapers or magazines and stay current on major national events, while Dan Quayle thought he could steal John F. Kennedy’s identity to get elected. All they had to do was do their homework, but neither seemed to be willing to take that step.
Google was incredibly lucky when it came to search, as Netscape was with browsers. It hit at the right time and basically cornered the market. Like Netscape, Google is now setting its sights on the enterprise, and it even has a figurehead enterprise CEO who appears to be, like Netscape’s figurehead CEO, largely a powerless — and, increasingly, clueless — talking head. With his Sun and Novell background, he should know that an enterprise vendor needs to embrace certain people, needs to appear trustworthy, and needs to showcase a product that is incredibly secure and virtually never fails. Granted, he didn’t leave Novell a success — and Sun is hardly a successful poster child either, at the moment.
He should at least know that an enterprise company needs to have internal practices consistent with its external positions. Granted, politicians aren’t famous for delivering on that score, but a successful enterprise vendor is held to a higher standard. Privacy International ranks Google last, which seems just slightly inconsistent with its stated position and the enterprise security/privacy requirement.
Google, Like Apple, Is Not Secure
As I write this, Gumbler, a unique kind of attack is poisoning Google Searches and morphing into something that appears capable of infecting millions of computers.
Google’s response appears similar to Apple’s: Ignore it publicly and pray a solution turns up (Apple just had a massive patch drop) before someone holds the company accountable. That is a Palin level of security — not an enterprise level of security. Apple’s new motto should likely be “We aren’t a secure platform — we just play one on TV,” and Google appears to following that path.
Google Is Untrustworthy
Google is very aggressive when it comes to providing information about others, but when it comes to information about itself, it goes to extraordinary lengths to cover things up, resulting in increasingly vocal accusations that Google is evil. It even blacklisted Cnet for using Google to get information on its figurehead CEO.
That isn’t walking the talk; if you are going to bless practices that violate the privacy of others, you shouldn’t give yourself preferential treatment. Think about it: Given Google’s focus on security, IT wouldn’t use the public cloud solution it advocates. Walking the talk my as…
Also last week, in response to concerns from employees that Google’s human resources department was too impersonal, the company implemented an algorithm-based mechanism to identify people who were unhappy. In short, to address a problem that had to do with the firm appearing impersonal, it implemented an impersonal system.
Even Palin and Quayle would be smarter than that. Google’s Darwin Awards thinking will probably exacerbate the attrition problem. Losing key people won’t make for stronger relationships with enterprise customers and, to be frank, few enterprises want to deal with stupid vendors.
Like people, particularly some politicians, there are companies that don’t get to leadership positions through hard work but by gaming the system. Increasingly, Google is looking like one of those companies, and that makes it unlikely it will ever be more than an enterprise vendor wannabe.
Product of the Week: Clickfree Traveler
With Google currently spreading malware faster than the swine flu, it is likely time again to think about how often you back up your computer. Clickfree stands out as a vendor that really understands that backups and restores need to be incredibly easy and convenient.
The Traveler is a thin little drive about the size of a business card (about 10 cards thick) that actually could fit in a wallet. Silver, durable, with a really interesting little flip-out USB connector, this thing could be ideal for folks carrying a netbook or laptop who want to keep their data with them.
Prices are around US$80 for 16 GB, $150 for 32 GB, and $250 for 64 GB. Given the current environment, having something small and simple that backs up your stuff is just a natural for product of the week.
Rob Enderle is a TechNewsWorld columnist and the principal analyst for the Enderle Group, a consultancy that focuses on personal technology products and trends.