Google’s new service will ease real-time communications for applications

Google has a new real-time messaging system available in beta for its cloud service called Google Cloud Pub/Sub, the company said on Wednesday in a blog post. The system in theory will enable applications and services to communicate with each other in real time, regardless if they are built atop the Google Cloud or run on-premises.

In today’s world of distributed systems, its important for messages to flow between applications and services as fast as possible in order for applications to present the freshest information to users as well as the IT admins responsible for managing the infrastructure. This is why Apache Kafka is so popular with companies like [company]Hortonworks[/company], which added support for the real-time messaging framework last summer.

The new messaging system targets developers looking to build complex, distributed applications on the [company]Google[/company] Cloud and it follows in line with the recently announced Google Container Engine back in November. Google Container Engine is basically the managed service version of the Kubernetes container-management system used for spinning up and managing tons of containers for complex, multi-component applications.

At this time, both Google Cloud Pub/Sub and the Google Container Engine are only available for the Google Cloud Platform, so you can see that the search giant is hoping to lure more enterprise clients to its cloud who don’t want to deal with the heavy lifting that’s often associated with using open-source technology.

Google said the new messaging system powers its recently launched Google Cloud Monitoring service as well as Snapchat’s new Discover feature, which as my colleague Carmel DeAmicis reported is basically Snapchat’s portal to media companies like Vice and CNN.

Google Cloud Pub/Sub is free to use while in beta, but once it hits general availability, you’ll have to pay based on usage, which starts “at 40¢ per million for the first 100 million API operations each month,” according to the blog post.

Amazon launches new email service called WorkMail

Amazon is once again adding to its business-suite arsenal, this time with the announcement of WorkMail, the company’s new email and calendar service, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.

The Seattle giant obviously faces some stiff competition in the email business with cloud rivals [company]Microsoft[/company] and [company]Google[/company] already controlling a significant portion of the market, but [company]Amazon[/company] believes that customers “feel those solutions are expensive and complex” and it’s betting its service is easier to use, an Amazon Web Services executive told the Journal.

Customers will be able to still use the same email applications as before like Microsoft Outlook so the look of the product won’t be different from what they are used to. Under the covers, however, will be Amazon technology that takes over the duties of sending and retrieving email.

And since email encryption is all the rage these days, Amazon also said that its new service supports encryption and the ability to store emails in specific geographic regions. As for pricing, it will cost companies $4 a month per each user inbox.

For all of you who thought that email is dead, Amazon’s news proves that many companies still see email as a big business and a way to maintain foothold inside an organization; as Barb Darrow reported, Google, [company]IBM[/company], Microsoft and Dropbox all recently launched corporate email products.

Of course, there’s also new work-collaboration tools coming out from startups like Slack and even Facebook with its Facebook at Work product line; these services emphasize chat or the type of news feeds one might see on social networks as a way to keep people working together.

Amazon’s Zocalo document sharing and collaboration tool seems aligned with these endeavors, and now that Amazon has WorkMail, it would make sense for Amazon to one day make it so that the two services were somehow integrated together.

Update – 4:08 PM PST
And it looks like WorkMail is integrated with Zocalo, according to the AWS announcement, which states that WorkMail users can collaborate on documents using Zocalo, all inside the WorkMail environment.

Gigaom Research’s Janakiram MSV chimed in about the new service too and what it means for Microsoft:

[blockquote person=”Janakiram MSV” attribution=”Janakiram MSV”]Amazon WorkSpaces users already get access to Amazon Zocalo for no additional charge. With AWS Directory Services providing LDAP based authentication, customers will get single-sign-on (SSO) across their desktops, document management tool, and email. Any medium sized organisation can pretty much run their core back office on the cloud by signing up for these four services without ever investing in servers or software licenses. This is a big blow to Microsoft which sells multi-million dollar annuity licenses of Exchange server to enterprise customers. Microsoft Exchange and Exchange Online are significant contributors to the server revenue at Microsoft.[/blockquote]

Dropbox to unveil its Dropbox for Business API as lawyers rejoice

Dropbox will launch its Dropbox for Business API on Wednesday, allowing developers to create enterprise-oriented applications on top of Dropbox. The startup also said that it now has 100,000 Dropbox for Business companies, which includes organizations like Hyatt Hotels Corporation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Spotify.

A milestone moment for Microsoft: .NET is now an open-source project

In what probably never would have happened under the first two CEOs to lead the historic software company, Microsoft plans to announce on Wednesday that it is open sourcing the entire .NET framework, a symbolic move by the Redmond, Washington-based legacy technology company officially recognizing that the open-source model of software development is here to stay.

Google for Work now has better customer service

Just a week after several of Google’s cloud services went offline, Google is rolling out better customer support, including a chat interface and easier access to support phone numbers.

IT leaders are out of sync with the enterprise’s new priorities

A November study by the Society for Information Management, its annual IT Trends Survey, polled nearly 600 IT leaders, and turned up a lot of interesting trends. But the big message embedded in all the stats is this: IT management is out of sync with the new priorities for the enterprise.

If you are interested on a barrage of stats about IT trends, look as the summary report (actually a slide deck). You can learn that 65% of CIOs are hired from outside the company (is that a good thing?), that an increasing amount of money is being spent on things (hardware, cloud computing, etc.) and  less on staff (that should accelerate I bet),  how CIOs spend their time and who they report to (yawn), and the trend away from centralized IT staff to a more distributed/hybrid model (that will probably accelerate, too).

One thing I pulled from the deck to set the stage for the misalignment discussion is this slide, showing what IT is spending its efforts on:

Screenshot 2013-12-05 10.24.57

Collaboration tools, by which I bet they mean work management tools (social business, task management, etc.), fell in 2013 from 4th last year to 12th. So they either have conquered that beast, and it’s humming along, or they are potentially inderinvesting in something critical. Perhaps the mobile apps area includes some ‘collaboration’ elements, too. Not absolutely clear, but it seems that big data (from 10 to 5 in one year), might be sucking up all the oxygen in the room.

Here’s the survey’s findings about the organization’s IT concerns. You can see management is concerned that IT may not be in alignment with business needs, and that agility, productivity and cost reductions are 2, 3, 4  and 5 on the list. Number 6 is time to market and velocity of change. Corporate leadership wants a lean and fast moving sompany, and needs an IT organization in step with that, and capable of delivering new services and tools more quickly.

Screenshot 2013-12-05 10.15.46

But when compared with IT leadership’s concerns we see a huge disconnect.

Screenshot 2013-12-05 10.16.27

As you can see, IT leaders are preoccupied with operational and technical issues that corporate leaders don’t think are critical, and show a disregard for the new imperatives for business in today’s shifting economic climate. Only 1, 2, and 6 of enterprise leadership’s IT concerns are in IT leadership’s top 10 list. Productivity, and both business and IT cost reductions aren’t there at all.

Stepping back, it looks like IT management is spending too much energy contemplating its own concerns — hiring, continuity, prioritization, security — that enterprise leadership expects to be handled as a matter of course. And it also appears that IT is not devoting its attention and resources to solving the pressing needs of business: becoming leaner and more agile.

I have no easy prescription for this, but I would say it certainly makes a case for increasing the trend toward a distributed IT organization, where functional and geographic elements of the corporation should have more latitude in managing their own solutions, especially when more are managed cloud applications. Even integration of apps is moving to the cloud, so at some point we can envision nearly the totality of enterprise software in the cloud, and a near zero IT organization.

Even if that seems too radical, I would argue that an interim arrangement might subordinate the IT organization to someone that is not a CIO, but instead a leader charged with getting the company IT in line with business objectives and exploiting digital resources to the extent possible to meet them. The Chief Digital Officer, with a number of IT directors (and others) working under that approach (see The Chief Digital Officer is likely to own social, and ITLeading digital (and social) change in the business, and The shadow CIO) seems like a likely response, especially given the growing impatience of today’s CEOs.

Will the cloud ‘hit the wall’ without good integration?

Brick wallThere are currently well over 2,000 SaaS vendors by some counts, and according to Gartner over 95 percent of companies have expressed interest in maintaining or increasing their current SaaS usage.
The success of this first generation of SaaS and cloud vendors has sparked a “Cloud Rush,” drawing even more players — ranging from fledgling startups to the biggest vendors in the hardware, software and services industry — to enter the market. Meanwhile, the cloud continues to be a hot topic among enterprise IT departments, with companies large and small taking advantage of the cost benefits and time savings of incorporating cloud and SaaS vendors into their mix.

The integration roadblock for SaaS vendors

Despite the success of this market, the cloud harbors a little talked-about, rapidly emerging issue that threatens to slow its current rate of adoption. The main question is, how do you integrate new SaaS applications with existing on-premise and cloud applications?
For SaaS and Cloud providers, growing customer concerns about integration represent both a threat and an opportunity. Failing to offer integration can blunt sales and create customer support issues.
My company partnered with THINKstrategies (see disclosure) to put together a recent survey of SaaS and Cloud vendors, in which a majority (52.8 percent) of respondents indicated that more than half of their customers require integration between new SaaS applications and other systems. Cloud integration is in fact the most common hurdle in the SaaS sales process, with nearly 90 percent of respondents considering integration to be important or extremely important in winning new customers. In other words, cloud integration is becoming a widespread issue.
Although organizations have typically handled integration projects internally, the unique challenges of integrating SaaS and cloud applications have shifted the locus of responsibility to SaaS vendors. According to the survey, nearly two-thirds (62.5 percent) of respondents believe integration is a critical part of their solution. Less than 4 percent of SaaS vendors think integration should be left entirely to the customer.

Implications for end-users

While it is clear that integration threatens to slow down overall SaaS adoption and sales for individual SaaS vendors, where does this leave current and prospective SaaS users? More precisely, what do the survey results cited above mean for end-users?
End-users can rest assured that their integration concerns aren’t going unnoticed. Taxed by the burdens of building and maintaining custom solutions and finding few other options available, SaaS users are looking to vendors to address their integration issues. As the survey suggests, SaaS vendors get the message loud and clear and recognize the need to include integration capabilities in their product offerings. Those that do will gain a competitive edge over other SaaS vendors.
As SaaS vendors begin to provide integration solutions along with their core offerings, SaaS users will have a wider range of options for solving the integration problem. In particular, SaaS users should look for integration solutions that are:
?            Cloud-based and seamlessly embedded in the application experience
?            Packaged solutions that can be easily configured, maintained and supported and minimize the need for custom point-to-point coding
?            Flexible and robust enough to tackle complex integration patterns
?            Extensive in connectivity options, including off-the-shelf connectors to popular SaaS and on-premise applications, a means of easily developing new connectors, and capabilities for integrating with legacy databases and systems
A promising approach to bridging the cloud integration concerns of both SaaS vendors and end-users is the emerging category of what Gartner calls “integration platform-as-a-service (iPaaS).” According to Gartner, 35 percent of businesses will begin using iPaaS in one form or another within the next five years.
iPaaS will benefit both end-users and SaaS vendors by providing a complete platform for integrating on-premise as well as cloud applications. Ideally, iPaaS providers will partner with SaaS vendors to create a prepackaged combination of both the integration solution and the SaaS vendor’s offering, thus alleviating the integration headache for both the SaaS vendor and the customer from the very start.
Ross Mason is the CTO and Founder of MuleSoft and founded the open-source Mule project in 2003. Mason has been named in InformationWeek’s Top 10 Innovators & Influencers and InfoWorld’s Top 25 CTOs.
Disclosure: MuleSoft sponsored the survey by THINKstrategies referred to in this report.
Image courtesy of Flickr user TheArtGuy.