Starting on October 5th IBM will begin selling a Web-based version of its popular Lotus Notes software suite, a move that puts it in direct competition with Google. The service which is currently being called “LotusLive iNotes” will include the traditional email, calendar, and contact management applications, but interestingly enough will not have any type of substitute for Google Docs.
IBM is apparently counting on the notion that most companies simply don’t want all of the applications that come with Google Apps, and would choose just the core communication applications if they had the choice. Just in case that alone isn’t enough to win over companies looking at cloud based options, they are also undercutting Google’s price per user by $14 a year, bringing the annual cost of a license down to a mere $36.
Google may have a two-year head start on IBM with over 1.75 million registered businesses, but researchers from Gartner claim this is only the tip of the iceberg. Apparently if current trends continue, almost 20 percent of companies will use some form of hosted email by 2012. It will be interesting to see if IBM’s sterling reputation with enterprises will be enough to beat out Google. Currently they don’t have any plans to offer free consumer level versions of the product, but that could certainly change over time.
Google says that it was high load on the internet giant’s Contacts server that caused the outages of last week. Users of Google Apps could not access their Google Contacts on September 24, from 10 AM to 11:30 AM EDT. Gmail contacts were also unavailable from 10 AM to 1 PM EDT. This also affected Google Voice, as it relies on Google Contacts.
According to the Google Apps team, the solution was to temporarily stop all requests to the Google Contacts servers. A banner was shown in Gmail that informed users of alternate ways of accessing their contacts, but this likely did not lessen withdrawal symptoms for those affected.
On September 25, Google explained that the increased server load was caused by a rare convergence of events. First, an error in a network data center caused additional load on the Contacts server. Also, it just so happened that the server was experiencing higher than average usage that day. Finally, an update to the Gmail platform unintentionally increased load on the Contacts server even more. If they keep this up, their uptime might fall below 99%... the horror.
While most of the attention between Microsoft and Google focuses on the search engine scuffle (Bing vs Google), the two sides are also doing battle in the Cloud, where things are starting to heat up. That's because Microsoft on Thursday began opening the doors of its free web-based version of its Office Suite -- called Microsoft Office Web Applications -- to select Windows Live SkyDrive users.
Things will really get interesting when Microsoft officially launches its online version of Office in the first half of 2010, and until then, the software maker still has time to fine tune the experience, although it might not have much to do. Microsoft Office Web Applications already works on Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari, while support for Chrome is being developed. But the biggest boon might be the ability to switch between the desktop and web versions
Between now and launch, Microsoft says it will be adding beta testers 1000 users at a time
“We've come to appreciate that the beta tag just doesn't fit for large enterprises that aren't keen to run their business on software that sounds like it's still in the trial phase. So we've focused our efforts on reaching our high bar for taking products out of beta, and all the applications in the Apps suite have now met that mark,” Google said on its official blog.
Security and privacy advocates have been pushing online service providers to offer better protection for their customers, and to start offering secure HTTPS connections by default. HTTPS allows you to securely encrypt traffic to and from the server, and for example, protects us from having our usernames, and passwords sniffed out on public networks. Gmail offers users the ability to enable HTTPS as a default connection type (highly recommended), but for the average user, it probably never comes to mind. Email accounts have become a primary hub for password recovery, and many people don’t realize just how painful losing control of one can be until it happens first hand.
This could change in the near future as reported by Google software engineer Alma Whitten in a blog post that claims, we are “looking into whether it would make sense to turn on HTTPS as the default for all Gmail users”. Currently, they are conducting research into the performance impact of rolling this out across the board, but this is a promising step in the right direction. Google is also considering making secure connections the default for other services such as Docs and Calendar.
Secure connections used to be considered very processor intensive for servers, but like anything else, this has become less true as CPU speeds continue to climb. "Unless there are negative effects on the user experience or it's otherwise impractical, we intend to turn on HTTPS by default more broadly, hopefully for all Gmail users," the post says.
Google Apps reached a major milestone in September last year, when it raced past the 1 million enterprise users mark. But the huge lead that its arch rival MS Office enjoys meant that the achievement was just worthy of a perfunctory pat on the back. Now Google has taken a major step that might help popularize Google Apps among business users and help it trim Microsoft’s huge lead to a small extent.
According to Pingdom, a company that keeps tabs on website availability, Google's service level agreement (SLA) for its Google Apps service might not be fair to the consumer. As outlined in the SLA, paying customers would receive a credit if Google Apps fails to maintain a 99.9 percent monthly uptime. The problem with that, as Pingdom sees it, is that only outages that last 10 minutes or more are counted as downtime by Google.
"What if Google Apps was down for 9 minutes, up for 1 minute, down 9 minutes, etc.?" Pingdom wrote in a blog post. "That would mean 54 minutes of downtime each hour, but Google still wouldn't count it because none of the individual downtimes lasted 10 minutes (or) more."
Pingdom admits its example represents a worst case scenario, but points out in a more real-world example how 57 minutes of downtime might only be counted as 26 minutes, or less than half of the actual outage. But Google says nothing fishy is taking place. According to Rajen Sheth, senior product manager for Google Apps, the company's SLA is identical to others' in the industry.
Hit the jump and tell us what you think about Google's SLA.
Last week’s Gmail outage, which lasted for about 28 hours, has once again highlighted a major shortcoming of cloud computing and web-based services. The incidence exemplifies cloud computing skeptics’ greatest concern that unheralded disruptions in cloud computing services might cost businesses’ and individuals dearly.
Some Gmail users – including paying Google Apps subscribers - couldn’t access their accounts between 16 and 17 October. Incensed users expressed their indignation across the internet, while Mark, a Google Apps adviser, provided regular updates on the status of the issue, as long as it lasted.
Earlier this year, Amazon’s Simple Storage Service remained unavailable for 8 hours. That particular episode had also spawned similar questions regarding cloud computing. Companies will have to come out with ways to keep outages to a negligible count.
A Google Apps malfunction was reported on Thursday leaving education edition users without access to various services, including Gmail. It turns out the loss of access was tied to an unannounced change in the layouts of start pages which redirected to a non functional iGoogle address. Google spokesmen Andrew Kovacs stated that "this was an isolated bug". "I don't want to minimize this, but was this an issue where people could not access their data? No." Google hasn’t publically stated how many of the over one million businesses and 10 million users were impacted by the bug, but apparently it was only reported by a handful of users. Kovacs went on to state that "Basically, the broader perspective with an approach to communication is to be transparent. With these hosted applications we are held to a higher standard since we are so transparent with our communication." This made me wonder. With all the negative back lash companies like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon receive when cloud services crash, is all the bad press really fair? Do we really have the right to expect 100% uptime?
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer touched upon virtually all the major issues concerning MS – from Windows 7 to Yahoo - at the Gartner Symposium ITxpo in Orlando. Unsurprisingly, he was confronted by many questions regarding Vista and Windows 7.He ardently defended Windows Vista. “The adoption rate of Vista is two times faster than XP at two years in,” Ballmer said in Vista’s defense.
However, he tacitly gave the thumbs up to enterprises that have abandoned all plans of upgrading to Vista and are already waiting for Windows 7. Regarding the possibility of a deal with Yahoo, he said that a deal would make sense for the shareholders of both the companies. The price of Yahoo’s shares shot up by 17% after Ballmer’s comment.
Ballmer believes that Google Apps has “very primitive” capabilities. He further derided Google Apps by not even acknowledging it as serious competition.