One of the interesting (though increasingly tedious) parts about being a long-term technology analyst is seeing the same mistakes made over and over again. A young upstart company that is doing very well looks at a more mature firm and figures they can do it better without first understanding what it is that made the older firm successful.
In the current case it is Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), which I'm increasingly seeing as a company that has set its mind on spectacular failure. The area in question: EMC (NYSE: EMC) and the concept of cloud computing, and whether it should be public or private. The irony is that Google is probably the most private company in technology at the moment the firm once threatened to blacklist CNET for using Google's own search engine to collect information on its CEO.
The reality appears to be that Google itself wouldn't use a public cloud service unless it was from Google, which kind of makes it a private cloud for them, doesn't it? In the enterprise space we have a term called Walking the Talk. I'm convinced that at Google the terms Walk and Talk haven't even met, let alone had any relationship with one another.
This gives me long moments where I wonder if Google even has a mirror. They are emerging as the technology equivalent of Anakin Skywalker who starts out with the concept of fighting an evil Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and appears to be ending up as some kind of super Darth Vader.
But let's focus on why this trend repeats, looking at some of Google's mistakes. Ill close with observations from EMC World this week.
Young Companies Don't Get the Enterprise
My first observation of this trend was a young Microsoft trying to move against the then enterprise king IBM (NYSE: IBM). IBM had been critically wounded by a series of mistakes and certainly was vulnerable. Microsoft successfully snatched defeat out of the mouth of victory with a little event called "Scalability Day," which turned out to be a clearly stupid thing to have done. They had been building credibility in the enterprise slowly and a lot of CIOs saw them as the company they could trust.
However, Windows NT, their enterprise platform, wasn't yet ready to do what sales and marketing needed and yet they still held this event which seriously damaged their credibility.
The next time was with Netscape and their enterprise push. In Netscape's case, they had purchased a number of promising technologies and decided to make a run at the backend with Web and application servers and an e-mail system. Long before this solution was ready, they went out to enterprises that were using their browser and likely believed they were the next Microsoft and pretended what they had was mature.
It not only wasn't ready, but they had a tendency to brag about their stock price in sales presentations, which not only lost them the deals but largely banned them from those enterprises (I did win $100 from their CEO, who didn't believe this was happening). The one corporate win I followed was a massive disaster and most of the IT staff I knew who worked on it ended up leaving the poor firm that decided to choose it.
The Cause of Enterprise Stupidity
What causes this stupidity is a combination of things. First, the enterprise market is very attractive. It holds the promise of mega deals where a few scores can equal a massive number of seats and revenue. This is a huge golden carrot that looks just out of reach.
Second, enterprise sales are deceptively difficult and are generally made from a deep foundation of trust, through a lengthy sales process, and negotiations that require specialists. Successful companies don't drop in, pitch a product, and drop out. They build and nurture a relationship, and young companies just don't know how to do that. This relationship is founded on trust, and young companies often can't even spell that.
So the process is: build a deep relationship, protect the buyer, and deliver at least what you promised (ideally more). This is why EMC, for instance, has quality control reporting to the CEO so that they can assure that promises are kept and buyers are protected.
Google's Rush to the Top
Seems simple, right? Be a company people can trust, protect those that trust you, and don't disappoint them. So what is Google in the news for?
Well, they are being challenged on antitrust grounds for allegedly trying to control information, with the underlying concern that they will become the equivalent of the Big Brother character in "1984." They have people in Europe coming out of their homes to block Google cars because these people believe (according to the BBC) that Google is "facilitating crime."
Why this is important is because trust is between people, and if major players are leaving the company, you can't depend on the relationships you have established.
What adds to the problem is that the coverage of this issue suggests that employees are leaving because HR practices are impersonal and Google is using an impersonal algorithm system to analyze and correct the problem, making the firm look incredibly stupid. This was one of the running jokes at Interop in Las Vegas this week, and this may go down in history as the Google equivalent to pouring gas on a fire in an attempt to put it out.
Finally, Google appears to have no industry analyst events (they do meet with financial analysts, but I wonder if they even know the difference) so they don't build relationships with the one group that would generally need to sign off on and approve their solutions before they got adopted broadly. Industry analyst firm Gartner was started as a hedge against IBM by Gideon Gartner, and remains the most powerful, followed by Forrester Research and Yankee. These analysts remain critical to building credibility with enterprises, and Google doesn't even seem to realize they exist.
EMC in Contrast
This week was EMC World, an event mirrored by other major vendors, including Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL), IBM and Microsoft. This event is designed to build relationships, establish trust, and share with the community (so they can share with their enterprise clients through existing trust relationships) what EMC is doing in the market. As a side note, this particular event may be the most impressive showcase of social media integration in a show I've seen to date; just search "EMC World."
One of the major announcements at the event was with AT&T (NYSE: T), another enterprise-class vendor, surrounding a mission statement of making the cloud as secure as an internal data center and using VMware (NYSE: VMW), which EMC owns, and Atmos, their commodity hardware and software platform, to make that happen.
So you have an event that is designed to garner trust, an announcement that reinforces goals consistent with that trust, and a setting of expectations that both AT&T and EMC should be able, with little risk, to achieve. They even included a large vendor with a recognized brand, eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY), to showcase the solution and give them credit. All of the elements are there: trust, relationship, and execution.
This joint cloud effort has an ecosystem of developers that surround it and a strong value message so that it can compete in the market with other offerings from EMC competitors. It is interesting to note that the analysts at the event didn't seem to doubt EMC's ability to execute; they simply doubted whether the cloud concept was ready yet. If it isn't, EMC still benefits as the entrenched storage vendor, but Google doesn't because they are anything but.
And all this is happening as Google reportedly is nearing the release of its own cloud storage service.
Google and EMC
In short, while EMC is positioned for the future, they aren't over-promising it like Google obviously is, and they are building a foundation that may eventually make the Cloud work.
Google is trying to take a fast track, but in enterprise sales you need to do the actual work to become successful. Google has cut a lot of corners in becoming the power they are, but that approach won't work for them any more than it did for Netscape, and they are increasingly looking like the smart kid who paid someone else to do their homework and eventually gets caught.
Companies like EMC get the enterprise, they were built to get the enterprise. Microsoft took decades to get the enterprise. I have my doubt whether Google ever will.
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