Postini Exit: Time to Choose

If you’re a Google Postini customer, or even an observer of the market, you’ll be well aware that Google has brought the curtain down on its Postini email services. To paraphrase Google, it’s “transitioning Postini services to the Google Apps platform beginning in 2013.”

“Transitioning”, is another way of saying we’re cutting you off and you better do something about it. As an IT professional you’ve probably been cursing the day you found this out; I bet the idea of an unplanned migration of such a core service is something you wished happened more often, isn’t at all disruptive is it?

 Part of the worry about moving to a new platform will be the completeness of said platform. The Google transition FAQ tells us there is some core functionality missing. For example; you won’t have a quarantine summary until Q1, 2013. Users won’t be able to manage their quarantines online, like they do now, until Q2, 2013, along with reporting. Outbound filtering won’t be with you until Q3, 2013. And, if you want any sort of admin quarantine the best estimate you’ll get from Google is 2013.

Sadly, the list of missing or unsupported features goes on, ultimately ending in a couple of shockers that leave you worse-off in terms of SLA too.

Frustrated? Worried? Considering your options?

By now you’ll have noticed the veritable feeding frenzy that email security vendors have got into. Some offering 6 months of service free, others touting free migrations to their platforms. Ultimately betting the farm on a gimmick in a hope they can attract you. They’re not really considering the financial impact on their business-model of ‘free’ stuff in this, already cut-throat, market. Race to zero anyone?

The problem I have with this race to the bottom, is it undermines the value of email security and the gateway and is a dis-service to you, the customer. The last thing you need is a vendor who’s sold themselves to dirt cheap technology in a mad dash to gain market share. In a year or two it’s likely you’ll be migrating away from that vendor too as they run out of money and innovation.

The knock on effect of this market behaviour is also a lack of investment in R&D, which you’ll notice when you start to conduct your own due diligence on these vendors. Offering a free migration to a service could well be covering up weaknesses in technology that are likely to be a show stopper if you dig deeper. If you’re in this situation as the vendor about their ‘cloud infrastructure, and whether it’s really cloud or not; chances are it’ll be a hosted version of their on-premise gateway technology. I don’t need to point out that’s not cloud, nor is it scalable, and it’s bound to hurt sometime down the line.

Faced with the choice between incomplete and imperfect it makes sense to take some time out from worrying about this unplanned migration, put aside the hysterical marketing from the ‘look at me’ vendors and consider your options.  We’ve put together a short video that makes this point and might help you decide what steps to take next.

Yours in email.



Google opens new battlefront: Should Microsoft bundle OCS with Exchange & BPOS?

Last month, Google announced the integration of Google Voice into Gmail. Gmail users can now make calls right from within their email.

Google Voice in Gmail

Many analysts are citing this as a direct attack on Skype- but I think they’re wrong- I think it’s a direct attack on Microsoft, Telcos and PBX manufacturers. Skype has had similar functionality for a number of years, but it’s business adoption isn’t large enough for this to be an attack IMHO. Yes you can now call from your PC, but phones have long been the bane of businesses- especially smaller ones. They’re expensive and never function as you would really like them to. And although this is currently on Gmail only and not available today for businesses on Apps- it’s coming soon.

To PBX manufacturers and Telcos this represents a serious threat- why would you kit out your company with phone lines and extensions when you can have this for free on your PC? Or if you’re not at your PC, have your calls follow you on your mobile phone. That’s a serious amount of cost reduction- especially when you add in free in country calls and low cost foreign calls, and an improvement in functionality.

When it becomes available on Apps to businesses, it’s going to make a very compelling ROI case to use Apps.

Microsoft has had similar functionality available in Office Communication Server (OCS), but it’s been a separately installed and licensed application. To respond- I think Microsoft needs to put a more compelling value proposition around OCS- should they bundle it free with Exchange and BPOS? What about bundling free calls?

This is classic disruptive innovation- create a product that’s good enough for a small segment of the market and grow that into the mainstream. Google will soon be putting within reach of businesses a very powerful unified communications tool- and Microsoft needs to respond.


The Long Wave Goodbye


The announcement a few weeks back of the demise of Google Wave left me with mixed emotions. On the one hand, I admired the daring vision of Google Wave, the way it fearlessly tried to reinvent some of the most basic aspects of how we use computers to communicate. On the other hand, though I hoped to be proved wrong, I thought it was absolutely, positively, beyond the shadow of a doubt doomed to fail, from day one.

So, with the dust settled on the failure of this noble experiment, now might be a good time to point out the underlying realities that doomed it. Because they’re predictable dangers for almost any attempt to be really innovative, and we ignore them at our peril.

The Siren of Coolness: Geeks are only human. Creative programmers and designers come up with all sorts of ideas. If the ideas are cool enough, they’ll eventually get implemented. Unfortunately, coolness doesn’t always correspond to usefulness or commercial potential.

In fact, the cooler a system is, the more likely it is to receive substantial levels of early stage funding, which means paradoxically that the coolest innovations are often the ones least likely to succeed. Less cool innovations face a more taxing set of evaluations, so those that make it through to funding tend to have real practical potential.

The DeLorean was an insanely cool car.  I rest my case on this point.

Back to Google Wave. Sure it’s cool to see an instant message being composed character by character, instead of waiting for the whole thing to come through. It was cool when it was done previously in research labs, and it was cool in Wave. What it wasn’t, alas, was useful. For the sender, there’s no margin for error if you take pride in your writing skills. The other person will see every typo, no matter how quickly you correct it, and will watch with interest as you agonize over the wording of a sensitive message. Meanwhile the recipient will end up spending more time looking at your message, as it slowly and hypnotically composes itself on his screen. It makes senders more self-conscious and vulnerable, while wasting recipients’ time.

But boy, is it cool!

The good news is that Google seems to have learned this lesson. In talking about the demise of Wave, they say that pieces of Wave will live on, as they “extend the technology for use in other Google projects.” Success in that endeavor won’t be quite as flashy, or indeed as cool, as what they hoped for with Wave – but it’s a lot more likely to actually happen. I wish them the best of luck.