The enterprise ain't what it used to be.
That's the message from Google today as it changes the branding of its business products from Google Enterprise to Google At Work. The new brand will be applied to the business version of Google Apps (including Gmail), the Google Cloud Platform, and the Google Search Appliance, among other products.
Amit Singh, the president of Google at Work, explained why Google is changing the name now, more than 10 years after the company began selling products -- initially the Search Appliance and Gmail for Domains -- to businesses.
"Corporate is normally associated with long sales cycles, centralized purchasing, and software that sits on a shelf. Many of the things associated with the word 'enterprise' are not what we do. The dissonance kept growing bigger."
In other words, the big shift in business technology over the last ten years -- from centralized IT buying products and forcing them down the throats of users, to users choosing their own tools for work regardless of what IT wants them to use -- has been the big driver of Google's enterprise business. Now the company wants to embrace that trend by abandoning what it sees as a legacy term with negative associations for many users.
Google at Work security director Eran Figerbaum told the story of how he joined Google in 2007, and it reflects this shift perfectly.
"I was previously the chief security officer of a very conservative financial organization. All of a sudden we're getting these calls from the support team, everybody's installing Google Desktop Search. They're saying it's a violation of our security policy, it gives all this data to Google."
He continued, "A week later, I called a friend of mine who was the CIO of Google at the time, I told him 'You're killing us with this product, we have to go around and kill this on people's machines.' He replied, 'If you think I'm killing you now, wait until you see what's coming next.' He was talking at that point about Gmail for your domain."
A year later, Figerbaum joined Google to help drive that shift.
Figerbaum admits that Google's approach to enterprise security was pretty rudimentary at the beginning -- "trust us, we're Google" was the company's mindset -- but over the last 7 years Google has added a ton of enterprise security features, including various certificatoins (like FISMA for its government customers) and encryption at rest.
Figerbaum says there's still pushback from some traditional IT customers, but in general companies are much more comfortable moving to the cloud than they were, and they've realized that if they don't give users the tools they want, they'll lose control completely as users move to their own tools.
Singh also said that 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies are now paying for Google at Work products, and boasted that this statistic only includes paying customers with entire divisions using the products -- not just a pair of developers building on the Google Cloud platform, for instance.
How does Google get beyond 60 percent? By providing plenty of onramps for business customers, from email to apps to cloud computing, and making it as easy as possible for customers to sign up.