In the last year, Google has stampeded toward the enterprise. With advancements in Chromebooks and Chromeboxes, improved security, and incentive pricing; it’s obvious that Google is working hard to build out its portfolio of enterprise customers.
Another product that Google has been making more accessible to its business customers is its Cloud Platform. While Google has added value with new features, it is still uncertain whether or not it will be able to compete in a market dominated by Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure.
The Google Cloud Platform is Google’s infrastructure-as-a-service where users can host and build scalable web applications. The Cloud Platform is technically a group of tools that cover the gamut of what most people need to build a business online. Currently, these are the tools that make up the Cloud Platform:
- Google App Engine
- Google Compute Engine
- Google Cloud Storage
- Google Cloud Datastore
- Google Cloud SQL
- Google BigQuery
- Google Cloud Endpoints
- Google Cloud DNS
Brian Goldfarb, head of marketing for the Google Cloud Platform, said that Google is working to leverage its “history and investments” in data centers and data processing technology to bring what they have learned to the public. The most exciting part for Goldfarb is the breadth of possibilities that the infrastructure provides for businesses.
“The beauty of being an infrastructure provider is that the use cases are, essentially, limitless,” Goldfarb said.
At the 2014 Google I/O developer conference keynote, Urs Hölzle and Greg DeMichillie announced a few more developer tools for Cloud Platform users. Google Cloud Dataflow is a way to create data pipelines that succeeds MapReduce. They also introduced a few minor tools such as Cloud Save, Cloud Debugger, and Cloud Trace.
According to James Staten, an analyst at Forrester, Google has been building its cloud offerings out for a while, but it has struggled to differentiate its products from its competitors.
“They continue to unveil some interesting things for developers, particularly those that are doing big data, which seems to be their only major differentiation as a cloud platform right now. So, they’re building on that,” Staten said.
When it comes to the numbers that Forrester has on cloud platform users, Google isn’t at the bottom of the list, but they are no where near the top five because of its lack of differentiation.
According to Goldfarb, however, Google differentiates itself in three key ways:
1. Price and performance. Google offers automatic discounting and unique aspects in its business model for the Cloud Platform.
2. Technical capability. “We are a cloud first company,” Goldfarb said. He notes that Google builds tools for their engineers to work on cloud production, which then get translated to the public-facing products.
3. Innovation. Customers will be the first to receive what Goldfarb calls “unique competitive advantages,” new technical features as soon as they are created by Google. For example, when speaking of the new Cloud Dataflow he said, “There is nothing like it in the world.”
Still, one of the primary issues is that the Google Cloud Platform wasn’t initially geared to accommodate bigger enterprises.
As a platform-as-a-service, it primarily appealed to startups as it only supported Python and didn’t have as robust an offering as needed by bigger companies. According to Staten, enterprises code not only in Python, but in PHP, Ruby, and Java as well; and if you only support one of those, it’s not very appealing.
Of course, Google has grown to accommodate other languages, and the appeal has gone up slightly; but, Staten said that Google still only has the basics. He said the real value for cloud platforms today is the ecosystem surrounding the infrastructure, and Google doesn’t yet have the ecosystem around the the Cloud Platform that it needs to be competitive.
“The battle is no longer around base infrasture-as-a-service,” Staten said. “It’s not about how many data centers you have, how fast those compute instances are and so forth. It’s all a battleground now around the services that are available above and beyond that platform and, more importantly, the ecosystem around those services.”
This is part of the reason why enterprise customers go to AWS or Azure. They go to those platforms because their peers are using it. They can draw on the experiences of their colleagues and peers for advice and best practices. Staten also notes that there are tons of available partners that many enterprises already know, and are already comfortable with. Some businesses are simply more comfortable working with companies such as Amazon, IBM, RackSpace, and Microsoft.
Still, some companies do trust their cloud offerings to Google. While its portfolio may not include as many Fortune 500 companies as some of its competitors, Google still boasts the likes of Khan Academy, Rovio, Gigya, Pulse, and Snapchat.
“Our fundamental goal with partners in the ecosystem is to empower them,” Goldfarb said.
Goldfarb noted that working with its partner ecosystem and engaging the open source community are some of Google’s highest priorities. He also believes that the heavy focus on open source is also a differentiator for Google among it competitors.
The first step, Staten said, is for Google to make a play around it’s existing products. For an ecosystem to grow and flourish, Google will need to give potential Cloud Platform customers a reason to use their other products.
“Right now if I want to build Android applications, or I want to extend the Google applications, or I want to take advantage of any Google technologies, there’s not a compelling reason for me to do that on their Cloud Platform,” he said. “In fact, it’s going to be easier, and more effective, for me to do that on Amazon or any of the other cloud platforms that are out there.”
Conversely, Google also needs to focus on getting companies that are using its other products to use the Cloud Platform as well. Google needs a sticky value proposition if they want a strong enterprise appeal. Staten mentioned that this could play out as a suite offering or something similar.
It’s not that Google has a poor reputation among business customers. The bigger issue is that most of these incumbent enterprise partners have built a deeper trust among the enterprise by working with them for so long. In order to further build trust, Google will need to take a serious look at its ad-heavy revenue model.
Staten said, “the enterprise hates advertising. So, they’re very much on the antithesis of the Google historical model.” Which means that Google will have to change its approach to accommodate more enterprise customers, so that it’s known as more than just an advertising company. That could even serve to help diversity Google’s revenue model.
Google has done a good job, so far, with much of its pricing and aggressiveness going after deals, but there are some things it can do to better its interactions with the enterprise.
“The biggest thing for Google is understanding that having a relationship with an enterprise is way different than having a relationship with a consumer,” Staten said.
What Staten believes is that Google doesn’t sell like an enterprise sales organization. Enterprise customers don’t want to operate within a consumer-style sales model. Business customers value things like a specific, named sales rep that they can easily contact.
Enterprise customer also tend to be more apt to go where they can get customized support. They need customer support that doesn’t involve getting in line behind thousand of consumers with the same questions, and they, rightfully, expect the potential for custom SLAs. But, according to Goldfarb, Google recognizes the difference between enterprise and consumer customers.
“We’ve done a lot of the last 12 months to build out or enterprise sales and services support,” Goldfarb said.
Regarding enterprise customers of the Cloud Platform, Google offers a technical account management team with the potential for business customers to get connected to a specific, named sales representative. Goldfarb also mentioned a 24/7 multi-language support system and a team of more than 1,000 people dedicated to handling enterprise accounts.
According to Staten, Google certainly can compete with AWS and Azure, but they have some catching up to do if they want to be truly competitive.
“I think they are making some progress, but they probably are not making it as fast as they think they need to in this market,” Staten said. “What they have to do is balance catching up with Amazon, with differentiating their offering. That balance is tricky, and it’s not entirely obvious where that balance is.”
What do you think? Do you think the Google Cloud Platform can compete with products like AWS and Azure? Do you think Google is doing enough to accommodate enterprise customers?
Skype ID: lina_deveikyte
Marketing Manager (LI page)
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development
There has been a lot of talk about the dirge sounding for the Firefox browser. With a marked nosedive in market share (roughly 15%), the one-time king of the browse war has now fallen into third place (behind Internet Explorer and Chrome). As most pundits are scratching their heads, I’m fairly certain that there’s a clear reason for this change:
The 15% market share applies only to desktop browsers. Once you move to mobile… all bets are off. But why? What has shifted to cause Firefox to drop so sharply? Is it a bad product? Honestly, to the majority of users (I’m talking “average user” here), a browser is a browser is a browser. The biggest difference to the average user is the use of “Favorites” over “Bookmarks.” Since most users wouldn’t even know Firefox from Internet Explorer, how could this change have happened?
Again, I say… Google.
Actually, I should be more specific and say Chrome — or even better, Chrome OS and Android.
From November 2013 to the end of the year, a reported 21% of all laptops sold were Chromebooks. Worldwide, Android takes nearly 81% of the mobile market share. That’s a LOT of Google-based browsers out there. I don’t think it’s a huge leap of logic to assume a vast percentage of those users would have been, otherwise, using Firefox.
Let me present myself a case in point. For the longest time, I was a devout Firefox user. But then I discovered a few of the Chrome apps/extensions (such as Tweetdeck) and added Chrome to my Linux desktop. Then I adopted a Chromebook as a laptop. Since I really only do two things on a laptop (write and browse), it made perfect sense. Add to this the fact that my smartphone platform has been Android for what seems like forever, plus the mobile version of Firefox is dreadful, and you have the makings for a typical migration from Firefox to Chrome.
Let’s be honest — as long as the browser gets the job done, it doesn’t matter which browser you use.
- Unless you’re on a Chromebook
- Or on Android
- Or you depend on Google Apps
You can see the pattern here, right? It’s like third-party politics in the United States. Many people don’t vote for third parties because it takes away votes from the party they once championed. In this case — every person using Chrome is one less person using Firefox. Why?
Caution: generalization coming…
Most people who use Internet Explorer simply don’t know that the product they’re using is inferior to every other product of its kind (either that or they depend on a site that was written ONLY for IE). So, there’s little to no chance they’ll jump ship to either Firefox or Chrome.
So, what is Mozilla to do? Well, they’re busy focusing on the Firefox OS, which is akin to Ubuntu focusing on the Ubuntu Phone — it’s detracting from what they’ve always done really well in exchange for jumping into a ring with two of the heaviest hitters in the history of the game — Android and iOS.
And then there’s that advertising deal with Google that’s about to expire. The majority of Mozilla’s income is from that deal, and Google has less reason to continue on with that search agreement. Google no longer needs the advertising real estate from a browser suffering from a possible slow death. Should Google pull this, Mozilla will have to pull off a miracle to stay in the fight.
However, there’s good news. You can’t forget that Firefox is an open-source browser. That means, even if Firefox were to die, another batch of forks would appear. So, even if Google Chrome were to knock Firefox out of the ring, more contenders will appear to take up the gloves. But even a horde of forks are not likely to pull Firefox from the slow Chrome burn. Google isn’t going anywhere but up. As Chromebooks and Android continue to take over the mobile planet (and users become less tethered to their desks), Firefox will continue to suffer.
Firefox is still a quality product. But like Internet Explorer, it’s facing a foe that’s stronger, faster, and more agile. That new opponent is poised to take over nearly everything it touches. Fortunately (for users, not the competition), that new foe offers a stellar product on every platform (Linux, Windows, Mac, Chrome OS, Android, and iOS). Chrome is the only browser on the planet that can make that claim (as Chrome is the only browser that will run on Chrome OS) – a claim that’s becoming ever more important in a world gone mad for mobile.
I don’t have a prediction for Firefox. Will it die? Will it become an “arm” of Google? Will it get a second wind and, thus, a second life? No one really knows at this point. If I had to make a guess, I’d say both Firefox and IE will fall to Chrome. The difference is that IE is embedded into the psyche of many users, so it won’t suffer as much as Firefox.
The gloves are off and Chrome is set to rumble. How do you think this fight will end? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.
Skype ID: kristinakozlova
Marketing Manager (LI page)
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development
For many Android owners, the 4.4.3 update has yet to hit (though it is slowly rolling out — when you will receive the update will depend upon your carrier and device). Although the new feature list isn’t epic in length, what it brings to the table will have a lot of users happy… quite happy, actually. This is especially so for users who frequently snap photos with their device and/or record audio.
Aesthetics get little in the way of an upgrade. There is a slight tweak to the Dialer app, but that’s the only change to the UI you’ll readily notice.
The short list of major changes looks something like this:
- A tweaked Dialer app with a colored Action bar (this is the UI change)
- Contact app (sometimes called People) uses placeholder images, similar to those used by Gmail
- Fixed hissing sound while recording videos (Nexus 5) is fixed
- Fix for LTE connection dropping bug
- Wi-Fi improvements
- Microphone and earphone related changes
There are also a lot of other under-the-hood camera, Bluetooth, and other system-related bug fixes.
The cameras (especially those on Motorola devices) will see numerous improvements. Exposure consistency and flash coloring are dramatically improved. A big change for photo enthusiasts is better low-light handling for the front camera.
Speaking of Motorola devices, Moto X and Moto G owners will find a new app called Motorola Alert. This app will send out periodic messages to select contacts.
Probably the biggest upside to this update is the improvements to security, overall stability, and power profile features. One major update is an optimization to ZRAM support. This allows idle background apps to store data in a compressed RAM partition to free up RAM for applications. There’s also a low-RAM API that improves performance on devices with as little as 512 MB of RAM (by using more aggressive memory management). Finally, an experimental Java runtime (called ART) improves application performance over the current Dalvik runtime.
On the downside, at least for Nexus 5 owners, the mm-qcamera-daemon bug (this is a bug that caused the camera to quickly drain the device battery) has not been fixed. The update also does not fix the LED Notification for missed calls (which has been plaguing many devices for some time now).
Android 4.4.3 is primarily a continuation of bug fixing for KitKat. However, don’t let the lack of UI changes fool you… the 4.4.3 update will go a long way to improve the performance and stability of your device. So, when can you expect the rollout to your device?
- GPE versions of the HTC One M7, Galaxy S4, HTC One M8, and the Sony Z Ultra should already have the update
- Sprint users with Nexus 5 devices should be seeing the update soon
- All other devices should see the update in the coming weeks
As with any Android update, predicting when a device will receive the new software is like predicting the weather — it’s hit and miss (and most often wrong). Every supported device should have the update available in the coming weeks. I can tell you that, as of this writing, Verizon HTC and Motorola devices, as well as AT&T Motorola devices, do not have the update available.
Have you received your 4.4.3 update? If so, has your Android device performance and reliability improved? What would you like to see in upcoming Android updates? Share your ideas in the discussion thread below.
Over the years dynamic languages such as Python and Ruby have become cherished by startups. As for .Net it is more rarely heard to be used by startups. That’s interesting indeed, because this platform is definitely bigger than most of the popular ones.
So I wonder why a platform as widely adopted and supported as .NET isn’t more visible in startup culture. Let’s try figuring out the main arguments in favor and against making .Net a startup technical choice.
1. Community culture
Some people say the main reason is the culture of the .NET community itself, not anything specific to the platform. Being centered mostly around the needs of enterprise market .NET developers’ concerns are often regarding supporting legacy systems, building enterprise architectures, large systems for supporting business processes. This implies solving problems which are not so relevant for startups at least at their initial point.
As for members of the startup community, they fuss over different issues – concurrency, experience design, supporting multiple clients and browsers, etc.
As a result the startup community and the .NET community don’t overlap as much as they do for other technologies. That’s why startup founders don’t get much exposure to .Net and don’t think of it as an applicable tool for their purposes. The same way many .Net developers who want to work for hot startups don’t have as many opportunities to do so unless they abandon the platform for a more startup-friendly one or start a company themselves.
So platform doesn’t always dictate its use – that’s people who make the choice. Enterprise and startups aren’t mutually exclusive – they’re just different stages in the evolution of software, and there’s no reason why the startup community shouldn’t look at .NET as an attractive starting point for a new business.
2. Startup tech compatibility
A startup is a risky venture with no guarantee of success. So tech startups seek advantages in order to succeed. Hence startups take what big enterprises consider risky bets on technology. This objective can be achieved by using technology that is popular in startup environment.
Many features of .NET, facilitating the productivity of big companies, are not always useful to startups. There is too much choice of implementation methods. If anything, web startups are looking to have this choice taken away – their technology choices come from the subset that is built for the web.
Also it is said that innovation is quicker with other ecosystems which have a bigger set of libraries and tools. As for .Net there are a few open source projects however most of them are pretty much an implementation of concepts that have already been implemented for a while in the Java world, for example.
3. Open source vs proprietary
Although many startups don’t mind paying for tools and services, most of them still pick things based on cost. For a long time the “enterprise” level tools, services, databases, etc were hardly affordable by startups. That’s why startups adopt so much open source.
It’s also hard to justify the use of proprietary software from a business perspective. If you want to be acquired it is wise to develop your product using an open stack rather than Microsoft’s.
However luckily for many startups Microsoft saw a huge value in giving their stuff away to startups and startups have benefited greatly. Microsoft has been running their Bizspark program for several years, which eliminates most of the startup costs normally associated with employing a .NET framework. To get into the BizSpark program you just need to get checked by BizSpark team if your startup is eligible (developing a real product). Then you’ll get free licenses to basically every product they make, including SQL Server, and a free MSDN gold subscription, for 3 years. They figure 3 years is long enough for you to get going so after that they want you to pay for new licenses. The great part is that they let you keep the licenses you’re already using. So Microsoft has basically taken the cost factor completely out of the equation for new startups.
4. Velocity vs performance
Some people say that it’s all about the velocity. If you agree with an assumption that a startup goal is to find a niche vs build a product, then the goal of a startup is to learn about the market, customers, and product needs as quickly as possible. Python, Js, Ruby, etc allow you to iterate quickly without a lot of infrastructure and boilerplate. However a company that has already has a market has a little different goal, for them the objective is to build a stable product that they can maintain.
Some people say that .Net is not suitable for quick changes. This is a pretty outdated view of C# these days, it’s actually fairly easy to write extremely terse code with. As an added bonus refactoring is so incredibly easy compared to JS, Ruby, Python, etc. that it’s ideal for rapidly switching directions in code as you can refactor so fearlessly without being slowed down by massive amounts of tests. Unfortunately what’s bad about .Net is the tooling and the supporting ecosystem.
Python is much better suited to quick prototypes that can be fleshed out into a reasonably reliable product without too many headaches. The key difference comes when you have to change features mid-stream. The lack of strict typing and interfaces means you can add, change, and remove features much quicker than C# for example. On top of that, you just write fewer actual lines of code to get the same thing done, although sometimes readability can suffer if you get too concise. There is a price to be paid with Python and Ruby though and performance is the biggest one.
5. Team and project size
The team and project size always matters. So when the solution is being built with a small team, then it is easier to use something like Python. Obviously the goal is to be fast to develop in and have a bunch of libraries to be used. On the other hand when building something with a big team, you feel like using something like C#. In this case it keeps it safe to develop in and easy to catch mistakes. Any optional documentation provided by a developer is incomplete. On the contrary the quality level of the available .Net documentation is outstanding.
However if the company is starting as very small at the initial point, it hopefully grows and builds up quite a sizeable codebase by some point. Python, JS & Ruby are fine for small programs but anything more than that and they become their own enemies because the programs they make are quite brittle.
The common opinion is that .Net scales well.So, if your startup does make it, you’ll probably have a much easier time scaling the .Net stack than you would with say Ruby or PHP.
Conclusion: it’s all about stereotyping
Eventually, I found different opinions on my question of .Net being not so popular with startups such as “platform lock-in,” “no open standards,” “licensing costs.” Sure, these are issues preventing many developers from adopting .NET in the startup space, but not enough to bar all of them from using it. Most of the arguments are just stereotypes that can be dispelled under closer examination.
All languages have strengths and weaknesses. For a startup, you need to do due-diligence and research what the right language to use for your idea will be because recoding in a different language can get costly.
So do you use .Net in your startup projects? Please share your feedback and experiences with us.
There exist a lot of mobile app development frameworks. Cross-platform tools reduce barriers to entry and democratise app development, by allowing developers from any language (HTML, Java, C++), any background (hobbyist, pros, agencies, corporates) and any skill level (visual designer to hard-core developer) to build mobile apps. Just imagine that by using a cross-platform tool and covering just two platforms such as Android and iOS, you will cover 91% of the whole smartphone market. Sounds appealing:)
PhoneGap and Sencha are the most widespread: they are used by 32% and 30% of cross-platform developers, irrespective of their primary tools. I`m suggesting to have a closer look at PhoneGap which turns to be the most popular tool.
How it works
-The most obvious one is cross-platform capabilities. Currently PhoneGap supports the following platforms: iOS, Android, webOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Symbian OS, Tizen.
-Adjustments can be performed via browser; remote adjustments can be performed on a mobile device via “weinre”.
A blot on the landscape:)
- Users feel uncomfortable when touching a button and it doesn`t work. This is one of the most widespread bugs in PhoneGap apps. This bug appears due to improperly created interface, and it raises the problem of touching. The fact is that we look at the touchscreen at an angle and the visual contact area between the finger and the screen differs from the real contact area. This can be corrected quite simply – proper layout of the app page. For example, the area of response can be made bigger than the button itself.
-Nevertheless this is a cross-platform tool, UI should be optimized for different platforms. But it’s much faster, than creating another native app from scratch;
As you can see, these drawbacks are not quite ‘drawbacks’ in their nature, but rather technical conditions of PhoneGap, which you should consider, like in a usual development process for any other platform.
Certainly, PhoneGap is not a “miracle cure” but can be a good way out if wisely used. And what are your thoughts on PhoneGap?