Google Apps gets big boost from Sun co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim

Bechtolsheim is fully embracing cloud computing applications these days

Google's full-court marketing blitz to counter the Microsoft Office 2010 upgrade includes a familiar face to assure old-school IT executives that cloud computing can be trusted: Andy Bechtolsheim, co-founder of Sun.

Bechtolsheim is fully embracing cloud computing applications these days, as co-founder and chief development officer of Arista Networks, a start-up that builds data center switches. Arista, based in Menlo Park, Calif., has only minimal IT infrastructure and relies on Google and several other companies to deliver core technology services.

Microsoft strikes blow against Google with Office 2010

Google this week has written numerous blog posts touting the benefits of Google Apps in an attempt to sway IT executives away from Microsoft Office. Bechtolsheim joined Google as a guest blogger on Monday and described his experiences with Google Apps during a Webcast for IT pros on Thursday.

Adopting Google Apps was easy for Arista because it didn't have much of a legacy IT environment to rip out, Bechtolsheim said.

"We didn't have a legacy issue," he said during the webcast. "We started like this from the very beginning of the company. One reason for that was no one wanted to be the IT administrator, quite frankly. We still don't have an IT administrator, and I don't think we'd ever want to change away from this model."

Arista is using Google Apps for e-mail and word processing, along with the Amazon cloud for hosting the company Web site; NetSuite for ERP database; and Salesforce.com for CRM.

Bechtolsheim raved about Google Apps during the webcast, which was not surprising given that the webcast was sponsored by Google. He did offer specific reasons why Google has worked well at his company, however.

With 150 licenses, Google Apps costs Arista $7,500 per year, less than one month's salary for a really good IT administrator, he said. Spam filters work well, searching e-mail is easy, chat is integrated, and the 25GB limit on e-mail storage is massive, he said.

"Even large corporations have very tight limits on e-mail storage," Bechtolsheim says. "It's hard to believe why that is. I have close to 100,000 e-mails in my folder and I can still find every one of them. To me it's like a database. It turns e-mail into a storage system, which I just didn't have before."

While Microsoft Office contains more functionality than Google Apps, Bechtolsheim said Arista doesn't need much of what Microsoft offers. Arista doesn't even take full advantage of Google's applications. For example, Bechtolsheim said he and his colleagues don't really use the Google video sharing service.

Google Docs, meanwhile, offers a good alternative to in-house word processing, he says.

"Being able to put the document in one place so everyone can see the latest version and actually collaborate on the same document is hard to do in a normal PC environment," he said.

Bechtolsheim said he hopes Google Apps expands into new kinds of services. Salesforce.com is not cheap, he noted, saying he hopes for either an open source or Google Apps CRM application.

"My advice to every start-up is to use Google Apps," Bechtolsheim wrote in his blog post. "It saves you from having huge headaches, it is very inexpensive, and just a better system. We also use some other cloud services such as Salesforce.com for customer relationship management, Netsuite for our database and Amazon to host our Web site. Cloud computing works great for us. I would never buy another server to bring these functions in-house."

It remains to be seen whether endorsements from Bechtolsheim will result in mass adoption of Google Apps. It's easy to see why small businesses with little IT infrastructure would use Google instead of Microsoft, but so far Google Apps adoption is low.

While 81% of businesses are supporting Microsoft Office 2007, just 4% support Google Apps, Forrester found in a recent survey.

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Jon Brodkin

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