Google has this week launched a secure data tool that could result in a plethora of tie-ups between its productivity software and a range of enterprise applications and data sources.
Google's new Secure Data Connector (SDC) allows data from behind-the-firewall sources and applications to be securely accessed via Google Gadgets, Google spreadsheets or its App Engine development platform.
Google's announcement gained initial backing from none other than Oracle, which said that its Siebel CRM (customer relationship management) software will support the SDC. Oracle also announced Oracle Gadget Wizard for Google Apps, with which users can create gadgets for Google Sites.
In addition, Google partner Cast Iron Systems has added SDC to its data integration software.
The SDC provides "the secure tunnel" through which data can flow, while Cast Iron's technology provides data integration tools and templates for a wide variety of applications, said Chandar Pattabhiram, vice president of product marketing.
Google's goal is to "encourage adoption of Google Apps by making it a more realistic option for enterprises with the bulk of their assets behind a firewall," said Stephen O'Grady, an analyst with Redmonk.
Also, "it certainly could see partnerships with firms that do not have significant productivity technologies potentially threatened by Google Apps, i.e. Oracle," O'Grady said.
Some businesses are already partly down the path laid out by technologies like the SDC.
The Schumacher Group, a Lafayette, Louisiana, company that provides medical staffing for hospital emergency departments, is using Cast Iron, the SDC and Google Gadgets to build an information portal for its 2,500 physicians in the field, said CIO Doug Menefee. It is not being used to transport any private patient data, he added.
Menefee is a big fan of cloud-based services, saying the model allows businesses to be much more nimble and competitive, given the quicker implementation compared to on-premises systems. "If I was starting up a new business today, I'd be totally SaaS," he said.
But cloud computing has some challenges of its own.
For example, one significant hurdle for Schumacher's portal project lies in user authentication. The company is using a third-party identity management product to provide single sign-on for both the portal and users' Google accounts, according to Menefee.
"We work with 2,500 providers. To ask them to have multiple user names and passwords, that's not a user-friendly way to do it," he said.