It is my strongest belief that interoperability is the key to the success of Cloud Computing. I have never hesitated to discuss interoperability news in this space irrespective of whether it is cloud applications or platform or infrastructure. As a strong supporter of a federated cloud ecosystem, I feel that every cloud vendor should have integration and interoperability on their roadmap. Clearly, open standards play a crucial role in the interoperability game. Companies that adapt openness as a part of their philosophy are the ones who take interoperability seriously. Among the many vendors, Google is clearly the leader in the openness philosophy. Their open approach has allowed many vendors to interoperate or integrate tightly with Google Apps. Zoho (Disclaimer: Zoho is the exclusive sponsor of Cloud Ave) is one such player who not only make some of their apps interoperate with Google Apps but, also, integrate their products with Google services.
I have already written about how it is possible to create an app on Zoho creator and then deploy it on Google App Engine. Sometime back, Zoho implemented the openid based federated login for Google Apps as one of the options for logging into their services. Essentially, this allowed Google Apps users to use Zoho apps without any need to create a separate Zoho login. Even though it didn’t lead to any interoperability or integration between their applications, it clearly showed Zoho’s plan for a future with Google.
Today, Zoho takes the next step in their approach by announcing a tighter integration with Google Apps. Now, Google Docs is integrated with some of the Zoho applications like Zoho CRM, Zoho Mail and Zoho Projects. It is now possible to attach files directly from Google Docs into CRM, Mail and Project apps. It is also possible to upload files directly from Google Docs to Zoho Docs. Even though the latter appears to be a design to lure users out of Google Docs, the integration of Google Docs with the other Zoho products is a clear evidence that Zoho wants their users to use both their own apps and Google’s.
As an user (our company in India uses Google Apps and Zoho Business tools as a part of our workflow), I am excited by this integration. Like many other users of Google, I love Google Apps Email very much. We use Google Docs because it is deeply integrated with Google Email and the user base of Google Docs is much higher than other competing products. At the same time, Zoho’s business tools are one of the best in this category and extremely cost effective. So far, we were working with data silos due to the lack of any integration and we were using manual processes to overcome the fragmentation of our business data. This integration makes it much easier for us to use the best products from both these vendors. Instead of a buffet menu planned by the vendors, we could go À la carte based on what I want to consume than what the vendor wants to give me. I really hope Zoho continues to integrate much more deeply with Google and, also, other SaaS vendors. I also hope that other SaaS vendors take this approach towards an interoperable federated cloud ecosystem.
While I am on the topic of Zoho’s integration with Google Apps, I will also list out some of what I would like to see in the future. Again, these are my personal preferences and they are not indicative of Zoho’s plans.
- Deeper integration between Zoho CRM and Google Apps Email. Right now, it is possible to tap Zoho’s mail to do this but I would prefer a direct integration with Google Apps mail
- Integration between Zoho CRM calendar with both Google and Zoho Calendar
- Though this has nothing to do with the topic of integration and interoperability, I would like to have Zoho CRM as a mobile web application much like how Zoho Office Suite, Mail, Zoho Creator are done.
Overall, this is a great move by Zoho and it empowers the users by giving them more choices. Hopefully, as the cloud marketplace matures, we get to see more and more vendors participating in the integration and interoperability game.