I've always seen Google Apps as a SOHO sort of tool, but it seems that Google may have designs on larger businesses after all. Google Apps can now be linked with corporate data behind the firewall, through the Google Secure Data Connector. the tool allows developers to create applications that allow various Google Apps to access corporate databases.
Secure Data Connector is just one of multiple enhancements to the Google App Engine that were announced this week. For SaaS applications like Google Apps to take hold in larger businesses, there must be tight integration between the apps and internal corporate systems. The connector and other enhancements now suddenly make Google Apps a lot more attractive as a practical business tool, and possibly even as a viable alternative to traditional productivity suites. Several software vendors have already indicated support and integration with the technology, including Oracle. Oracle's Siebel software will now be able to interact with Google Apps.
According to Google's latest comments on the connector, "Secure Data Connector aims to solve the firewall-traversal problem bridging Google's applications with our customer's network to give our end users the experience of using a desktop application, but with all the benefits the cloud brings."
Google Apps was a sexy set of services when it first appeared, but its appeal to the enterprise was limited. The Secure Data Connector is a piece of back-end code that won't make a lot of front-page news, but it may be the final piece of the puzzle that allows Google to hit a home run with Google Apps.