R. Fink | Google looks for help in carrying the mail

The Packet Rat

Packet Rat

Illustration by Michael J. Bechetti

The Rat gets about 1,900 e-mails a day ' just on his work account. And it seems like 80 percent of it these days is spam. Or at least, that's how his filter labels it. So every morning, he goes through his junk folder to make sure nothing important got intelligently routed into File 13.

And there, ironically, he found the announcement that Google was buying e-mail services company Postini. 'Apparently, for Google,' the Rat chuckled as he checked his spam filters recently, 'the check is in the mail.'

On the eve of Microsoft's annual partner conference in Denver, Google announced that it had acquired Postini, an e-mail filtering and security company with technology that enforces e-mail policies. The move fires speculation that Google plans to turn its Google Apps Web-based software into a real enterprise competitor to Microsoft's Exchange.

'I, for one, welcome our new boy genius overlords,' the whiskered one's e-mail administrator said, eyes rolling. 'Like we're ever going to let someone host our e-mail as a service.'

'Well, there are some small agencies hosting Exchange with service providers right now,' the Rat replied with a wink. 'The Defense Information Systems Agency has that software-as-a-service arrangement with IBM, and then there's Treasury's Federal Consulting Group.'

The admin blinked.

Of course, just buying Postini may get Google a lot of pre-existing customers in the mail policy and filtering business, but it doesn't guarantee that Google Apps will get anywhere with enterprise services ' let alone the government. Given how much savvy the Googlezons showed on their most recent swings through Washington ' such as when they got the cold shoulder last year lobbying for net neutrality ' they'll need all the help they can get.

'And maybe that's what this whole Postini thing is about,' the cyberrodent smiled. 'To get into the government, you need partners. And Postini has partners.'

Microsoft already has plenty of those, which was evident at the gathering in Denver. In fact, if anyone knows the value of partners, it's Microsoft ' whose Exchange platform was basically designed as a delivery platform for third-party add-ons. 'Especially if you consider viruses and spam to be 'third-party add-ons,'' snickered the Rat.

And that point may have been driven home a little more loudly in Redmond, Wash., recently, as the company announced it was setting aside more than $1 billion to deal with replacing flawed XBox consoles ' Microsoft's biggest foray into hardware yet ' which has been suffering from a nearly 50 percent failure rate, by some estimates.

Google, meanwhile, has partnered with consultants and integrators to deliver its enterprise search engine products. And it partnered with Dell to build search appliance hardware. But the wirebiter figures Google will need to find a whole new class of partners to get its software-as-a-service offerings in the door with government customers ' a door Postini has already figured out how to open.

'Don't worry,' the Rat said, patting his e-mail admin on the head. 'I'm sure there's a place for you in the new Google hegemony. Maybe you can screen Larry Page's e-mail for him.'

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