Recently at the SuiteCloud event (see disclosure) I attended a presentation looking at the NetSuite integration with Google apps. At the session a development company, Daston, showed off its custom built functionality that allowed for a one way creation of calendar and mail events hin NetSuite, from within Google applications.

I watched the demonstration and was waiting for the secret sauce… only it didn’t come. When the demo was over I couldn’t help myself and asked the presenter, Mark Hill from Daston if perhaps that wasn’t a half done (or less) solution and whether it wouldn’t make a whole lot more sense to simply embed Google calendars or mail within NetSuite. The developer’s answer? “Could we do that?”

I raised my eyebrows in the general direction of Scott McMullan who was presenting in his role of Enterprise Lead for Google Apps – McMullan diplomatically looked away – he knows me well enough to realize what I thought of that so-called “integration”. Anyway, McMullan proceeded to tell those present what the Google Apps Marketplace can mean for developers and end user customers – there were some good questions from the flow in relation to administration rights and data flows – nothing that regular readers of this blog would find surprising. McMullan did quietly admit that, despite being one of the launch partners for the marketplace over a month ago, NetSuite hadn’t actually yet finished its integration with the marketplace – a little depressing given the development that they have compared to other marketplace partners. Anyway…

Later on the NetSuite staffer responsible for the Google Apps Marketplace integration was discussing the roadmap for that project. All he could tell me was that “at this stage” the integration was for no more than the Single Sign On aspects of the marketplace.

I guess there’s a couple of aspects to all of this – firstly what is NetSuite’s rationale for being a part of the marketplace. Unfortunately is it was purely a marketing angle, they’ve missed the boat, it was the integrated partners on launch night who got the initial buzz of this product.

Secondly it would be interesting to know if NetSuite actually sees value for its customers in the marketplace – clearly it’s been moving up the food chain in recent months, looking for bigger customers as it does – the Google Marketplace is primarily a SMB play and hence potentially irrelevant to NetSuite’s target market, secondly it could even be seen as damaging for NetSuite to be aligned with a marketplace such as this – it may harm their enterprise image somewhat.

I put these questions to David Downing, CMO, NetSuite in particular the delay in getting the integration completed – his response was that “There’s no great mystery here.  We simply have other projects ahead of the Google integration and we will deliver support for OpenID-based single sign on in our next major release. 

He reiterated that both the calendar and mail integrations have been done through the Daston group, mentioning that they’re a NetSuite SuiteCloud partner. This raises a few questions about the forced loyalty that netSuite has to its partner organizations – I came away less than impressed by Daston’s implementation and am sure NetSuite themselves could do much better – but it’s not a good look to be eating your partner’s lunch.

It’s a really interesting tension – that of the end user experience, keeping partners happy and balancing internal development work. It’s an area that these new cloud players who are now embracing the channel fully, will need to contend with in the months ahead – under the on-premise model with it’s glacial rate of product innovation it wasn’t so much of an issue – today, the advent of web apps and broad APIs makes it a critical one.

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Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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