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Google's "build it and they will come" business model has generated billions of dollars in ad revenue and profit for the search giant. But winning enterprise customers for its cloud-based suite of applications and services requires a lot more traditional outreach.
Like other big enterprise suppliers, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) has a direct sales force charged with winning new business. The company has also veered away from its online roots into traditional media to raise awareness, including a billboard campaign in major cities touting the benefits of Google Apps.
The latest move in Google's enterprise push is a conference for CIOs and IT executives called Atmosphere. The event is slated for Monday at the company's headquarters, nicknamed the Googleplex.
Google said the sold-out event will host 400 CIOs and IT executives and feature talks by various Google execs as well as some familiar speakers on the tech conference circuit.
"We hope to unite and challenge IT executives and thought leaders as we assess the impact of cloud computing and other emerging technologies on the way we all do business today and in the future," Google said in the invitation to the event.
The agenda includes a CIO panel of "Cloud Adopters" featuring execs from Genentech, Motorola Mobile Devices and MeadWestvaco and another session on the mobile Internet.
Other scheduled speakers include the CEO of Salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM), Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) CTO Werner Vogels and "Crossing the Chasm" author Geoffrey Moore.
Speakers from Google will include David Girouard, president of the company's enterprise group, Mario Queiroz, vice president of product management for Android, Marissa Mayer, vice president of search products and user experience and Chief Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf.
While Google and companies like Salesforce have had a number of big customer wins, cloud computing is still an emerging field, and many CIOs and IT departments are wary of moving key applications and company data off premise to a third party.
Google seemed to acknowledge the challenge cloud computing advocates face inside the enterprise in its promotion of the event.
"How does Google fit into your cloud strategy?" the invitation read. "Harnessing the power of the Internet to deliver innovative new applications can bring compelling advantages, but are you ready to be its champion inside your company?"
Analyst Charles King said that as an early proponent of the cloud, Google might have a more compelling story than more established vendors scrambling to hop on the trend.
"It's interesting to me that Google's stepping out and not so much pitching this at the product level [like] you'd expect from companies like HP, IBM, SAP and Oracle, but more from a practical level and the experience they bring to the table with how they run their own company," King, principal analyst with Pund-IT, told InternetNews.com.
"It's sort of a Martha Stewart approach to IT. She has her branded products but she's really about selling a lifestyle. Google's selling the cloud as a lifestyle and while they have their applications, they're also ready to have partners supply a lot of the other pieces," King said.
Cloud computing events are hot
On Tuesday, just a few miles away from Google's Silicon Valley headquarters, enterprise software giant SAP will be hosting an evening event it's calling Cloud Computing 2011.
The Churchill Club-sponsored gathering will feature a roundtable of speakers that includes Citrix CTO Simon Crosby,Gregory Smith, vice president of technical deal solution management at T-Systems, Roland Wartenberg, enterprise virtualization strategist at SAP Labs and Joe Weinman, AT&T's vice president of strategy and business development.