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Why the Evernote Elephant Packed Its Trunk for Google Cloud

Mitch Wagner

Even an elephant isn't strong enough to take on the cloud all by itself.

Google scored a marquee win for its upstart enterprise cloud platform, as popular note-taking and productivity service Evernote -- whose logo is an elephant head because an elephant never forgets -- announced Tuesday it's moving its 200 million users to the Google Cloud Platform.

Evernote, founded in 2007, has owned, configured and maintained its own servers and networks, providing flexibility but at a cost, Evernote said on the company blog. The private cloud was "expensive to maintain, slow to upgrade, and difficult to scale," the company said. The current infrastructure also lacks the "speed and flexibility" for future growth.

"With Google Cloud Platform, Evernote will gain significant improvements in performance, security, efficiency, and scalability," claimed the company. "Moving to the cloud also allows us to focus time and resources on the things that matter most. For us, that means building the best home for your notes and giving you the tools to use them more effectively."

Evernote has an ambitious migration plan, beginning October 10, and completing in six to eight weeks, according to a FAQ on the Evernote website. In the short term, the only impact users will see are two "brief" outages, under 30 minutes each. In the long term, Evernote is looking to take advantage of Google services such as translation, photo management and voice search. Maintaining security was a top concern in the migration; Evernote believes Google Cloud Platform can match its current security. Also, Evernote will be able to add encryption for data at rest, which it does not now provide. The service does encrypt data in motion.

"Some of the world's most innovative brands, including Spotify, Snapchat, Coca-Cola and Philips already rely on Google Cloud Platform," Evernote says.

Data for Evernote will reside in the US, as it does now. The data now resides in two West Coast data centers, but will ultimately reside in two different data centers, one on the West Coast and one central, Evernote said.

Evernote users on the service's support forums expressed mixed feelings about the transition. "I don't trust Google. Never will. Therefore I will migrate to something else," says Evernote user "Marc_."

On the other hand, Evernote user "dbvirago" says, "This is a good move. It frees Evernote to do what it does better than most and lets Google handle the mundane task of keeping the servers plugged in."

Google has struggled to make inroads in the enterprise business, even though it's the second-largest company in the world by market cap. (Technically, it's Google parent Alphabet that has the market cap, but it's Google, through its search engine, that brings in the bucks.) The market leader in the cloud is Amazon Web Services Inc. (AWS), by a long shot, even though Amazon is significantly smaller than Google.

In November, Google tapped VMware co-founder and enterprise veteran Diane Greene to head up its cloud business, and Urs Hölzle, Google senior VP technical infrastructure, has said he expects the cloud business to overtake search revenue. (See Google: 'Dead Serious' About Enterprise Cloud.)

Evernote, as a high-profile cloud provider itself, will significantly help Google gain credibility and experience in the enterprise market.

It's not a secret, but it's not widely known either, that software-as-a-service (SaaS) cloud companies, like Evernote, take varying approaches to running their own infrastructure. Some do, and some rely on public cloud providers.

Take Dropbox, for example. It's a major Evernote competitor, but it takes a very different approach. While Evernote offers its own client app combining text editing, photo taking and storage, sharing, presentation, audio recording and more, Dropbox simply offers document storage and sharing. Nonetheless, they're often used in similar ways, and go head to head.

Dropbox took its cloud foundation in the opposite direction from Evernote, announcing in March that it's moving 90% of its users' data to its own infrastructure from AWS, although it says it will continue to partner with AWS.

Intuit, on the other hand, is moving from its own network of data centers to go all in on AWS. (See Intuit's Not Scared of Cloud Vendor Lock-In.)

Want to know more about the cloud? Visit Light Reading Enterprise Cloud.

The Evernote announcement has personal significance to me: I started using Evernote July 10, 2008, 16 days after its first public beta. (I may have even been using Evernote longer than that -- July 10, 2008 is when I started my Evernote account.) I've used it continuously since then, and although I go through long periods when I barely use it at all, I am currently using it to store all my research for Light Reading (including for this article) and a lot of personal information as well.

I also use Dropbox every day for file backup, syncing, and sharing, and my family uses Intuit software for personal finance.

And I use at least a half-dozen Google services every day, including Gmail, Google+, Google Photos, Google Apps and search.

So you might say I have a horse in this race.

Or an elephant.

— Mitch Wagner, Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editor, Light Reading Enterprise Cloud

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