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Jaguar stumbles on stairway to Google cloud

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In October, Google rolled out UK vehicle maker Jaguar Land Rover as a corporate poster child for the much-debated switch to Google Apps, its Microsoft-battling suite of web-based businessware. But according to employees, Jaguar's initial migration from Microsoft Exchange to the so-called Google cloud didn't quite go as planned.

The company began the switch from Exchange over the weekend, and according to multiple sources inside Jaguar, many of the company's employees were without email, calendar, and other apps for most of Monday, after a delay in the migration of data to Google's machines and a problem with Jaguar's internal authentication servers.

It would appear the problem was in no way caused by Google. But as the press continues to paint this sort of switch as the very picture of ease and simplicity, it's worth remembering that no IT project should be mistaken for magic - and that when you migrate to the, um, cloud, internal infrastructure still plays its role.

One Jaguar employee estimates that about 90 per cent of the company's 15,000 employees went without email for the entire day. They were unable to use Gmail and their Exchange accounts had been switched off.

Jaguar says the problems affected closer to 3 per cent of users. But a second employee gives much the same numbers as the first, adding that all but three or four of the 40 employees in his particular office went without email all day and that a second office - in a completely separate location - reported similar numbers.

"If you were in early and authenticated against SSO and stayed logged in to GoogleMail then you were OK until you logged out again. Once everyone got in to work at 8am, you had no chance unless you were very lucky and got in, nobody in my office managed that until around 4PM," he says.

According to this employee, Jaguar IT said that 7,000 accounts had not been transferred by the time the company opened for business yesterday morning. As the company struggled to move these accounts to Google servers, the employee says, the resulting load on the corporate network left most employees without general web access as well. "We couldn't even do a search on Google," he tells The Reg.

A message posted to Jaguar's "GoGoogle" intranet site is quite clear that the issues were not caused by Google. "We are aware of the ongoing issues with access. We want you to know that this is NOT the Google service but is the internal security authentication server within JLR. Our network team are working to resolve this issue," reads an FAQ, under the heading: "I can't access Gmail, the screen says I have a Network connection issue."

The site also says: "The time for users to log into Google was slow this morning (Dec 7th). We are investigating this issue with our network team, IBM and AT&T and will resolve the problem...Meanwhile, once you log in to Google, Please leave your Google mail open, as this will minimise the load on the authentication servers."

A company spokesperson tells The Reg it was "definitely not the case" that 90 per cent of users were without email yesterday. "As of yesterday morning, we were up and running and definitely operational," he said. He says that only 3 per cent of the company had problems yesterday and that about the same percentage are experiencing difficulties today.

The spokesperson referred to the problems as "the usual niggles" that occur with this sort of migration. He said that several thousand emails were sent through the company's system yesterday morning. He also acknowledged there were delays in migrating user accounts.

According to one employee, access was still iffy for some users on Tuesday, but things have improved. He says that although Jaguar IT has now added extra servers and bandwidth, "Google are taking a long time to request the token from our SSO server once someone tries to connect."

The promise of so-called cloud computing is that your internal IT infrastructure vanishes. But in this case, sources say, Jaguar is actually adding servers and bandwidth. This may or may not be a short term fix. But let’s all acknowledge that the cloud switch is more complex than some would lead us to believe. ®

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