Google (news, site) is taking another step towards real competition with Microsoft in the productivity solutions department. They have announced Google Apps Directory Sync -- the ability to provision users and groups from your own internal directory services be it Active Directory, Lotus Domino or another LDAP solution with your Googe Apps accounts.

The Postini Connection

It has been a while since Google acquired Postini, a communications security and compliance company, for US$ 625 million. But it looks like they have finally found a good use for the technology.

Google Postini provides a number of email and archiving solutions in a SaaS model: 

  • Email Security
  • Email Archiving and Discovery
  • Web Security
  • Google Apps

Google Apps Directory Sync

With Google Apps Directory Sync, organizations can easily transition their users over to Google Apps. Instead of having to create Google accounts for your users, you can push user and group accounts from your existing LDAP server to the Google Apps account.

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Google Apps Directory Sync
 

This is a one-way push from your Directory Services to Google Apps -- you can't take Google Apps Accounts and push them into your Directory. This helps ensure the LDAP server is completely managed and controlled from within your organization.

There is a configuration wizard that helps you through the process of synchronizing and mapping your LDAP user list to your Google App users and groups. You can also do things like test your synchronizations and configure things like notifications, change limits and scheduled synchronizations.

The Google Apps Directory Sync runs as a utility in your server environment. This means that no server outside your network can access the Directory Services.

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Google Apps Directory Sync Architecture
 

Active Directory and Lotus Domino are both currently supported as are most generic Open LDAP servers. Novel Groupwise is not currently supported.

Google provides some good documentation on how the synchronization works if you aren't completely sure this is something you want to do.

A Bigger Challenger to MS Office?

Google Apps was already well on its way to challenging Microsoft Office in the enterprise. A number of educational institutes have already settled on Google Apps. The ability to sync with an internal Directory Service will very likely grab the attention of more enterprises who are looking for a solution that will enable their users to work in a cloud-based environment.

Add to this new capability their App Status Dashboard and we may just have a real competition for productivity software going on before our eyes.

Google Apps Directory Sync is available for Google Apps Premier Edition, Education Edition or Partner Edition.