Three weeks into his tenure at Google, Rajen Sheth -- a former Microsoft and EMC VMware employee -- met with Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Eric Schmidt to propose a way of turning Gmail into a business-class email system. And he was soundly rejected.
Today, Google Apps -- which began life as "Gmail For Your Domain" -- is giving Google a small foothold in the enterprise IT world, and sparking a fierce rivalry with Microsoft.
[ The InfoWorld Test Center's hands-on review: Does Office Web Apps actually work? And find out one IT admin's experience in switching from Exchange to Gmail. | Discover what's new in business applications with InfoWorld's Technology: Applications newsletter. ]
But in 2004, Sheth's early attempts to bring Gmail into the enterprise were stymied, as Google's trinity of leaders in Page, Brin, and Schmidt challenged him to come up with something better.
"At the time I was soundly rejected," Sheth said during an interview. "Because at the time we were proposing the idea of bringing Gmail into an appliance and have it be an on-premise solution for businesses. They rightly pointed out that we could do that, but we're not fully taking advantage of everything we have here at Google. And at that time, too, the idea of a cloud model was very much not on the minds of any CIO anywhere."
Even before joining Google, Sheth worked on some of the most well-known products in the IT landscape, both on the consumer and enterprise side.
In 1999 and 2000 he was a program manager for Hotmail, owned by Microsoft, where he led the effort to create Hotmail's first spam filter. The Stanford University graduate later spent a year at VMware, where he was product manager for VMware's ESX Server.
The storage company EMC purchased VMware in January 2004, and Sheth helped lead integration efforts between the two companies but ultimately left in July of that year to join Google's newly created enterprise division, where he is now the Google Apps senior product manager.