Google's Partner Program Looks to Get More Businesses Into the Cloud

NEWS ANALYSIS: For businesses looking to jump into cloud computing options, Google is offering a new partner program to make it easier. This new offering also looks to make Google more competitive with Microsoft and others.

To help business clients discover all of Google's available cloud services, the search giant this week unveiled its new Google Cloud Platform Partner Program to bring consultants and vendors together to help customers learn how the cloud can help them.

And that, according to analysts, will be a good way for companies from small to large to really explore all that the cloud might have to offer them, without having to do the research, planning and configuring on their own.

"Clearly there's a huge horse race underway for many of the large cloud and enterprise vendors who have been staking out their market shares in this huge cloud opportunity for the enterprise," said Dana Gardner, principal analyst with Interarbor Solutions. "We've seen lots of movement in this direction from traditional enterprise vendors toward the cloud and from traditional Web services portals and SaaS providers, too. So here we have Google recognizing that the cloud is not just a self-service application over the Internet to get the job done, but that customers do need to have good service and support."

The new Google Cloud Platform Partner Program, unveiled July 24, enables service and technology partners to work with Google to provide services for and extend the functionality of Google€™s Cloud Platform suite of products. The service partners will provide consulting and implementation services for Google Cloud Platform products, such as Google App Engine, Google Compute Engine, BigQuery and Google Cloud Storage.

Google announced the program in a blog post that aims to show potential customers how they can take advantage of the same huge infrastructure that powers the search company.

The benefit of the partner program for businesses, said Gardner, is that it can really help companies €“ from small businesses all the way up to large enterprises €“ get expert help to learn how they can use the cloud to their advantage. The cloud is complex and companies are well-advised to get help before just jumping in, he said.

"You can have the best technology in the world but in order to effectively enter the enterprise marketplace you always need to have a service and support channel and a full-service life-cycle approach to doing business," said Gardner. "This is also the established pattern of how these larger companies do business €“ they look for help when moving to new technologies. The way IT is done in enterprises is through an ecosystem, where there are a variety of partners each doing their part."

The creation of the partner program also marks another big step for Google as it seeks new revenue streams beyond advertising and search. It also puts Google on the same footing as Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and IBM, which have long-established partner programs for their various services.

"This is just another indication that Google is moving from the consumer space and into the enterprise," said Gardner.

At the same time, said Dan Kusnetzky, principal analyst with The Kusnetzky Group, business IT leaders need to do their due diligence when looking at cloud providers and their partner programs to ensure that their stored corporate data is not used without their knowledge.

The issue, particularly with Google, is that the company's terms of use allow it to copy, analyze and re-use data generically so it can pull up targeted ads based on the content, said Kusnetzky. By analyzing the content stored in Google applications, that's how the company can make product suggestions that are aimed at users through its cloud-based services, he said.

"How else do they provide advertisements in your Gmail email account?" said Kusnetzky. "They do it anonymously, but they still are analyzing your information. I certainly can understand Google€™s desire to get its collective hands on corporate data. It potentially could be a gold mine for their marketing efforts. I€™m not sure, on the other hand, that subjecting my company€™s proprietary data to Google€™s storage, analysis and re-use is in the company€™s best interest."

Kusnetzky said he's not recommending that businesses avoid Google's cloud services altogether, but that they know what they are buying.

"As a business executive, I would be very careful to examine very closely the terms and conditions Google places on the use of their products,€ Kusnetzky warned. €œIf Google is asserting the right to copy, analyze and re-use corporate information as part of their marketing efforts, I would avoid the use of Google€™s tools and use tools offered by others that do not have those types of conditions of use."