Google Jan. 14 launched a reseller program to let technology providers sell and support its Google Apps Premier Edition suite of collaboration applications to other businesses, a sign that the cloud computing ecosystem is maturing in the enterprise.
The GAPE reseller program has actually been live for several quarters for 50 pilot partners, including IT company SADA Systems and technology solutions provider Revevol. But with more than 1 million businesses using Google applications, the search and SAAS (software as a service) vendor decided it was time to roll out the program for the business world at large.
For $50 per user, per year, GAPE includes Google Docs word processing, spreadsheet and presentation applications, Gmail, the Google Sites wiki, and Google Video for businesses applications. Google hosts these applications on its servers to save customers the costs and time associated with purchasing, configuring and maintaining hardware and software infrastructure.
Hundreds of thousands of businesses use GAPE as a complement or outright alternative to productivity software from Microsoft and IBM, which resides on users’ computers or company servers. The reseller program is an attempt to help Google extend its purview in SAAS, where Salesforce.com and thousands of nascent companies are looking to find their niche.
Stephen Cho, director of Google Apps Channels, told eWEEK that Google plans to serve resellers of any size, from small IT shops to the largest global systems integrators, offering U.S. resellers a 20 percent discount on GAPE.
This means resellers will have to pay Google $40 for every user they serve, but because resellers can set their own terms and bill customers directly, they can charge what they want above the $40 to make money.
Similar discounts will be offered to resellers in other geographies. Cho, who said Google looked at external vendors as well as its own Postini security applications reseller program as a model for the new program, explained:
“We just simply reached a point where we felt the product was sufficiently ready, the customer demand was officially there and we continued to hear more and more from partners who were working with us from the services side that they were ready to ramp up and engage with us.“
With training and support from Google, resellers will do their own marketing and product promotion, set their customers up and get them running on Google Apps.
Resellers may also bundle additional services and support with Google Apps, including user education and training and synchronization tools for e-mail and data migration, desktop and mobile clients, and interoperability.
To help with this, Google has created a portal for resellers that hosts business and technical information and online discussion groups. There are reseller tools for setting up business customers and provisioning and managing end users, as well as REST-based APIs to help resellers integrate with their intended customers.
Are Customers Ready for Googles Cloud?
To eliminate customer confusion and make it easier for resellers, Google is capping the number of people who can use its free Google Apps Standard Edition to 50 users per business.
The program will officially begin at the end of March, when potential resellers will be evaluated based on relevant experience and creditworthiness. Google is encouraging companies with “a strong SAAS orientation” to join.
Google’s reseller program is evidence that the cloud ecosystem is maturing somewhat, but industry analysts expressed cautious optimism about Google’s latest effort. Nucleus Research analyst Rebecca Wettemann told eWEEK:
“Cloud computing has been around for a while-what it hasn’t had is the ecosystem (developer environment, partner channel, resellers) to support enterprise adoption. What will be important moving forward is not just the partner announcement (Google announced Cap Gemini a long time ago) but enterprise adoption of partner solutions.“
AMR Research’s Jim Murphy told eWEEK that customers’ acceptance of Google as a “cloud platform” or in any sense a replacement for investments in IBM, BEA (Oracle), Oracle, or Microsoft is far from mature. “Enterprises for the most part see the cloud’s potential as a testing environment, but not as their software infrastructure on the whole,” he said.
However, Murphy noted that customer acceptance of Google Apps, as a suite of communications and collaboration applications, is far more mature than that of the other options. Murphy added:
“That doesn’t yet mean any great many wholesale replacements of Microsoft Office/Exchange or IBM/Lotus software, but it does mean there’s a lot of tire-kicking. The reseller program should ensure that Google converts some of the tire-kickers and reassures them about concerns over data protection, security and privacy.“
Murphy said he expects that the reseller program will succeed in converting enterprise customers in 2009 as the beginning of a much larger effort to develop an enterprise ecosystem, not just with reseller partners, but with system integrators and ISVs.