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.