Google's lightning charge into the enterprise market is intensifying an already-raging cloud war. And as the search engine giant attempts to redefine itself as a vendor of business products, it's increasingly poised to butt heads with more-established enterprise players, most notably longtime adversary Microsoft.
New business-oriented features, major partnerships and executive staffing moves at Google represent overtures to big business that President of Google Enterprise Amit Singh said "signal our second act."
"Enterprise is a big bet from the company," Singh told developers at the recent Google I/O conference.
The company's off to a strong start with 60 percent of the Fortune 500 paying it for at least some cloud-based enterprise solutions, according to Singh.
There's still plenty of room to grow, with Google's enterprise revenue accounting for less than five percent of its overall business. The company is still beholden to advertising as its main source of revenue and that's not likely to change anytime soon. Companies, including Apple, that have attempted to diversify their revenue streams have quickly discovered the tough consumer-to-enterprise transition can be a risky one, requiring more than technical talent.
Google's not shying away from the raging cloud war, which stands to put it in the path of more established players, including longtime adversary Microsoft.
But Google's successes in powering businesses could ultimately be decided in the channel.
Google signed more than 200 partners to its reseller program and hundreds more are coming through the pipeline, Brian Goldfarb, head of marketing for Google's cloud platform, told CRN.
"We're building up the partner ecosystem, and that's a huge focus on what we're doing," Goldfarb said. "Eighteen months ago it would have been a different conversation."
Goldfarb takes umbrage at the assertion that Google is new to the channel, pointing out that the company has thousands of existing enterprise partners spanning the globe for all its major businesses and strong relationships with global system integrators. Google, he said, is now "doubling down on the channel for Google Cloud Platform." This means ramping up investment in hiring channel-savvy employees, bringing breakthrough enterprise innovations to the market and working with partners to help them build successful enterprise practices.
In a SaaS market dominated by enterprise applications, Google doesn't crack the top five in 2013, according to International Data Corp.'s worldwide semiannual Public Cloud Services Tracker. Microsoft, meanwhile, sits in fifth place behind Salesforce.com, ADP, Intuit and Oracle. Even more vendors are introducing a slew of cloud offerings and slashing prices in order to compete, according to IDC.
For Google, success in siphoning market share from Microsoft will partly come down to partners and end users making nuts-and-bolts decisions, such as whether Google Apps offers a viable alternative to Office 365 for the enterprise.
But beyond basic product and technology choices, it comes down to a bigger question of philosophical alignment.
"Google is unique [because] we bring more than technology, we bring a structured view of transforming business culture," Goldfarb said, alluding to his company's famously divergent philosophy with its strong focus on innovation.
Opinions in the channel are particularly strong on both sides of the Google-Microsoft chasm.
NEXT: The Channel Weighs In