Cloud Sherpas Develops Software Extensions For Google Apps


Some IT departments, especially within larger companies, need more management functionality than the limited capabilities built into Google Apps, said Michael Cohn, Cloud Sherpas founder and CEO, in an interview.

"We've learned about what customers need and where the gaps are," he said.

SherpaTools for Google Apps, for example, provides directory management capabilities that help IT administrators manage end-user profiles and settings, shared contacts and groups. An administrator can create subsets of users and push Gmail and calendar settings out to them.

An additional module lets users query the central directory through mobile devices.

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SherpaTools for Google Apps is a multi-tenant, on-demand application that's developed on the Google App Engine and delivered as a service, Cohn said. He contrasted that with other Google Apps add-ons that must be downloaded and installed.

Cloud Sherpas is currently offering SherpaTools for Google Apps as a free download while the product is in beta. Eventually the company will offer a free version of the product and a premium version for which the company will charge a subscription fee, Cohn said.

Cloud Sherpas, founded two years ago, sees itself as something of a model for the evolution of the channel as cloud computing becomes more widely adopted. In addition to reselling Google Apps (the company was among the first to join Google's channel partner program that launched one year ago) and providing add-on software, Cloud Sherpas provides a range of implementation, configuration, migration, training, change-management, custom development and post-deployment support services around Google Apps, the Google Apps Engine and the Google Postini e-mail security and compliance service.

The margins Cloud Sherpas earns from reselling Google Apps to mid-size and large companies provide an ongoing revenue stream while the add-on products and services add to the company's growth potential.

"This whole concept of the channel becoming the Channel 2.0 is something we embraced two years ago," Cohn said. "I do think this is a model, not only for the channel, but for the vendors when they are setting up their channel programs."

Cloud Sherpas owns the relationship with its customers, Cohn said. The company holds the contract with the customers and Google bills Cloud Sherpas for the application services.

Cloud Sherpas has migrated "tens of thousands" of users from IBM Lotus Notes, Novell Groupwise and Microsoft Exchange to Google Apps, according to Cohn. "We're really excited about the potential of Google as a platform. The market opportunity is huge."