Google Inks First US Distribution Deal

The channel is about to get Googled.

Google has signed an agreement with Ingram Micro to distribute the Google Search Appliance (GSA), pictured at left, and Google Mini appliance. The deal marks the search behemoth's first foray into US distribution, opening the door for the broad solution provider population to partner with Google.

Google announced the deal in an entry by Rodrigo Vaca, channel marketing manager at Google, in the company's official Google Enterprise Blog.

To date, most of the appliances have been sold directly to end users, but Google needs to recruit solution providers to better penetrate the small-business and midsize markets, Vaca said in an interview with CRN.

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Thus far, Google has sold appliances to roughly 9,000 end user customers, Vaca said. Only a small handful of units have been sold through solution providers, he said.

"As big as Google has gotten as a company, we have been overwhelmed by customer demand," Vaca said. "It's still a hardware based product that needs that to be presented to customers in their own particular environment. The only way to scale to meet demand and keep up with growth is through [the channel]," Vaca said.

At, the Google Mini starts at about $2,000 for 50,000 documents and the GSA starts at $30,000 for 500,000 documents.

Google declined to say how many solution providers it hopes to attract now, or to detail terms and conditions, but it expects to build a comprehensive channel offering, Vaca said.

"I can tell you we are not hoping to attract 10,000 [VARs] overnight. But we want to cover the different [vertical] markets, geographies," he said. "Ingram is the obvious choice with their size and capabilities. We can reach new customers in a more effective way now."

Ingram Micro talked with Google for about nine months before reaching a deal, said Keith Bradley, president of Ingram Micro North America.

Solution providers don't need a formal certification to sell the Google appliances and Ingram Micro has technical and sales support staff trained to support VARs on the products, Bradley said.

"It plays as a nice addition to our midrange server/storage initiative. If a VAR is going in with search engine capability, with an idea for consolidation, they can use this tool to open that door at the end user," Bradley said.

Bradley said Ingram Micro was attracted to the appliances for the name as much as the technology. "It's pretty cool and it has the Google name. Anything associated with Google is cool and the fact that they're embracing the channel is positive news," he said.

NEXT: Solution providers react

Michael Cizmar, president of MC+A, a Chicago-based solution provider, has been selling the appliances for a couple of years and was happy to hear they'd be available through Ingram Micro and not through Dell, which OEMs the GSA on behalf of Google.

Google has been fairly channel-friendly over the last couple of years, but adding Ingram Micro gives it another layer of support and distance from Google's direct sales force, Cizmar said.

"They've been fairly channel friendly with the partners overall. Some [issues] have come up, but you remember that this is a program that is less than two years old. Your HPs, Microsofts, IBMs have 20 years worth of experience [in the channel]. There are some things that are great, and some things that are not fully vetted out," he said.

A full GSA solution can cost a couple hundred thousand dollars, Cizmar said. "We've worked with companies with 20,000 employees and Mom and Pop offerings," he said.

The products themselves have been attractive to customers, he said.

"It makes a compelling offer to companies that don't have the resources to otherwise take up implementing enterprise search. VARs should be interested," he said. "I think appliances are great for VARs because you can wrap everything into something that is tangible to sell. Say with [an] IBM [solution], the software alone is the cost of the GSA."

Google's move to the channel could spark up increased competition for solution providers between itself and Microsoft. The two companies have waged war in court recently over search capabilities integrated into Microsoft's Windows Vista operating system.

Two weeks ago, Microsoft agreed to modify Vista to address concerns that the OS did not leave room for competition from other desktop search applications. It's unclear whether that case will impact Google's attempts to woo solution providers.

Google has solution provider relationships in other parts of the world, including Australia and New Zealand, but the company had recently said nothing was imminent in the U.S. This morning, despite the cat out of the bag, the vendor's Google Mini Web page answered no to the question "Do you have a reseller program?"

Two months ago, Google's Kevin Smith, partner program manger for enterprise, told VAR Business that it had no plans to enhance its channel program much beyond its 100 or so partners in North America that it worked with directly.

"It's not a matter of numbers; it's a matter of success," Smith said at the time. "It's more about meeting the customers'' need for services than growing the number of solution providers."