Google To Boost Partner Training, Pairing In 2011

Google's cloud computing focused channel program has hit the 2,000 partner mark and now the search giant turned cloud colossus is looking to better prep partners for growth in the coming year as the Google Apps Authorized Reseller Program turns two.

One of Google's big channel pushes into 2011 will be to drive awareness and dispel misconceptions around cloud computing, said Jeff Ragusa, Google Apps SMB channel lead, adding that Google will bulk up its training offerings to keep partners up to speed.

Ragusa said Google will be more prescriptive in helping partners grow out their technology staff competencies and in how to sell the business value of cloud computing. Additionally, Google will focus on helping partners in the Google Apps Authorized Reseller Program grow out their consultative practices around Google Apps. The exact training options have not yet been revealed, but more details are expected in coming months.

"The big thing for partners, especially on the SMB side, is really creating this ongoing relationship [with customers]," he said. Some partners want to take the product and the ability to own it and can go out and attack the market, while other partners need a bit more hand-holding to gain traction. Ragusa said Google will plan a training regimen and tools around those types of partners to help them attack the cloud.

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Another focus for Google and its Apps channel program will be to better cross-pollinate between partners. Ragusa said that partner-to-partner peering will help Google's channel better attack the market by combining core competencies. For example, a reseller partnering with a software vendor that sells its application in the Google Apps Marketplace could go into customer engagements together to offer a full end-to-end offering.

"One plus one is greater than two," he said, adding that Google wants to be the facilitator of those partner relationships going forward.

Google has based its Google Apps Authorized Reseller Program around solution providers like VARs, MSPs, hosters and other types of partners looking to build out cloud practices maintaining and owning the customer relationship and bringing their customers into cloud computing. By owning the customer relationship, the VAR or reseller manages the billing, ordering, pricing and the support and is the primary contact for clients.

In roughly a year, Google amassed 1,000 partners, and eight months later hit the 2,000 mark. According to Ragusa, wider acceptance of cloud computing technologies coupled with Google's focus on awareness of its Google Apps offerings and its reseller program around them helped fuel that growth. Google CEO Eric Schmidt has said that partners and the channel are key to Google's overall strategy going forward.

Next: Partners Seeing Growth

Google's partner base is feeling growth too. Allen Falcon, CEO of Horizon Info Services, a Westborough, Mass.-based solution provider and Google partner, has said Horizon's Google Apps and Google Postini services focus propelled a 350 percent sales boost in the third quarter of 2010 versus the third quarter 2009.

And Cloud Sherpas, an Atlanta-based Google Apps reseller recently said that it has moved more than 600,000 enterprise users to the Google Apps platform and that Cloud Sherpas' software is in use at more than 8,000 companies, representing more than 1.5 million Google Apps users.

SADA Systems, another Google Apps reseller, predicts 90 percent growth this year and expects that to double in 2011 and double again in 2011. SADA CEO Tony Safoian said that growth is mostly due to Google Apps and Google's partner programs around it.

"This is the next step in the evolution of their businesses," Ragusa said of Google partners. "We provide a framework that makes them the trusted advisor."