Cumulus Global, A Google Apps Reseller Pioneer, Adds Microsoft Office 365 To Cloud Portfolio

Allen Falcon

Cumulus Global, one of the original Google Apps resellers and a Google Apps Premier partner, is expanding its cloud portfolio with Microsoft products, starting with Office 365.

"It's clear from a market perspective that Microsoft has or is close to closing the gap," said Cumulus Global founder and CEO Allen Falcon, who started helping companies migrate to Google Apps in 2006 before the search engine giant even had a channel program. "We definitely see a market shift and see those trends, so we decided this is the time to make that shift. "

Falcon said he sees broader opportunities for Westborough, Mass.-based Cumulus Global in the future partnering with Microsoft now instead of continuing to provide Google Apps alone.

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"I think Microsoft is rising," he said. "We are still seeing healthy year-over-year growth in our Google Apps business, but we see broader opportunities and additional opportunities by taking on Microsoft."

Falcon's decision to add Office 365 comes as Microsoft is gearing up its battle to win over Google Apps resellers and customers.

At the recent Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, Microsoft COO Kevin Turner told Microsoft partners that Google Apps customers need a life preserver. "We've got to rescue the rest of the Google Apps customers," he told attendees.

And although Falcon said he doesn't believe that any of Cumulus Global customers need to be "saved" from Google Apps, he did say that Microsoft has been actively recruiting Google Apps resellers across the country.

Falcon's decision to add Office 365 represents a turning point of sorts in office productivity suite market- share battle between the two companies.

Falcon said he decided to add Microsoft because he is seeing a demand from potential customers that already use Microsoft software. "We are seeing a shift in the market perception with respect to Google for Work and Office 365," he said, adding that Microsoft has really won him over in the past year.

"I was hesitant at the time," Falcon said about adding Office 365. But, he said, Microsoft has made ’great strides" in its operational reliability, the way it integrates, and in the product line itself.

Initially, Falcon said,"365's track record for reliability and integration was not the greatest" and he had concerns about Microsoft's other cloud offerings.

Falcon cited Microsoft's first attempt at cloud productivity applications, BPOS, which he described as a "pretty poor" attempt at cloud because of functionality shortcomings and continuous compatibility issues.

He added that, until recently, Office 365 didn’t "play equally on all platforms" and didn’t necessarily play equally with all versions of Microsoft Office.

However, he said during the past year he was surprised by the changes and improvements the company has put into Office 365.

"They really put together a very integrated offering across Office 365, Azure and even the Dynamics product line. That, I think, can be very beneficial to the small and midsize businesses that we serve, " Falcon said.

With these improvements, Falcon said, "Now we see it as a much more viable solution for a larger number of companies we interact with. "So, bringing it on natively as a platform Cumulus can resell and support just makes sense. "

Falcon said he does not yet know whether Google, Mountain View, Calif., or Microsoft, Redmond, Wash., will end up being a larger part of Cumulus Global’s business but that Google will definitely remain a part of it.

Between the two, Falcon said he expects he will make more on value-added services with Office 365 because Microsoft has created an offering with a greater number of integrated components than Google. Falcon said he is pleasantly surprised by the Azure infrastructure and how it is growing into a "pretty robust platform."

However, Falcon said he believes that spending per customer will average out between the Google and Microsoft platforms.

Falcon said Cumulus Global initially would focus on integrating Office 365 but quickly begin to work with Azure. At the moment, Cumulus Global is authorized to sell Surface tablets and other devices as well.

As a solution provider that can leverage both Google and Microsoft, Falcon said he sees opportunity in spaces such as K-12, where Chromebooks are popular for students but adoption has been slower for administration officials. Falcon said he believes Microsoft solutions developed for administrators in that space might serve the company’s customers better.

Although he is still in a planning phase, Falcon said Cumulus Global is developing plans for how to position the two vendors’ cloud apps for customers that are greenfield opportunities. However, he believes that by asking the customer about its business the best solutions will present themselves.

At the end of the day, Falcon said, he is focused on growing his business. "We will let the customers lead us in the strategy we are taking," he said. "In a sense we will be more agnostic than ever now."