Google Cloud Services Game Changer: Partners Can Now Hold The Paper

Google on Wednesday took a significant step forward with its cloud platform channel by introducing a means for partners to become true resellers -- doing the billing and holding the sales "paper" rather than merely acting as agents.

The Internet giant -- embroiled in a hyper-scale cloud war with Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure -- responded to channel demand for greater control of billing and management with a new reseller model and a supporting console intended to enable partners to truly own their clients and bundle their own services with Google's cloud services. The blockbuster change paves the way for partners to move beyond acting as agents and claim far greater control over their relationships with customer.

Tony Safoian, CEO of SADA Systems, a Google partner based in Los Angeles, No. 385 on the CRN 2015 Solution Provider 500, said the new Google sales model and the console combined create a long-awaited opportunity for partners to bundle different cloud services -- those from Google and other vendors -- and to add value to those packages.

[Related: All That Google Touches Is Not Gold: Channel Partners Jump To Microsoft]

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"When you can't manage the console directly, you can't really bundle other cloud services, and that's really critical for us," Safoian told CRN. With the console, "we can bundle a bunch of stuff together, make it transparent to the customer. Then we're up and running."

Chris Rimer, who runs the Google Cloud Platform team for the Americas, told CRN the console will empower partners to grow their cloud-centric businesses.

"This is an important next step for our partner program," Rimer told CRN.

Google is the second major cloud platform provider to change its channel sales model to move partners from agents to resellers. Verizon Enterprise Services two weeks ago unveiled a new program that will enable its more than 1,000 partners to capture sales of cloud and telecommunications services.

Cloud Platform encompasses Compute Engine and App Engine -- Google's IaaS and PaaS offerings -- as well as some other services like Big Query and Storage.

Its Services partners run the gamut from regional system integrators to global giants like PricewaterhouseCoopers. Google has hundreds of Services partners, a number it has intentionally restrained from reaching the thousands by having "a well-articulated bar" that partners must meet, Rimer told CRN.

"Up until today, we have not offered the reseller functionality as an option to our Services partners," Rimer said. "Today, our best Services partners work hand in hand with Google, but that customer will be on Google paper."

The reseller console provides a mechanism to help solution providers build cloud businesses. It represents an evolution in Google's channel -- one that is open to experimentation and innovation because the search engine pioneer doesn't have to contend with a legacy channel, Rimer told CRN.

The new approach will enable partners to provide the first line of support for customers, Rimer said. They can take full control of onboarding, implementation and billing, and even have, for the first time, the option to use their local currency if they choose.

Partners interested in tapping those capabilities can now apply for the program. They'll find out if they've been accepted in the early fall, according to Google.

"We're just enabling this option for those Services partners that have demonstrated an appropriate skill set with service delivery, they have good credit capacity to bear that risk, they have good proficiency of our products to understand what it takes to be a good representative of the Google value proposition," Rimer said.

He added that Google's sales team "is incentivized to transfer that type of responsibility to our partners."

A limited number of partners have been secretly beta testing the console in different geographic regions "to ensure the functionality is ready for our broader ecosystem," Rimer said.

The reseller tool also give partners much greater visibility into what their customers are doing in the cloud, enabling them to collect data that assists them in offering informed suggestions for best practices and driving larger deals.

"If we can see exactly what they're consuming, and in some cases set the price, we can create our own SKUs, which bundle our unique services along with others," Safoian told CRN. "We can have direct access to what they're using and consuming, and if they're not using [services], we can find out why."

The reseller console also facilitates "a single unified bill and single point of contact for all things Google Cloud Platform," Safoian said. That's a great segue into conversations about further consulting or systems integration services, he said.