Crazy Idea: Don't Ignore Office 365, Google Apps

Crazy Idea: Don't Ignore Office 365, Google Apps

If you can't fight them -- join them? A growing number of MSPs and VARs seem to be finding cloud success promoting Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps to customers. And old arguments about thin SaaS profit margins and cloud customer billing models seem to quieting down. Why's that? Here's the update.

One-third of top VARs, MSPs and integrators focused on cloud computing say they offer Google Apps for Business and/or Google Apps for Government to their customers. Moreover, 30 percent of top channel partners focused on cloud computing promote Microsoft Office 365 to their customers. Those stats surfaced in our second-annual Talkin' Cloud 100 survey (formerly the Talkin' Cloud 50), which tracks the top cloud services providers (CSPs) and channel partners in cloud computing. (Complete results will surface May 16 during a webcast.)

Yes, low-cost SaaS applications and cloud partner programs continue to face some push back in the channel. But I think the debate is starting to quiet down. During last week's Kaseya Connect 2012 user conference in Las Vegas, Infinity Technology Solutions CEO Terry Hedden told attendees to stop worrying about cloud companies billing end-customers directly. Instead, he called on MSPs and VARs to focus on five alternative revenue models when selling Office 365.

Meanwhile, the ecosystem of Google Apps Authorized Resellers seems to be maturing quickly, especially in the government market -- where IT consulting firms and migration specialists like Onix Networking, Daston, and Tempus Nova keep winning more Google Apps deals involving state and federal government engagements.

I'm not suggesting MSPs and VARs "have" to support or promote Google Apps and Office 365. But you need to have an informed reply in mind when customers knock on your door asking about the cloud suites.

Just how well are Google Apps and Office 365 performing in the market? That's difficult to say since neither Microsoft nor Google actually describe their overall cloud revenues. But I think we'll get some more clues during the Google I/O conference (June 27-29, San Francisco) and Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC12, July 8-12, Toronto).

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