Google Compute Engine: New Cloud, New Competition for MSPs?

"What is your opinion of Google Compute Engine?" Some customers will likely start asking MSPs that question in the days and months ahead. Indeed, the new Google Compute Engine, an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) platform, launched this week during the Google I/O conference. In some ways, the new cloud service could be an opportunity for MSPs. In others, it's a competitive threat. But either way, you need to get educated about the new cloud service, which seeks to compete with Amazon Web Services and Windows Azure. So...

...let's start with the potential upside. Many of the world's top cloud integrators already offer Google Apps, according to Talkin' Cloud's Top 100 Cloud Services Providers research. For those channel partners, Google Compute Engine could be a natural location to host custom SaaS offerings that integrate with Google Apps.

Also of note: A growing number of Google channel partners are not caught up in the hunt for recurring revenues. Instead, those channel partners view project revenue coupled with custom integration services (across Google Apps) as their big revenue opportunities. Recurring revenue is simply a little gravy atop the meat-and-potatoes consulting engagement.

Direct Analysis

But Google also sells direct, and that means thousands of customers will likely embrace Google Compute Engine without the help of channel partners. Instead of focusing on Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) about Google, MSPs should shift their focus and look at the bigger playing field.

Yes, you can likely plug into big public IaaS offerings like Dell Cloud, Google Compute Engine, Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, HP Cloud and more. However, there's also the opportunity to investigate deeply channel-centric IaaS providers. In some cases, those IaaS companies are all channel, all the time.

Artisan Infrastructure, for instance, has an IaaS platform and has vowed never to sell direct to end-customers. Some software providers are certifying their platforms to run on Artisan. Examples include Asigra (cloud storage that MSPs manage on their own) and LevelCloud (which leverages OS33's platform). But ultimately, MSPs and VARs control which services they choose to deploy on Artisan's infrastructure, and those channel partners also fully control the end-customer relationship. "We're the safe haven and in some cases maybe the last best option for an MSP looking for a true partner and not a competitor," asserts Brian Hierholzer, president of Artisan.

Meanwhile, 6fusion is another IaaS-focused company that works closely with VARs and MSPs. Company insiders like Rob Bissett, VP of product management, have worked in and around the MSP community for more than a decade. 6fusion offers tools and technologies that allow MSPs to roll out vendor-agnostic IaaS services across multiple hypervisors and hardware infrastructures.

There are also signs that Rackspace continues to increase its channel partner investments for IaaS. The cloud services provider now has roughly 50 channel employees, including former channel leaders from Extreme Networks. Rackspace recently launched a Partner Leadership Council that includes such MSPs as CMIT Solutions. And channel partners influence roughly 30 percent of Rackspace's new bookings.

(Side note: Which IaaS providers did I overlook? I'm all ears. Post a comment or send email, joe [at] NineLivesMediaInc [dot] com).

Avoid FUD, Do Your Research

Even if you don't have a cloud strategy in place, you need to have some well-organized thoughts because big-name companies (Google, Amazon, Microsoft) continue to crank up the cloud noise.

Instead of spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) about the big cloud providers:
  • Spend a few dollars and set up accounts with a few of the giants to see the pros and cons for yourself.
  • Also, investigate cloud companies that claim they're betting entirely on channel partners. In some cases, those companies are privately held so it's difficult to measure their health -- but if you poke around enough you can get a feel for a company's funding, cash flow (positive? negative) and channel engagements.
With or without you, cloud giants (Google, Amazon, Microsoft, etc.) continue to educate would-be cloud customers. Don't get left out of the conversation.
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