Without better partner skills, Google can't compete in the cloud

What's stopping the third-largest public cloud company from becoming No. 1? Partners.
Written by Jason Perlow, Senior Contributing Writer

Video: How to pick your cloud partner with confidence

I've been getting my Google back on this week.

I had the opportunity to attend the Google Cloud Platform OnBoard in Tampa this week. Also, I just got my Pixel 2, which -- despite the issues with its larger sibling -- I think is a great device.

This all has me thinking about the future aspirations of Google as it pertains to its overall market strategy for both cloud and mobile.

The event, which was geared toward attracting developers to its cloud, was successful in that it was held at the Tampa Hilton and at least 400 people attended.

If one of these comes to your area and you have the opportunity to attend, I encourage you to do so. There's a lot of good content and these types of events are particularly effective venues for networking purposes and finding out what other companies are doing in this space.

I like Google's cloud because I think it has excellent technology and has tremendous infrastructure that it is very good at running. It has, according to Google's own claims, a $10 billion per year budget on data center buildout. That's on par with what Microsoft is investing in Azure. That's a heck of an investment and a lot to like.

But working with partners? Not so much.

We can get into all sorts of semantics from a technical perspective why one public cloud provider has specific advantages over another, whether it is Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Oracle, or anyone else.

And while you can make architectural decisions about your application and which of these providers to develop your cloud-hosted solution for based on technical merits alone, technical merits aren't everything if you are trying to make money as a cloud-based services provider.

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Whether you are implementing solutions for other companies performing systems integration and managed services work or you have SaaS you want to sell, having a good partner relationship with your cloud provider is essential.

Google indeed got a lot of developers at its event. But something important was missing: Partner program representation.

For such a well-attended event, only two people from sales showed up. And neither was really prepared to talk about why Google was a better public cloud to partner with as opposed to AWS or Azure.

Had this been a Microsoft event, there would have been an entire booth to sign people up for the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program. And AWS, while not as partner-centric as Microsoft, has a Partner Network program, and at every single AWS event I have been to, this has been a fairly important focus for the company, especially since Microsoft has walked up to the plate with CSP.

Why are partner programs important if you are selling managed cloud services? Because you want technical enablement, increased levels of business support (especially business improvement funds, or BIF), and sales and marketing enablement.

As a partner you also need access to tools and reporting so that when you design multi-tenant or cloud hosted solutions, you can actually bill out the consumption correctly.

That is at a very basic level. And if you are going to make commitments for consumption, then the cloud provider needs to make it sweeter for you as a partner if you are going to stick by them, because all this stuff is becoming heavily commoditized.

Right now, Google Cloud Platform's partner program is barebones compared to its competitors.

As a systems integrator, I have been -- and continue to be -- involved in building cloud consulting practices at various firms. Personally, I do not see a huge advantage in doing business with Google versus Amazon or Microsoft Azure, regardless of their cloud's technical merits. (And there are a lot of shortcomings unless you are building "born in the cloud" types of stuff, which Google is good at).

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Google's approach to building out its cloud in terms of partner offerings is: "Build the apps, we'll put you in the store, you'll do awesome."

Building out developer interest is essential -- and, yes, you need an app catalog that customers can just point and click and self-service your solution, especially if you are building SaaS. But that's only a part of having a partner relationship with a cloud provider.

I see no evidence, for example, that Google has dedicated solution sellers within its organization willing to actually co-sell partner-created solutions that run on Cloud Platform.

I know for a fact that Microsoft is going to launch shortly a huge partner solutions catalog -- a catalog to which all 15,000 of its internal solution sellers will have access, and which these sellers will be highly incentivized to sell to Microsoft's customers.

I don't know about AWS, but I have to expect it will do something similar.

To me, leveraging your public cloud provider as a large extension of your salesforce to help bring you business and close business is incredibly powerful and is a huge motivator.

"Build your apps and they will come" is not.

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