Google’s moving more and more into the enterprise, and with that shift, some changes in its channel program are coming.
I’ve been trying for a few weeks now to set up an interview with Google about its channel strategy. Today I spoke briefly with Andrew Kovacs, a communications manager at Google, and he told me, “We’re currently in the process of sort of re-examining our channel program.”
He then took the rest of our conversation off the record as he explained to me when Google will be able to talk about its channel program again. I can’t disclose that, but I can say it will be sooner rather than later.
Google’s Web site lists several dozen channel partners in the enterprise search market, about a dozen Google Apps partners and three Google Enterprise geospatial partners who do integration work with Google Earth. But as the Mountain View crew expands into the enterprise with Google Docs offline, the Google Apps Engine and a possible enterprise email appliance, it may need to rely more on channel partners to reach new customers.
Of course, company execs could also decide to rely on their strength in online services and go direct. Either method will have big consequences for the channel, so we’ll just have to wait to hear what Google has to say, when it’s ready to be said.
We’ve been awaiting big enterprise news from Google for a few weeks now, and last night we finally got some.
The Google App Engine is a free, hosted Web development platform that will let businesses and organizations build and run Web applications on Google infrastructure. It’s being mentioned in the, ahem, blogosphere (I hate using that word) as new competition for Amazon Web Services (AWS) and even Salesforce.com. But there’s some skepticism, too.
GigaOM’s Stacey Higginbotham notes that making the Google App Engine available for free “will come at a cost to Google in terms of its margins. … It also will have a ways to go before it can compete with the 330,000 developers Amazon says are using its Web Services as of January.”
One of her readers, “Chetan,” doesn’t think that will ever happen: “Amazon is an equally tough company when it comes to technology. They hold a dozen patents on AWS and they’ll punch in Google’s face if required.”
At first, the Google App Engine will utilize only the Python programming language. (That’s what Google uses internally.) Developers responding to TechCrunch’s coverage of the announcement say the Python-only restriction will hinder the platform’s growth. One reader, “Tom,” even comes up with this slogan for the Google App Engine: “Geocities 2.0, now with Python!” Ouch.
Our coverage of Google’s major, impending announcement focused on rumors of an on-premise email appliance that would compete with Microsoft Exchange. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see when and if that comes to fruition. For now, the Mountain View crew is still focusing on its bread and butter, the online services market.
But fear not, the Microsoft vs. Google angle is still alive and well. Author Nicholas Carr ends his blog post on the Google App Engine with two simple words: “Where’s Microsoft?”
And Mary Jo Foley, who’s not into the whole brevity thing, devotes an entire post to answering that question. She points out that the Google App Engine may compete with Microsoft’s SQL Server Data Services — if Microsoft ever gets around to explaining exactly what that is. Microsoft is also working on BizTalk Services and has a beta version of its Synchronization Framework, which could also tie into their anti-Google strategy.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has given Yahoo’s board three weeks to accept Microsoft’s $31 per share buyout offer. If Yahoo still does not move, he said Microsoft will put the offer in front of Yahoo shareholders and initiate a proxy fight. He also intimated that Microsoft might revise its $40 billion bid. Downward.
Money quote from Ballmer’s letter dated April 5:
“The substantial premium reflected in our initial proposal anticipated a friendly transaction with you. If we are forced to take an offer directly to your shareholders, that action will have an undesirable impact on the value of your company from our perspective which will be reflected in the terms of our proposal.”
Barbara Darrow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Say what you will about VMware, but they sure aren’t shy when it comes to publicly taking on the competition. Whether it’s an employee attacking Citrix on his personal blog or sales memos that try to drive a wedge between Microsoft and Citrix, the server virtualization market share leader doesn’t pull too many punches.
The latest example comes from Virtual Reality, the corporate blog VMware set up just to defend itself from bad publicity — or, as they call it, “set the record straight.” Its new post comes from VMware’s Mark Chuang, who criticizes Microsoft for distributing a Yankee Group report that doesn’t exactly paint VMware in the best light.
The reason the report is unflattering to VMware? Because much of it was innacurate, according to Chuang — so much so, he says, that Yankee Group agreed to publish a revision and removed the original from its website.
That hasn’t stopped the ever opportunistic Microsoft from spreading the report around, most recently in a virtualization newsletter this week, Chuang says. He also accuses Microsoft of continuing to distribute the report despite a request from Yankee Group to stop.
It will be interesting to see if Microsoft keeps drawing attention to the report and, if so, what action VMware takes to stop them.
SAP named Leo Apotheker co-CEO Wednesday. He will share CEO-ing duties with Henning Kagermann until the latter leaves the company next year.
Apotheker had been deputy CEO. Kagermann’s contract expires in 2009 and he said today he will leave at that time.
In the second half of 2008 “Leo and the new team will be the ones who will do the budget and start thinking beyond 2010,” Kagermann told reporters on a conference call Wednesday.
In a prepared statement, SAP co-founder and supervisory board chairman Hasso Plattner said Kagermann had requested Apotheker’s appointment.
SAP also named its very first COO by promoting Erwin Gunst to that post. Gunst had been president of the company’s Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region.
The moves were decided by SAP’s supervisory board, which also appointed Gunst, Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe corporate officers effective July 1.
SAP is the ERP software leader, but faces big challenges as it tries to navigate from being an enterprise-only provider to wooing and winning smaller accounts. There it relies on its five-year old PartnerEdge program to penetrate accounts that would normally not hit its radar. In coming down market, SAP now must compete with erstwhile ally Microsoft for those smaller accounts
It also faces a lawsuit filed by Oracle over SAP’s TomorrowNow Unit’s business practices. Worse, a major customer, Waste Management Inc., has sued SAP calling the company’s $100 million software implementation in its shop a “complete failure.”
This is not the kind of press any company wants, especially in a tight economy.
Some interesting tidbits from today’s call: Apotheker said the company will continue its move into the mass market. “It’s our intention to move more and more into the volume business.” Hmmm. Volume. Isn’t that Microsoft’s mantra? Interesting…
Apotheker was asked whether SAP would step up its marketing rhetoric even as Oracle CEO Larry Ellison appears to be dialing down his. The reporter referred to a recent call in which Ellison barely crowed about Oracle’s BEA Systems acquisition. Apotheker appeared to shrug it off: “As to Larry keeping quiet in a conference call, maybe he had a sore throat.”
Barbara Darrow can be reached at email@example.com.
I couldn’t bring myself to write about this survey on April 1, because I figured you’d think I was pulling your leg. Although those who DO know me know that I am pretty much incapable of lying (my face gives me away) and am generally a very unfunny person (at least intentionally).
But, here we are on April 2, and it’s safe now, so here goes.
I was briefed late last week on some research that was conducted by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council and sponsored by Blueroads (the company that does one of the partner relationship management portals). The data, which the CMO Council is calling a scorecard, includes responses from pretty much anyone you would consider a reseller or a dealer. It doesn’t just represent the high-tech channel that has been my obsession for the past 18 years, it also covers businesses that represent consumer electronics or audio-visual equipment.
So, ready? Here are some of the high-level findings:
- Fewer than 7 percent of the 500 respondents said vendors are their most valuable source of sales leads
- And, only 19 percent of these folks said those leaders were “highly actionable”
- Approximately 70 percent said vendor marketing campaigns were either “ineffective” or “only somewhat effective” in driving their business
- About half engaged in any kind of cooperative selling
“We’ve got this significant issue of lack of trust, lack of valued process between vendors and their channel,” said Dave Murray, executive manager of the CMO Council.
Do you sense a trend here? And, are you really surprised by the results? Honestly, I wasn’t shocked, and neither was Craig Downing, director of product marketing and demand generation for Blueroads. “The punchline here is that overwhelmingly, the partners say that customer referrals are their most valued source of business opportunities,” Downing said.
After all, what most vendors forget over and over again, is that most solutions-focused VARs MUST work with a slate of high-tech suppliers in order to serve their customers best. Even resellers that could be considered “exclusive” need to find great applications and infrastructure products to complement their main offering — whether they are offered in partnership with another reseller or ISV or whether they are part of the first VAR’s product suite.
Do I think vendor marketing teams could do a better job? Sure, but I think the best tools that any channel marketing team could provide are the research and solutions arguments to help their channel partners talk to prospective customers in terms they’re more likely to understand. The days of brochureware are fast fading. What this survey does point up in vivid terms, however, is the vital role that marketing plays in channel relations. So, ask yourself, do your key high-tech suppliers worrying about flashing corporate branding campaigns and the next Super Bowl commercial? Or are they focused on extending your own marketing resources, with the focus on customer-facing conversations?
Heather Clancy is a high-tech business journalist and channel communications strategist with SWOT Management Group. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Microsoft vs. Google battle has officially expanded to the desktop. Google Docs — albeit an extremely limited version — is now available offline.
With the Google Gears browser extension, users can now edit and save their documents locally when they don’t have an Internet connection. Then when they reconnect, their local information automatically syncs with Google’s online servers.
Google’s offline move comes as Microsoft continues to make more of its software available as online services. The big question about Microsoft is if the company truly understands the online market, but the same must be asked about Google and the traditional, on-premise software market.
For example, only Google Docs’ word processing documents will be available offline — not its spreadsheets or presentations. Tucker also admits that users will “sacrifice some features” when using the offline version. And these limitations will likely keep Google Docs offline from being a serious Microsoft Office competitor for the time being.
Hewlett-Packard yesterday began shipping VMware’s ESX 3i hypervisor embedded in its ProLiant servers.
After news broke last month that Dell may give away the ESX 3i for free with its servers, VMware resellers began to fear that other VMware OEM partners would follow suit — essentially killing their business in ESX 3i sales. But that isn’t happening in HP’s case, as virtualization.info reports that the company will charge $495 extra for servers with the ESX 3i.
All of VMware’s OEM partners should begin shipping servers with the ESX 3i sometime this month, and it will be interesting to see if the others follow Dell’s strategy or HP’s. Microsoft’s Hyper-V also hits the market later this year, and that release should have a major effect on VMware’s ESX 3i pricing as well. Microsoft plans to charge just $28 extra for Windows Server 2008 editions that feature Hyper-V.
April Fools Day gives reporters a chance to write the faux headlines they would like to craft but can’t. At least for real
Here are the top creations from the SearchITChannel staff.
Gartner recommends using more acronyms
Microsoft changes gears, embraces open source
CompTIA offers new certification in undersea IT
Google Earth shows iPods, Macs in Gates mansion
Ballmer seen jogging with Apple T-shirt, hastily removed
Dell backs up partner-friendly meme, cans entire sales staff
Vendors clamor aboard “Service as a Service” bandwagon
VMware names Jamiroquai new CEO
Dueling Cisco/Microsoft unified communications plans to connect devices and people that, frankly, should never be connected. To anything. Ever.
Oracle to rely almost exclusively on channel to serve businesses with exactly 47.3 employees
Prospective Microsoft Gold VAR peruses program qualifications, opts for early retirement
Red Hat partner finds pigeon, er customer, willing to pay for free stuff
Windows XP SP3 to ship tomorrow, no today, no June 1, no May 15, wait! next year! oh never mind …
Microsoft code-name generator on the fritz, trade press freaks
The first five are courtesy of Matthew Donnelly, who’s clearly given this a lot of thought. Numbers six and seven come from Yuval Shavit–and he nails the whole hyped “as a service” meme. Rivka Little tossed off the Cisco jibe. The Jamiroquai item comes courtesy of Colin Steele, and yes, oldsters will probably have to Google this reference.
Barbara Darrow can be reached at email@example.com.
How many high-tech vendors can still claim great channel relationships with some of their original VARs? Ones that have been with them since the very beginning of their channel program. Well, Autodesk just feted seven resellers that each recently celebrated their 25th year of doing business with the 26-year-old software company, which logs $2 billion in 2-D and 3-D design product sales every year. Roughly 85 percent of that amount goes through its roughly 1,768 channel partners.
I spoke with both Steve Blum, vice president of America sales (note, he doesn’t have “just” a channel title) as well as one of the VARs in question, a Premier Solutions Provider called Kelar Corp., for perspective on what has given this relationship staying power.
One of my observations, after speaking with both sides, is that channel marriages aren’t conducive to the “opposites attract” philosophy. If a reseller’s sales objectives are diametrically opposed to that of their vendor partner, that doesn’t make for a great long-term combination. “Besides the fact that Autodesk has a topnotch product, we are very much alike technically,” says Mo Mansouri, president of Kelar Pacific in San Diego. “The ideas that we have go along with what they’re doing.” (Incidentally, while Mansouri hasn’t been with Kelar for the full 25 years, he has been with this relationship for 17 of those years.)
Which is not to say that Autodesk doesn’t encourage its resellers to think for itself. Blum says that the seven companies that were recently recognized — Applied Software Technology, Autodraft, CADD Centers of Florida, IRISCO, Kelar, KETIV Technologies of California, and Robotech CAD Solutions – shared a passion to grow and evolve along with Autodesk’s product line. “These folks have all been able to evolve based on market conditions,” Blum says.
One program that Autodesk put in place for partners to keep ahead has been an education series called Foundations for Success, which encourages its partners to focus on business development activities for their employees as well as ideas for how to run their businesses better from an entrepreneurial standpoint. The latest twist to that initiative, which started Feb. 1, focuses on helping resellers develop first-time sales managers, Blum says.
Autodesk also continues to carefully stage its product releases, working with top-tier vertically oriented solutions partners first when bringing new software to market and then opening it up to other partners over time. In a sense, the first set of VARs are Autodesk’s evangelists in the field, and they are recognized for taking risks within Autodesk’s deal registration program. Volume partners are encouraged to focus on a different set of skills and challenges. “Volume means very different things to me here at Autodesk than it might to another company,” Blum says.
The final equation comes down to commitment on both sides. Autodesk has actually invested, at least in terms of resources, in helping a reseller explore a new practice area, according to Mansouri. “They commit to a dealer if they see potential in your growth. They invest in the partnership,” he says.
How unique is Autodesk? What other vendors are worth the investment? E-mail your thoughts to Heather Clancy, a long-time channel observer and communications strategist for SWOT Management Group.