By now solution providers have noticed that adoption of Google Apps in business environments has become quite substantial. While that might not thrill many folks in the channel given the margins involved in selling Google Apps compared to Microsoft Office, the fact remains that applications of all types are moving into the cloud. But accessing applications in the cloud is one thing; actually managing those applications is another.
As organizations increase their use of Google Apps they start to run into a number of management problems, ranging from simply adding and deleting end users to make sure that users of Google Apps are complying with any number of regulations.
To address those issues BetterCloud, which just picked up an additional $2 million in financing, is currently beta testing Flash Panel, a management application that provides a dashboard through which administrators can manage these processes. Available as a service, FlashPanel is another good example of how the so-called “consumerization of IT” is actually serving to make IT more complex to manage, which in turn creates opportunities for the channel.
BetterCloud CEO David Politis concedes that Google provides some management capabilities within the Google Apps service. But in comparison to Flash Panel the way Google is asking administrators to manage the overall Google Apps environment is cumbersome, says Politis.
FlashPanel is meant to complement and existing DomainWatch security tool that BetterCloud offers for Google Apps environments. The end goal, says Politis, is to create a way for organizations to streamline the management of the overall Google Apps environment.
A recent survey conducted by The Cloud Alliance for Google Apps, a consortium of vendors that are trying to build an ecosystem around Google Apps, found that primary reason that customers are turning to Google Apps is not cost, but rather the inherent collaboration capabilities provided by being able to easily share documents and files on the Web. Microsoft is now countering that move with Microsoft Office 365, but the fact remains that Google has reached enough critical mass with Google Apps to be a factor in the market for years to come. As such, solution providers have an opportunity to help customers not only better manage Google Apps, but also think about approaches to unifying the management of applications across the cloud spectrum.
Politis says that BetterCloud will remain focused on the Google Apps opportunity, but could see Flash Panel and DomainWatch being used as part of a portfolio of cloud application management tools.
While not everyone in the channel may view the shift to deploying applications in the cloud as a net positive, the fact remains that it’s happening. Rather than standing by complaining while that shift occurs, solution providers actually have an opportunity to add value by helping to facilitate the management of the process.
Of course, most customers think they have their cloud application environments under control. But as the number of applications deployed in the cloud so too do the number of headaches associated with managing them. And given the fact that none of these cloud applications were ever designed to really work together, the opportunity to unify them under a common management framework is likely to be significant.