Google Cloud Launches Premium Support Offering

This article was originally posted on CRN, click here to view the original.

‘By expanding the offering, increasing features and coverage and adding mission-critical support, Google Cloud is recognizing customers are trusting their most crucial systems to Google and giving them a premium support back line to ensure they continue to run smoothly,’ says Aric Bandy, president of Agosto, a Google Premier partner.

Partners say a new Google Cloud Premium Support offering will help them deliver more value to customers with support needs that exceed services available through the cloud provider’s Technical Account Management (TAM) program.

Google Cloud has launched Premium Support to address mission-critical needs of its large enterprise customers with 15-minute target response times 24×7 from Google customer support for highest-priority cases. The new service also will be extended through Google Cloud partners, who can resell the offering.

“As a Premium Support customer, you’ll have your cases handled directly by context-aware experts who understand your unique application stack, architecture and implementation details,” Atul Nanda, vice president of cloud support at Google Cloud, said in a blog post. “This team will work hand-in-hand with your technical account manager to deliver a customer-centric support experience with faster case resolution, more personalized service and higher customer satisfaction.”

Google Cloud designed Premium Support to help bring consistency to the support plans for Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and G Suite, according to Nanda. Other features include a case management API tool that integrates customers’ and Google Cloud’s systems, operational health reviews and simplified pricing models. A Google Cloud support web page lists these pricing examples: a bundle price that includes a base fee of $150,000 per year plus 4 percent of a customer’s GCP net spend and 4 percent of its G Suite editions spend; or a base fee of $150,000 per year plus 4 percent of a customer’s net spend on GCP or G Suite for GCP-only or G Suite-only customers.

The Premium Support offering is another example of how Google Cloud is meeting customers where they are, according to Aric Bandy, president of Agosto, a Minneapolis-based cloud services and development company and Google Premier Partner.

“Many of our GCP customers have been leveraging Google TAM services, but their support needs have been greater than the TAM service provided,” Bandy said. “By expanding the offering, increasing features and coverage and adding mission-critical support, Google Cloud is recognizing customers are trusting their most crucial systems to Google and giving them a premium support back line to ensure they continue to run smoothly.”

David Cutter, director of marketing at Reston, Va.-based Dito, said Premium Support services demonstrate Google Cloud’s “continued focus on improving and enabling the best customer experience possible.”

“They also allow us to scale our ability to support larger and more complex customers worldwide through better-aligned access to technical resources at Google Cloud,” said Cutter, whose cloud advisory and services firm is a Google Cloud Premier Partner. “We always welcome the addition of new customer-centric programs that allow us to deliver more value to our customers.”

Premium Support customers will get previews of new products up to 20-plus months in advance of their launches and may have access to test products still in beta.

Google Cloud will offer advanced services to be purchased as add-ons to Premium Support, including an advanced event management service for deeper architecture reviews and increased readiness for peak events. Companies with global operations that need TAM guidance in multiple time zones can purchase additional TAM support during business hours in other regions. Google Cloud also is piloting site reliability engineering engagement, which evaluates and helps customers design a “wrapper of supportability” around Google Cloud projects with the highest sensitivity to downtime. The service is expected to be rolled out later this year.

“The process interlocks that we build with the customer allow us to jointly respond to major incidents using predefined war rooms,” Nanda said

Google Cloud Partners hopeful on new program, but seek advances

This article was originally posted on SearchITChannel, click here to read the original.

Google’s bid to sort its partner initiative is viewed as a positive development among the company’s partners, some of which are heavily focusing on the cloud provider’s platform.

Google is one of the world’s most recognized brands and influential tech companies. Yet, the technology giant has had a relatively small presence in the channel. Recently, it has been laying the foundation for a major surge. On July 1, Google brought together numerous channel initiatives under the Google Cloud Partner Advantage Program.

“During the last few years, Google invested substantial resources and people with the goal of significantly growing its channel programs,” said Steve White, program vice president, channels and alliances at IDC.

While Google has been a top player in many markets, its reseller programs have been relatively modest. Microsoft has more than 300,000 partners worldwide, AWS about 70,000 and Google less than 20,000, White noted.

Partner program consolidation

Historically, Google has seemingly treated the channel as an afterthought — at best. “Google got rid of the Google Search Appliance without providing a path forward for partners or their customers,” said Aric Bandy, president at Agosto Inc., a Google Cloud Premier Partner based in Minneapolis. Google disclosed its plan to phase out the appliance in 2016.

Working with the company was challenging. “Historically, like many vendors, Google had many products, and each had its own distinct partner program,” White said.

Such confusion frustrates channel partners. They want one clear path into the company and a consistent set of metrics that determine how they will be compensated.

In response, Google Cloud Partner Advantage Program consolidates 16 autonomous, organically developed partner agreements into one consistent suite.

Becoming a specialist

In addition, the vendor created areas of specialization for Google Cloud partners. Those specializations range from cloud migration and enterprise collaboration to machine learning and security. Each area is associated with one or a few Google products. For instance, enterprise collaboration features the G Suite office productivity package.

As a result, Google Cloud partners can now develop niche expertise. Partners with specialization status have undergone a technical assessment, employ certified personnel, demonstrate repeatable customer success and plan to invest in their particular specialization, according to Google.

Better partner support is another change. Navigating the $136.8 billion vendor’s hierarchy can be challenging for an outsider. Previously, Google support staff was called upon depending on what type of solution the partner was selling to a potential client. Now, the partner has a dedicated advisor, someone who checks in with them on a regular basis and acts as a guide helping them ferret out needed Google resources.

Partners go all-in with Google

Google Cloud partners are optimistic about the changes. “Google has said that, moving forward, it will be 100% channel-focused in serving its business customers,” noted Jason Lee, a partner and founder at Maven Wave, a Chicago-based company that launched in 2008. The 320-employee company is a Google Cloud Premier Partner.

Some partners have gone all-in with Google. SADA Systems Inc., a Los Angeles-based Google Cloud Premier Partner, began working with Google in 2006. “Our Nicky Parseghian, [SADA’s G Suite practice director], was one of the first individuals to receive Google certification and helped them create the content for other certification programs,” said Narine Galstian, chief marketing officer at SADA.

The relationship has been expanding. SADA started out focusing on small and midmarket companies. “During the last three to four years, we’ve grown to serve enterprise customers, like Colgate, Citrix and the TVG Network,” Galstian said. The work has been so successful that SADA sold its Microsoft practice to Core BTS in March 2019 to focus on Google.

Agosto, which launched in 2001, has worked with AWS, Cisco, IBM, Microsoft and NetApp, and operated a managed service provider division. The channel partner teamed up with Google in 2007 and divested itself of all other partner programs in December 2014.

Google Cloud partners cite room for improvement

While Google is making progress with its partners, more improvements would be helpful. First, the company could enhance its market position. “We would like to see the Google Cloud Platform climb up a few spots in the enterprise public cloud market,” Galstian said.The cloud provider also needs to expand its technical community. “AWS and Microsoft have spent much longer times developing certified engineers, so they have a deeper bench of individuals who understand how to manage their solutions,” Agosto’s Bandy explained.

Purchasing and supporting programs tailored to high-end enterprises would also be beneficial. “Today, Google does not have an enterprise buying agreement, but I would expect the company to move in that direction in the future,” Bandy added.

While the evolution of Google’s channel initiative continues, Google Cloud partners can expect to see more companies following their footsteps. An emphasis on building up the channel may create more competition.

“The reality is that the size and scale of the program that Google hopes to attain is going to demand that they add more channels partners,” Maven Wave’s Lee concluded. “Current Google partners need to accept that reality because with it also comes opportunities for them to close more deals.”

Agosto raises expansion capital

This article was originally posted on the StarTribune, click here to read the original.

Minneapolis-based Agosto Holdings, a cloud-services and development company, has secured $6.5 million in capital from California-based Bridge Bank and SG Credit Partners.

Founded in 2001, Agosto helps clients leverage Google Cloud products for private and public partners, providing technical solutions, training and support, migration from legacy systems and custom-product development.

“Agosto is a high growth, innovative company that has matured to the stage where it can obtain funds on demand,” said Raelene Sagapolu, vice president at Bridge Bank. “These funds will be of great benefit… since it enables Agosto to invest without touching existing equity.”

Agosto, which declined to specify its revenue growth, said it has tripled revenue and head count since 2016.

The capital will allow Agosto to advance its strategy within the Google system, add personnel to sales and marketing, and promote Skykit — the first digital signage content-management system built on the Google Cloud Platform.

“Agosto’s relationships with Bridge Bank and SG Credit come after four years of tremendous growth,” said Michael Majerus, Agosto vice president of finance. “Our plans call for an acceleration of this growth in the coming years, and this new capital will allow us to continue to invest in specific areas of the company while maintaining shareholders’ equity interests for the foreseeable future.”

Agosto, with 63 employees, said it is one of the largest Google-cloud partners globally.

Skykit’s Parent Company Announces $6.5M Raise To Speed Growth

This article was originally posted on Sixteen-Nine, click here to view the original.

The company behind the Google Chrome OS-centric digital signage solution Skykit has announced a $6.5 million funding round intended to drive what it calls an aggressive growth plan.

Minneapolis-based Agosto Holdings, which describes itself as a cloud services and development company, secured funds from Bridge Bank and SG Credit Partners.

Agosto’s core business is selling and supporting Google Cloud products for the private and public sectors, but it has since 2014 been developing and marketing Skykit. Former Wireless Ronin and Samsung exec Linda Hofflander is the most familiar signage ecosystem person involved with Agosto/Skykit, which also has offices Toronto, Houston, Nashville, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

From the PR:

“Agosto is a high growth, innovative company that has matured to the stage where it can obtain funds on demand,” says Raelene Sagapolu, Vice President at Bridge Bank. “These funds will be of great benefit to the company, its partner ecosystem, and its shareholders since it enables Agosto to invest in the company without touching existing equity.”

Agosto has tripled its revenues and headcount since 2016. The capital will allow Agosto to continue to keep pace with an aggressive growth plan that includes advancing its go-to-market strategy within the Google ecosystem, adding personnel to its sales and marketing departments, and continuing to promote Skykit – the first digital signage content management system (CMS) built on Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

Since Skykit’s launch in 2014, Agosto has invested significant capital into the product, which is as suited to a budget-conscious school district as it is for a global enterprise. Skykit presently has hundreds of customers, including one of the largest health education digital signage networks in North America.

“Agosto’s new strategic relationships with Bridge Bank and SG Credit come after four years of tremendous growth,” adds Michael Majerus, Agosto Vice President of Finance and Human Resources. “Our plans call for an acceleration of this growth in the coming years, and this new capital will allow us to continue to invest in specific areas of the company while maintaining shareholders’ equity interests for the foreseeable future.”

Cloud-computing firm Agosto lands $6.5M

This article was originally posted on Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, click here to view the original.

Agosto Inc., a cloud services and development company, has secured $6.5 million to increase headcount and fund business improvements.

Minneapolis-based Agosto helps public- and private-sector businesses leverage Google Cloud products. It also owns Skykit, a cloud-based digital content management system that hit the market in 2016.

The latest capital, which is a mix of credit and convertible note, came from San Jose, Calif.-based Bridge Bank and Stamford, Conn.-based SG Capital Partners. The company has thus far avoided equity investments, Agosto President Aric Bandy said.

“We don’t want to give up equity at this stage of our rapid growth,” Bandy said. “[The capital] gives us the ability to achieve the growth numbers and then look at some equity play down the road.”

Agosto was founded in 2001 and has tripled in headcount since 2016. It has 59 employees at its Minneapolis headquarters and offices in Chicago, Toronto, Houston, Nashville, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The company has also nearly tripled in revenue since 2016. Mike Majerus, vice president of finance for Agosto, declined to disclose the company’s revenue numbers but said it has seen 30 to 40 percent year-over-year revenue growth since 2016. The company reported nearly $16 million in revenue that year, according to Business Journal research.

Agosto started out as an IT consultancy before moving into the Google Cloud space. Its clients include the state of Wyoming, Groupon, Jaguar Land Rover and the Library of Congress.

Google Cloud partners back company’s industry shift

This article was originally posted on the TechTarget Search IT Channel, click here to view the original.

Google is aiming its cloud platform at vertical markets as it pursues what Google Cloud partners described as a focused growth strategy geared toward senior-level business buyers.

Kurian, who replaced Diane Greene earlier this year as Google’s top cloud executive, joined the company from Oracle, which is also organized around industries. At Next ’19, Kurian spoke of vertically oriented digital transformation offerings that his company will deliver in collaboration with Google Cloud partners.

Other large IT vendors have also shifted more heavily to a vertical marketing approach. Microsoft in 2017 unveiled a realignment along industry lines at its annual partner conference. At the time, the company said it was pursuing financial services, retail, manufacturing, government, education and healthcare — a lineup similar to the Google Cloud verticals.

Partners back industry focus

Brian Farrar, partner and founder of Maven Wave, a Google Cloud Premier Partner based in Chicago, said he detected a decidedly different tone at this year’s Google Cloud conference. He said Google has taken “much more of an industry focus,” as opposed to emphasizing solely technology.

“You can see the difference that [Kurian] is making on the way that Google goes to market,” Farrar said.

Other Google Cloud partners are also on board with the industry strategy.

Tony Safoian, CEO at SADA Systems Inc., a Google Cloud partner based in Los Angeles, called Google Cloud’s industry focus “extremely helpful.” He said the vertical approach lets Google’s sales and delivery organizations address customers’ specialized business needs.

“It is the only way to get much deeper and strategic relationships with top accounts,” Safoian said. “Healthcare is extremely bullish on Google Cloud, and we see the same trend in media and entertainment.””Industry verticals are a very business-centric, customer-centric way of thinking about the world,” added Prashanth Chandrasekar, senior vice president and general manager at Rackspace, a premier managed service partner for Google Cloud Platform.He said Google’s vertical approach contrasts with previous years when the company offered a “smorgasbord of technology elements” and it was up to customers to decide how to use those components within their verticals.The shift has implications for Google’s competitive outlook.

Aric Bandy, president at Agosto, a Google Cloud Premier Partner in Minneapolis, said Google is choosing the fields in which it will take on cloud rivals, such as AWS and Microsoft Azure.

“The big message is Google is going to grow fast in very specific ways — it’s not going to try to beat them across all the things they are doing,” Bandy said. “It is just a very focused growth message.”

Enterprise buyers

As Google follows the industry path, the company’s cloud platform is attracting a somewhat different audience — at least based on the evidence at Next ’19.

Farrar said, this year, he encountered a number of CIOs and business leaders at the conference. “The feel of the environment has been much more of the enterprise-class buyer of technology,” he said.

Bandy also detected “a different feeling” at Next ’19. He said conference attendees in previous years were often midlevel directors and engineers who wanted to figure out what Google was doing. But more senior managers and C-suite executives began showing up last year and were interested in determining where Google Cloud might fit in their companies’ strategies, he noted.

But, based on conversations at Next ’19, Bandy said executives already have a vision for how Google fits into the enterprise. Now, they want to know how to execute that vision, he added.

Safoian said organizations are looking to expand their business with Google Cloud. “Customers … want to do a lot more things with Google Cloud,” he said. “There’s just a different type of energy this year.”

Agosto takes digital sign management to the cloud

This article was originally posted on Finance & Commerce, click here to see the post.

Nothing sells real pizza like virtual pizza.

When video screens at Davanni’s 21 Twin Cities restaurants show a hot pie emerging from an oven, that’s what customers want. Same for hot hoagies and other items that get the in-store promotional video treatment.

“We don’t have firm numbers,” said Jacqui Crocker, Davanni’s marketing director. “We just know that anything we put on screens people point at it, and that’s what they want to order. Food images sell food.”

Presenting those enticing images, Crocker said, is much easier with Skykit, a content management system (CMS) for digital signs from Agosto, a Google-focused cloud product development company in Minneapolis.

Agosto touts Skykit as the first end-to-end Google-based digital signage system. The company says Skykit enables users to distribute content — including videos, pictures, PDFs and web pages — to any screen anywhere in the world in real time from a smart phone if they choose. All it takes is a display screen, an internet connection and a media player running Google’s Chrome web browser.

Founded in 2001 as a consulting and managed services company, Agosto pivoted in 2007 to become one of a handful of Google Premier Partners in North America. Helping organizations move to the Google Cloud has driven growth ever since for Agosto, named a Google Cloud Platform Partner of the Year in 2013 and 2016.

Capitalizing on that expertise, Agosto set out to boost its bottom line with a cloud-based product of its own, a goal achieved with Skykit’s April 2016 release. Agosto, based in the Ford Center in downtown Minneapolis, has 70 employees.

“We were building all these great products for these other big companies,” Agosto CEO and co-founder Irfan Khan said. “We’d gotten to a scale where we had the capital and the resources and we said, ‘Let’s just build our own product’ so that when we sell one dollar of our product we get that full dollar. When we resell Google’s products, we have to give them a cut.”

That said, one aim in developing a product was to build on Agosto’s experience in working with the Google Cloud and in developing applications at scale for different companies. “The idea was to do something that helps our Google relationship, leverages our Google
relationship and should be very ‘Googley,’” Khan said.

Hundreds of companies with tens of thousands of screens use Skykit to create and edit content, according to Agosto. Skykit earned Agosto a Tekne award in the small and growing company software category in November from the Minnesota High Tech Association. Agosto also was a finalist for a Tekne in the IT solutions consulting category.

Linda Hofflander, Agosto vice president of global channels and sales, said Skykit’s alignment with Google positions it to pursue business in vertical markets such as retail, manufacturing, the public sector, and regulated industries including health care and oil and gas and transportation. Skykit also does well in corporate communications.

This year the Skykit marketing focus has shifted to add solution selling and integration services for customers that want some degree of customization rather than an off-the-shelf system, said Hofflander, who joined Agosto three years ago from Samsung, where she gained extensive digital signage experience.

“Within the verticals, there are certain solutions that need to be built out that are more specific,” Hofflander said. “Most of our competitors have gone very tight on an individual vertical. We try to remain as nimble and as easy to do business with as we can.”

Khan, who founded Agosto with Rick Erickson, the company’s “chief cloud strategist,” said future uses for the Skykit platform are under consideration.

“Our vision is to have a marketplace so you can leverage Skykit for digital signage and for point solutions, whether that be meeting room management or guest sign-in,” Khan said. “We’ll have those types of solutions. Or we’ll have integration with point-of-sale systems for menu boards. We’re going to start to make variations for different markets.”

At Davanni’s updating content and customizing it for each restaurant is faster and less expensive with Skykit, which also allowed Davanni’s to add video content unlike its previous, more cumbersome and largely “home-brewed” system, according to Crocker and Ed Johnson, Davanni’s director of information technology and services.

“It also unifies the messaging between what we’re doing in the store and online with Facebook and other social media sites and our website so we can have consistent messaging,” Johnson said.

Other customers use Skykit to modernize communications in a rural Nebraska school district’s PK-12 building, direct passengers of a seaplane service in British Columbia to check-in counters, and to promote events and class schedules at a YMCA that serves 45,000 members in 25 locations north of Boston, according to Agosto.

Skykit is Agosto’s fastest-growing offering, said President Aric Bandy, who led Agosto’s Google pivot after his 2007 arrival. But next-fastest are its “lift and shift” practices, moving companies to the Google Cloud and advanced services, which include machine learning and artificial intelligence to help companies gain insights from their data.

Agosto Inc.
Business: Cloud services company offers Skykit, a cloud-based digital signage content management system that distributes content to screens anywhere in the world
Headquarters: Minneapolis
CEO: Irfan Khan, co-founder
Employees: 70
Founded: 2001

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