Google Apps sales cycles are accelerating. And larger companies are adopting Google's SaaS application platform. Combine those two trends, and Cloud Sherpas (a top cloud services brokerage, CSB) expects its Google Apps business division to grow roughly 70 percent in 2013, according to Douglas Shepard (pictured), director of the company's Google Apps division.

Shepard's statement represents yet another wake-up call for the IT channel, where thousands of traditional VARs and managed services providers (MSPs) are still trying to sort out their cloud consulting, integration and consulting strategies. 

Cloud Sherpas, a Google Apps partner of the year and Top 100 Cloud Services Provider, isn't waiting around for potential rivals to make their moves. Instead, the CSB now wraps consulting, migration, integration, and support services around Salesforce.com, ServiceNow, and other components of Google's enterprise platform (Apps, Geo, Platform, Chrome, etc.).

Many of the customer engagements involve three key verticals: Media, manufacturing and retail. Cloud Sherpas is preparing to launch specific cloud solutions tailored for those specific industries, said Shepard. 

So where else is Cloud Sherpas heading? Here are some key points Shepard discussed with Talkin' Cloud:

1. Will Cloud Sherpas develop expertise in additional areas like WorkDay or NetSuite?

In both cases, Shepard said Cloud Sherpas will continue to monitor the market for new opportunities but the company doesn't want to lose its focus on core Google, Salesforce.com and ServiceNow opportunities.

2. Can Cloud Sherpas manage its hyper-growth effectively?

Shepard said a significant portion of the company's revenue stream involves recurring dollars, so managing the growth isn't extremely difficult. On the headcount front, he said "our growth is aggressive but reasonable."

3. Will Cloud Sherpas expand its Google Apps focus globally?

Actually that's already happened. Roughly 20 percent of the business unit's focus is global in nature. The company is a Google partner on many levels in Asia Pacific, Australia and New Zealand. 

4. Is Cloud Sherpas in close communication with Google, or does the search giant merely pay lip service to partners?

"It’s tight, close relationship," said Shepard. "Hardly a day goes buy when I don’t speak to three or four Googlers in the course of a day."

5. Does Cloud Sherpas anticipate revenue opportunities from Android and Chrome OS devices?

"Our opportunity will be the services around the devices," he said. Already, Cloud Sherpas has done some custom application development to help customers make the use of Chromebooks, the cloud-centric notebooks running ChromeOS. Also, the company offers a range of training to make sure Cloud Sherpas offers far more value than "pushing boxes."

6. What are the key market challenges?

He concedes that Micrsoft is still very protective of its core markets -- including email. But Shepard said Google Apps "is a platform, not just an email solution." As a result, he believes Google and its channel partners have the upper hand.

Bigger Picture

Cloud Sherpas certainly isn't alone as a Google Apps market leader. Roughly 20 percent of the world's top 501 Managed Services Providers promote Google Apps. Similarly, roughly 20 percent of last year's Top 100 Cloud Services Providers have Google Apps business practices.

The Google Apps consulting market will surely get more crowded. And rivals are marching into the Microsoft Office 365 consulting market as well, where Microsoft's channel seems to be gaining momentum of its own.

Still, Cloud Sherpas has a lengthy head start. The company has been transitioning customers to public cloud services since 2007. Cloud Sherpas now has "millions of workers" running on Google's enterprise products.

Moreover, Cloud Sherpas has more than 50 certified Google specialists worldwide -- more than any other CSP, the company claims.

That know-how should keep Cloud Sherpas humming along.

One side note: As I was wrapping up this article I realized I forgot to ask Cloud Sherpas how much of the 70 percent Google Apps business growth would be organic vs. how much would involved revenue from acquisitions the company has made. Either way, it's big-time growth. A spokesman for the company followed up, though, and said all the growth has been organic, and 2012 acquisitions did not involve the Google business unit.