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Microsoft to take its 'mobile first, cloud first' mantra to partners

Juan Carlos Perez | July 15, 2014
Microsoft shifts its attention cross-country this week, from its Washington state headquarters, overcast with uncertainty, to Washington, D.C., where company leaders will try to make sunny optimism shine at its annual partner conference.

"This is fantastic," said Tim Wallis, CEO of Content and Code, a systems integrator in the U.K. which got advanced access to this program. It gives Content and Code more control over its relationship with customers, and simplifies the sales and billing process, he said.

Content and Code, which focuses on email and collaboration systems, has sold to date about 90,000 end user seats of Office 365, and Wallis would like Microsoft to beef up the suite's usage analytics, so that partners and their customers get a more detailed view of how it's being used.

"With a cloud service, it's not so much about net new users, but about how many are using it," he said.

For partners developing applications and services on Azure, Microsoft announced the logo certification Azure Certified program, designed to help them market and sell their wares. The program is kicking off with the Azure Certified for Virtual Machines certification, for partners that offer their applications in virtual machines deployed from the Azure Management Portal. Azul Systems, Barracuda, Bitrock, Oracle, Riverbed Technologies and SAP are already active in the program.

The company will also unveil three new programs aimed at Office 365 and Azure resellers. Small and Midmarket Cloud Solutions is for partners re-selling Office 365 to SMB customers, while Cloud Productivity is for partners re-selling the enterprise editions of Office 365. The third program is called Cloud Platform and it's for partners that resell Azure IaaS, SaaS and PaaS services. At the same time, Microsoft will retire the existing Cloud Accelerate, Cloud Deployment and Azure Circle programs and offer a path for partners to switch to the new ones.

Microsoft is also taking steps to motivate partners to resell Azure and Office 365, including by waiving the first year fee to register as a Silver-tier provider and by increasing between 25 percent and 200 percent the number of internal-use rights (IUR) licenses available to them. Microsoft will also launch a program in September called Signature Cloud Support that gives partners direct access to what the company describes as a "high quality support team." Another step is to cut fees by up to 10 percent of partner programs for on-premises software products.

The company is also beefing up its e-learning offerings with the new Azure Machine Learning University, which will provide partners with an overview of Azure ML, and walk them through processes like importing data, building predictive models and deploying this analytics cloud service in production.

Will the announcements be well received?
Whether these and other announcements satisfy partners in attendance is an open question. With a universe of hundreds of thousands of partners, Microsoft faces the challenge of serving a vast and very heterogeneous group whose needs, priorities and preferences are extremely diverse. Catering successfully to partners is always a work in progress.


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