Microsoft WPC 2014

Microsoft Charges Partners To Push Azure Into SMB Market

At its annual partner conference, Microsoft outlined support for partners selling SMB cloud services

Microsoft has been rallying its partners in Washington DC with a call to support its Azure cloud hosting initiatives. The company emphasised the importance of its reseller community with three initiatives which makes partners the vanguard of its sales drive.

Talking to 16,000 attendees at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), COO Kevin Turner (pictured) said the company would replace current programmes with a path for partners to migrate to the new cloud competencies and do its utmost to protect customer data from prying eyes of government spying requests.

Competency changes

The retired Cloud Accelerate, Cloud Deployment and Azure Circle programmes will be replaced with three new areas of competency: Small and Midmarket Cloud Solutions for partners selling Microsoft Office 365 to SMBs, Cloud Productivity to deploy Office 365 for enterprise customers, and Cloud Platform for specialists in delivering infrastructure, PaaS and SaaS solutions on Microsoft Azure.

Microsoft COO Kevin TurnerTurner kicked off with a slew of statistics and made a claim that Microsoft’s Office 365, Azure and Dynamics CRM Online products were growing robustly. He flagged the “hard decisions” Microsoft has made by providing Windows 8 free to partners producing devices with screens smaller than nine inches and the porting of Office apps to Apple’s iOS-based devices as proof of the company’s commitment to help partners succeed.

He claimed that customer adoption of Azure was continuing to accelerate, with more than 1,000 customers signing up every day, on average.

“We still have a lot of work to do but we have a lot to be proud of,” he said. “We will do what’s necessary to win in the marketplace.”

Part of the winning formula will be the new initiatives backed by changes to the partner relationship. In September it will launch the Signature Cloud Support programme to help cloud partners to support their customers through direct contact into a “high-quality support team”.

In addition, the company will waive the first year fee for Silver cloud competencies; enhance Internal Use Rights (IUR) for Office 365 and Azure, providing between 25 percent and 200 percent more IUR licences, depending on the competency level achieved; and the reduction of fees for on-premises competencies by up to 10 percent.

Tools and resources to get started on cloud services were also promised with the announcement of an Azure Machine Learning (ML) University. This is a portfolio of online self-service learning resources designed to get partners started with Azure ML. The “university” will provide an overview of machine learning and a walk-through of data life cycle, from importing data to building predictive models and deploying in production.

The company also announced the Azure Certified logo programme. It has already begun this by introducing Microsoft Azure Certified for Virtual Machines for partner applications offered on virtual machines that are deployable from the Azure Management Portal. Early programme members include Azul Systems, Barracuda, Bitrock, Oracle, Riverbed Technologies and SAP.

In addition, Microsoft will increase efforts to help partners reach and target SMB prospects with a marketing initiative called ModernBiz. With the goal to help partners drive awareness and demand, this will focus on business issues and cross-product scenarios tailored to the specific needs of SMBs.

The company is also making it easier for organisations to license and manage Microsoft products and online services through the Microsoft Products and Services Agreement (MPSA).

Eric Doyle
Author: Eric Doyle
Editor, ChannelBiz
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