Arriving Now: Microsoft Partner Network And Channel Cloud Efforts
Microsoft is hoping it’s a November to remember. The software giant today launched the Microsoft Partner Network — an overhaul to the company’s channel partner program — and a range of new cloud computing initiatives for channel partners. Here’s a closer look at the Microsoft Partner Network, plus new moves like Cloud Accelerate and Cloud Essentials. But the old question remains: Are Microsoft’s partners ready — and willing — to embrace the terms of Microsoft’s cloud strategy? Here’s the update.
First, a reality check: Microsoft has been planning today’s moves for several months. The company spent extensive time previewing the new Microsoft Partner Network offerings during the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in July 2010. But now, Microsoft is finally pulling the switch on a range of moves.
According to Microsoft, the moves include:
- Social media: Using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or the Microsoft Partner Network Community, any partner can get answers to questions and take part in conversations about latest technology trends and topics such as best practices, business development and how to drive innovation, the company claims. Alas, the draft Microsoft press release didn’t include links to the social media sites but The VAR Guy will track them down. Stay tuned.
- Microsoft Action Pack Subscriptions will give partners access to software, development tools, training and market visibility, the company claims. Partners can further demonstrate their expertise by earning silver or gold competencies in any of 29 areas, each of which relates to a specific customer need and aligns with one of Microsoft’s customer awareness campaigns, Microsoft says. Companies that demonstrate a mastery of their skills can attain gold competencies, which identify them as being best in class in that particular business solution, Microsoft asserts. Gold competency recipients are given additional access to unique benefits designed to help them reach their specific business goals, the company says.
- SBCS, BizSpark and WebsiteSpark: Members of the Microsoft Partner Network can also join the Small Business Specialist Community (SBCS), BizSpark or WebsiteSpark. Each of these communities provides its members with technical and business development resources. SBCS is focused on partners that provide small- and midmarket-business solutions, and BizSpark and WebsiteSpark are focused on entrepreneurs and business startups, Microsoft notes.
- Cloud Computing and the Channel: The new Microsoft Cloud Essentials Pack provides partners with the resources they need to experience and extend their business to the cloud, Microsoft claims. Early cloud partners can qualify for Microsoft Cloud Accelerate. Participants in this program will be rewarded with a Cloud Accelerate badge, additional internal use rights and other benefits that exceed those offered in Cloud Essentials. More information about Microsoft Cloud Accelerate and Microsoft Cloud Essentials Pack can be found at http://www.microsoftcloudpartner.com, Microsoft says.
- Finding Partners: Microsoft PinPoint puts partners in front of customers when the customers search for a Microsoft solution on a website. Also, Microsoft is also globally rolling out new solution-based incentives that reward Gold Certified Partners driving sales in specific Microsoft solutions, chosen for their growth and market potential.
Microsoft is driving partners to find more information at https://partner.microsoft.com.
Pros and Cons
No doubt, Microsoft has gained some momentum in recent months. The company’s most recent quarterly results show strong demand for Office 2010, Windows 7 and Windows Server. Translation: All the fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) about Microsoft’s near-term health seem overblown.
Still, Microsoft’s cloud strategy remains a work in progress. Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie is preparing to exit Microsoft, and the software giant is dumping one of its key SaaS brands (Business Productivity Online Suite) in favor of the new Office 365 brand. Why? The VAR Guy believes the BPOS brand was tarnished from multiple outages in recent months.
Meanwhile, plenty of partners are openly wondering if they can truly profit from Microsoft’s cloud computing strategy. Moreover, some partners continue to raise concerns about Microsoft’s cloud billing strategy, which essentially allows Microsoft to directly bill partners’ customers — though partners’ corporate names can appear on the bills.
To Microsoft’s credit, the company has been front-and-center at recent conferences like the N-able Partner Summit and the SMB Nation Fall conference. Plus, Microsoft pundits like Cindy Bates, Julie Bennani and Gretchen O’Hara have been visiting Microsoft partners worldwide. Simply put: Microsoft is speaking with partners regularly and soliciting their feedback. The big question: Do partners like what they hear so far, particularly when it comes to the cloud computing strategy?
The VAR Guy is digging for more perspectives.