5 Ways Microsoft Can Attract More Partners to Windows Azure
Windows Azure, Microsoft’s platform as a service (PaaS), celebrated its first anniversary as a cloud platform this week. Long term, I think Windows Azure has huge potential for VARs, MSPs and cloud integrators. But short term, I think there are at least five ways Microsoft can better promote Azure to channel partners.
Before I launch into the five suggestions, I have a disclaimer for readers: Microsoft is making a lot of Windows Azure partner claims. But if you speak with many of the initial Azure ISVs (independent software vendors), you’ll learn that Microsoft is paying a few software companies to port their applications to Windows Azure. Some of the payments allegedly involve six-figure deals, I have heard.
It’s one thing to give away development tools (a popular practice across the software industry) to gain ISV support. But paying ISV costs to get started on Azure sounds a little desperate in my book…
Still, I’m bullish on Azure’s long-term prospects. I believe the vast majority of Windows NT Server and Windows Server ISVs will eventually make the leap into Azure, shifting from client-server applications to cloud-centric offerings.
Five Potential Moves
But how can Microsoft accelerate Azure’s adoption and gain a critical mass of channel partners? Here are five suggestions:
1. Create and Promote Monthly Lists: What are the most popular applications on Windows Azure each month? Over in the Apple iPad world, Apple does an awesome job highlighting popular third-party ISVs. Microsoft needs to follow a similar approach, describing the 10 most popular Azure applications each month.
There’s no need to disclose actual user numbers or revenue figures. Just tell the world which Azure applications are super-hot each month. The lists will create a self-fulfilling prophecy, driving even more partners and businesses to the top Azure offerings.
2. Embrace the iPad: Yes, publish the list of hot Windows Azure apps out to the iPad. And help Windows Azure developers to get their iPad front-ends approved by Apple. Plus, make sure the iPad Apps provide an incredible user experience tied to Azure’s back-end.
3. Don’t Play Favorites: Push beyond Windows desktops, Windows phones and Internet Explorer. Make sure Azure applications deliver an incredible user experience across Apple iPhone, Google Android, Blackberry and other devices. Basically, make Azure the BEST back-end cloud for all types of end-point devices and all web browsers: Google Chrome, Apple Safari, Firefox, etc.
4. Celebrate Your Partners: After you create and promote a monthly list of popular Azure applications, create a similar list highlighting channel partners that are driving the most customers into Azure. Who are the top 10 VARs and MSPs — right now — working with Windows Azure? I have no idea. But I’d like to know…
5. Promote Some Microsoft Applications: Rewind to the 1990s. Microsoft BackOffice — Exchange Server, SQL Server, SNA Server and Systems Management Server — gave Windows NT Server a boost. As Microsoft’s own server applications took hold, rivals like Oracle and IBM Lotus were forced to port their applications to Windows NT Server. Microsoft should repeat that formula on Windows Azure.
Sure, most of Microsoft’s server applications already run in the BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite) cloud. But Microsoft should create, test and promote some new applications on Azure. Microsoft’s own software innovations would potentially show third-party ISVs how to make the most of Azure.