Why Does Microsoft Channel Chief Sound So Darn Optimistic?
The VAR Guy had a lengthy conversation with Microsoft Channel Chief Jon Roskill (pictured) today. The call marks roughly six months since the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2010. During the discussion, Roskill offered some timely updates on Microsoft’s cloud, virtualization, CRM and channel partner strategies. Most of the points included key business milestones — including alleged competitive gains vs. VMware and Salesforce.com. Still, Microsoft faces some key challenges. Here’s the scoop.
The VAR Guy could give you a word-for-word recap. But instead of boring you with the entire conversation… yada, yada, yada … here are the juiciest portions of the dialog:
1. Gaining Trust in the Cloud?
Roughly 14,000 people attended Worldwide Partner Summit; roughly 9,000 of those people were true partners and 7,100 of those folks attended some form of cloud training, Roskill said.
Roskill sounded particularly upbeat about the Microsoft Windows Azure Platform Appliance. The first hardware, designed for private clouds, should ship in about nine months, Roskill said. But here’s the interesting twist: The Azure appliances, originally pitched for large enterprises, will also appeal to smaller MSPs, Roskill asserted.
In the meantime, more than 5,000 channel partners have participated in Microsoft’s Cloud Essentials initiative, and a few hundred have embraced the Cloud Accelerate program. (Here are further details on both Cloud Essentials and Cloud Accelerate.)
Still, Roskill conceded that some Microsoft partners are pushing to control cloud billing to end customers — a capability Microsoft doesn’t offer. Microsoft is listening closely to the feedback and mulling some moves on the cloud billing front.
2. Understanding His Team
Since succeeding Allison Watson as Microsoft Channel Chief in July 2010, Roskill hasn’t changed any of his direct reports. “I’m most excited about the strength of the channel team here.”
Going forward, Roskill wants the channel team to focus on a shorter list of priorities, and executing those priorities on a global scale. In particular, he wants to emulate the Windows 7 Accelerate program, a “rich program that has been well-received worldwide.” And within Microsoft, Roskill promises to “pound the table for our partners.”
3. Preparing for Office 365
Roskill concedes that most of Microsoft’s core business remains on premise, and it will take a three to five year transition for customers to transition heavily toward the cloud. However, Roskill points to the forthcoming Office 365 release as a watershed event for the company and its partners. Office 365, expected to arrive sometime in 2011, is the SaaS successor to Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite.
“BPOS has been a ramp-up platform for us,” said Roskill. “We didn’t plan it that way; we got 2 years of experience running BPOS. We’ve learned a ton about the infrastructure behind it.” Some partners don’t get excited when they look at potential base profits from BPOS, “but here comes Office 365 and the money is going to get real in this space. We’re taking the training wheels off and ready to go.”
Some channel partners note that BPOS suffered multiple outages in September 2010, so Office 365 should be a welcome replacement — assuming it’s reliable.
4. Virtualization and Microsoft Hyper-V
On the virtualization front, Roskill insisted that Microsoft continues to take market share away from VMware. “What I’ve been hearing with the Hyper-V 2008 R2 product is we’re really competitive with VMware. We believe we’re taking serious share from VMware.”
Hmmm… The VAR Guy will perform a reality check when he attends the VMware Partner Exchange conference in February 2011.
5. Business Applications
“SharePoint continues to go gangbusters,” said Roskill. “And [Dynamics] CRM, particularly in the mid-market, is doing incredibly well. We’re both online and on-premise, so that’s a differentiator for us. We are growing faster than Salesforce.com and taking share.”
Again, The VAR Guy needs to perform a reality check. Microsoft Dynamics CRM may be gaining momentum, but the recent Salesforce.com Dreamforce conference attracted more than 20,000 attendees — suggesting Salesforce.com has serious momentum.
6. Glass Half Full?
Overall, Roskill sounded quite upbeat during the conversation. But should he be so upbeat?
- On the platform front, disrupters like Red Hat continue to gain momentum with Linux and open source virtualization.
- On the cloud front, rivals like Salesforce.com, NetSuite, and Google Apps all are growing fast.
- In the traditional software market, folks like Oracle seem stronger than ever.
- In the smart phone market, Windows Phone 7 faces an uphill battle vs. Google Android and Apple iPhone.
- And in the tablet market, Microsoft’s hasn’t had much success rallying the hardware industry against the Apple iPad.
That’s a lengthy list of challenges. But some folks forget: Microsoft delivered record first quarter results back in October 2010.
The old Wintel duopoly no longer sits at the center of the IT universe. But Roskill seems intent on making Office 365 the center of the cloud universe — with an assist from the channel.