Evolving Partner Programs: Microsoft vs. Red Hat
Microsoft and Red Hat have launched hosting and cloud partner programs within weeks of one another. But the partner programs are as different as closed source and open source. Here’s the scoop, plus a key ingredient that could Microsoft’s hosting strategy a leg up with channel partners.
No doubt, Microsoft and Red Hat both have large, loyal customer bases in the web host market. Meanwhile, thousands of VARs and managed service providers are evaluating strategies for software as a service (SaaS) and cloud computing. In some ways, the growing Microsoft and Red Hat partner programs could address those challenges — but in vastly different ways.
Red Hat seems to be focused mainly on technical certifications — qualifying partners that can truly build reliable cloud services. Microsoft, in stark contrast, is working with Comcast and others to help VARs and MSPs speed their go-to-market business messaging for hosted applications.
Microsoft: Marketing and Sales
Consider the anecdotal evidence. When Microsoft today launched its hosting partner program — called Microsoft Communication Services — the company clearly stated:
“Microsoft Communication Services provides a common set of marketing collateral and the ability to utilize the Microsoft brand beyond individual product brands for better recognition in the SMB marketplace. The initiative is open to Microsoft partners that have attained the Hosting Solutions competency, part of the broader Microsoft Partner Network.”
Translation: Microsoft’s hosted part program focuses aggressively on sales, marketing, and more sales, and more marketing. Let’s go sell, baby.
Red Hat: Technical Prowess
Meanwhile, Red Hat’s Premier Cloud Provider Certification and Partner Program, announced in June 2009, is “designed to simplify and expand the adoption of cloud computing by enterprise customers.” According to a press release from Red Hat:
Premier Cloud Provider Partners will collaborate with Red Hat on technical support, security updates, hardware certification, sales and marketing and business models. As part of the announcement today, cloud computing pioneer Amazon Web Services will extend its technology relationship with Red Hat to become the first Red Hat Premier Cloud Provider Partner.
Red Hat’s cloud effort seems to involve both Red Hat Enterprise Linux and JBoss middleware. Red Hat also has an established, more traditional Hosting Program focused mainly on Linux. In both cases, Red Hat’s focus seems to be on finding and certifying technically savvy partners.
The Bottom Line
Microsoft is leading with sales and marketing language, Red Hat is leading with technical qualifications. Which approach is better? It depends on the audience. Small VARs and MSPs, no doubt, want all the business assistance they can get. And Microsoft seems to be appealing to its traditional channel partners with the Microsoft Communication Services announcement — though that assumes the partner program generates ample recurring revenue for partners.