Microsoft Unfurls Its Multi-Faceted Cloud Message

At its Worldwide Partner Conference this year, Microsoft backed up its "all-in" cloud computing mantra with tools, training and incentives that channel partners of all types can use to start building businesses in this new land of technological opportunity.

As it has done in past WPCs, Microsoft played up the cloud momentum that already exists within its partner base. Early adopters of the Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) that have built thriving businesses in the cloud are logical case studies for other partners to follow. Microsoft's overarching message is that partners can transfer their on-premise skills into the cloud without missing a beat, and that services dollars will still be there for the taking.

"Partners are saying there's been some adjustment, but they're now up and running and they're making money," said Jon Roskill, Microsoft's newly anointed vice president of worldwide channels, in an interview at WPC. "The transformation is very clearly real."

To help partners get up to speed, Microsoft is adding new cloud incentives to the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN).

In late 2010, Microsoft will launch its Cloud Essentials Pack, a subscription offering that includes 250 seat licenses for BPOS and CRM Online. Microsoft plans to add its Windows Intune desktop management service later on, and it'll waive the $120 annual fee for partners that sign up during the promotional period, the length of which is unknown at this time.

Gretchen O'Hara, senior director of cloud strategy in Microsoft's Worldwide SMS&P division, says the goal is to help partners grasp the fundamentals of the cloud by using Microsoft's own services. The Cloud Essentials Pack also gives partners access to online pre-sales support, marketing, sales and technical training, she said.

"We're extending MPN to the cloud," O'Hara said in an interview at WPC.

Also new to MPN is Microsoft Cloud Accelerate, a badge for partners that show a high level of proficiency in selling cloud offerings. Partners get priority placement in the Pinpoint directory, local field engagement and unlimited pre-sales support, among other benefits.

To qualify, Microsoft solution providers must close three deals of at least 150 seats in a single month and get three customer references. Developer partners must have an application certified for the Azure platform to be eligible for the Cloud Accelerate badge.

These incentives are designed to get more partners on board with Microsoft's cloud vision and build on the momentum the channel has already generated behind BPOS.

"The cloud is really impacting all partner types across the board," said Jenni Flinders, vice president of the U.S. Partner Sales and Programs Group (US PS&P). "Every partner should get ready for the cloud, and if they're not yet ready, they need to assess their business models."


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