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Microsoft has added 14,000 channel partners to its Cloud Essentials initiative in the past week since making it easier for solution providers to enroll in the cloud computing starter program.
The Cloud Essentials enrollment effort is one of a number of changes Microsoft has made to its Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) programs in recent days. The Redmond, Wash., company also has created several new "competencies," or technology areas in which partners can become certified, and consolidated others.
The changes, some of which were previewed at the Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Toronto in July, come as the MPN re-enrollment season begins for Microsoft partners.
Solution providers either re-enrolling in MPN or joining for the first time can now sign up for Cloud Essentials with a single click, said Jon Roskill, corporate vice president and head of Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Group, in an interview.
Microsoft had 40,000 partners enrolled in Cloud Essentials before last week's enrollment procedure changes brought in 14,000 new partners. "It's blown away my expectations," Roskill said, adding that Microsoft expects the number of partners in Cloud Essentials to "easily" reach 100,000 by the end of Microsoft's fiscal year on June 30, 2013.
While Microsoft may be best known for desktop software such as Windows and Office, the company has been aggressively pushing into cloud computing in recent years with Office 365, Windows Intune and Dynamics CRM Online.
In an open letter to channel partners, Roskill said more than 5,500 partners are actively selling Microsoft cloud services every month and, on average, 700 new partners begin selling cloud services each month.
"We see more and more customers going to the cloud," said Chris Pyle, president and CEO of Champion Solutions Group, a Microsoft partner that sells Office 365 to customers. Earlier this month Champion Solutions Group acquired Message Ops, a developer of Office 365 management tools, which Pyle said his company uses to offer expanded services to customers.
Cloud Essentials is for partners who are new to cloud computing. The program's chief benefit is 25 free licenses for Microsoft's key cloud computing products -- Office 365, Windows Intune and Dynamics CRM Online -- to use internally.
"Use the cloud to sell the cloud," Roskill said of the reasoning behind the free licenses. Partners can become familiar with the software, build sales skills and develop a cloud practice.
Cloud Essentials provides cloud training courses, cloud adviser incentives and other perks. Microsoft's Cloud Accelerate program is for partners that are more advanced in cloud computing.
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