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Some partners, however, are fully on board with Microsoft's strategy. "We love the direction Microsoft is going," said Chris Hertz, CEO of New Signature, a Washington, D.C.-based Microsoft partner that offers a range of IT services, many built around Microsoft products including the vendor's Office 365 cloud applications.
Hertz noted that Microsoft has released upgrades of many of its core products, including Lync and SharePoint in the last year. "And Microsoft has stepped up their co-selling and their co-marketing efforts," he said.
While some partners worry that Microsoft's focus on cloud computing and services will create distance between the vendor and its channel partners, Hertz begs to differ. Microsoft "has to have partners driving for them," he said, adding that with the cloud model customers are as dependent on partners for advice and guidance as ever. "We're more valuable in the partner ecosystem."
Hertz is interested in hearing more at WPC around support for partners and customers who adopt Microsoft's cloud business models.
"Office 365 demand has been increasing and we're in a very good position to take advantage of that," Slalom's Carney said, noting the company just closed a deal with an East Coast customer for 60,000 Office 365 seats.
Carney wants to be sure Microsoft is committed to continuing -- or even increasing -- the Office 365 incentives the company offers partners for pre-sales and deployment work, along with the partner-of-record fees. He also pointed to the program that has provided Slalom with funding to help cover the cost of building proof-of-concept applications for Windows 8. "We'd like to see continued support for all these different [incentives]" he said.
"The Office 365 numbers are very compelling," agreed Opal at Peters & Associates, which also offers the cloud application service to its customers. That business "has been quite healthy and growing," he said.
"We're seeing a lot of uptick [in demand] in the Microsoft cloud," said Chris Pyle, CEO of Champion Solutions Group, a Boca Raton, Fla.-based Microsoft partner that also works with Office 365 and offers its 365 Command administration tools for the Microsoft cloud applications.
On the more technical side, Pyle hopes to hear more at WPC about Microsoft's plans for integrating its Skype VoIP with the company's Lync communications software. He also wants to learn about Microsoft's directions with its Active Directory Service technology in Windows Azure, a critical element in Microsoft's strategy for identity management in cloud computing.
While many partners are riled because Microsoft has limited channel sales of its Surface tablet computers, Opal said he's focused on developing services, such as security and asset management, around mobile devices.
And some partners see WPC as a chance to meet other partners and discuss possible opportunities. David Kohar, chief customer officer at Zero2Ten, an Alpharetta, Ga.-based partner that works with Microsoft's Dynamics CRM applications, is seeking possible alliances with solution providers that work with Microsoft's Dynamics AX and NAV ERP applications. "We're seeing a lot of complementary business opportunities with partners that market those solutions," he said.
Opal is likewise looking for Platform-as-a-Service companies that complement Peters & Associates' Infrastructure-as-a-Service offerings. "You can't miss the partnering opportunities of WPC," he said.
PUBLISHED JULY 3, 2013