Microsoft plans to split its existing Unified Communications competency into two separate competencies starting this fall, with one competency focused on Microsoft Exchange and the other focused on Microsoft Lync, the company's UC suite and the updated version of what was formerly Office Communications Server (OCS).
Ian Hameroff, senior technical product manager in Microsoft's Exchange Product Management Group, discussed the upcoming changes -- scheduled to take effect in Oct. 2011 -- in a Microsoft Technet blog post dated May 25.
According to Hameroff, what motivated the split was partners' interest in differentiating their Exchange and Lync expertise in the market.
"Sounds simple, but the reality is we know how much you invest in developing solutions practices on Exchange and Lync," Hameroff wrote. "And, that the introduction of these two new competencies will give you the chance to demonstrate these investments through the power of the Microsoft Partner Network."
According to Hameroff, Microsoft will be investing more in each competency, including new training and assessments. The new competencies are officially called Messaging and Communications, the former focused on Microsoft Exchange and the latter on Lync. As in other Microsoft competencies, each will have multiple levels -- Silver and Gold -- reflecting the level of expertise and investment by the partner.
Hameroff said to expect more news on the changes before Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference in July. The vendor has also made available a downloadable "Evolution of the UC Competency Guide" on its corporate web site.
Microsoft executives were unavailable for further comment on the changes.
Lync is Microsoft's challenger platform in the unified communications space. During a recent press conference discussing Microsoft's planned $8.5 billion acquisition of Skype, Microsoft CFO Peter Klein said that Lync sales grew 30 percent in the last quarter, an uptake described by MIcrosoft CEO Steve Ballmer as "incredible."
During the official Lync launch last November, Microsoft's Gurdeep Singh Pall, corporate vice president, Microsoft Lync & Speech Group, told CRN that Microsoft partners would need to transform how they approach UC sales.
There are enough opportunities for VARs with software and developer backgrounds to attack the space as there are for legacy infrastructure and PBX VARs, and Microsoft Lync is an ideal platform for both, Pall said, emphasizing that the leap from sales of Exchange and other Microsoft platforms to sales of Lync was not a far one.