Microsoft Infrastructure Optimization Campaign Gains Steam

The Business Productivity Infrastructure Optimization (BPIO) campaign, part of the People Ready program, positions Microsoft's unified communications, enterprise content management, and business intelligence technologies as pillars upon which next generation network infrastructure should be based.

In March 2006, Microsoft published a document called the "Microsoft Infrastructure Optimization Journey" on its TechNet Website. The document provides an outline of how customers can realize "dramatic cost savings" from optimizing their IT infrastructure, and how moving from an unmanaged environment to a dynamic, highly automated environment can also result in stronger security.

Microsoft ran the first version of BPIO during its fiscal 2007, which ended in June, and entered a pilot mode for version two of the program in early September, said Jigish Avalani, senior director of Microsoft's Information Worker Partners group.

"With BPIO version one, partners liked the fact that we were thinking about our technology from a solutions perspective, and taking a long term view of the customer, and what [technologies] they might leverage over a 3- to-5-year span," said Avalani.

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The program includes Business Productivity Infrastructure Analyzer (BPIA), an assessment tool for partners to start having conversations with customers, says Matt Scherocman, a director at PCMS IT Advisor, a Cincinnati-based Microsoft Gold partner.

The BPIA tool allows partners to quickly glean important information about an organization's infrastructure; for example, whether it has Active Directory type identity management, or whether the organization has set up auto patching for its servers, Scherocman says.

"It's an entire selling methodology that Microsoft has adopted, and it's useful for selling the entire Microsoft stack, and helpful for selling things in the proper order," said Scherocman.

Thus far, Microsoft has primarily focused its BPIO efforts on sales and marketing training, facilitating the discussion with partners, and helping partners explain to customers the benefits of upgrading from basic to dynamic network infrastructure, said Avalani.

Next month, Microsoft will hold a training event in Chicago to further explain how the program will benefit partners, according to Avalani.

Microsoft is also establishing a better connection with how its field operates in the context of BPIO, by allowing field and channel partners to receive instruction together in the sessions, said Avalani. "In the sales readiness meetings, the solution specialists will actually be sitting in the same room at the same time as the partners," he said.

While the ideas behind BPIO are theoretically sound, the high cost of making the transition puts it out of reach for Microsoft's smaller partners, according to one Gold partner who asked not to be named.

"I think BPIO is something you're going to see only medium to large enterprises embrace, because smaller organizations can't handle that level of cost for best practices, which require a rather large mental and financial commitment," said the source.

"It's still very expensive to deploy the technology in most organizations, and if they can have partners be able to go in with a higher success rate, that's a good thing. But we still haven't made a lot of progress in the ease of implementing technology across an organization," added the source.

Other solution providers say BPIO is just an example of the best practices they've already been following in the design and implementation of network infrastructure.

"The infrastructure optimization model is fitting nicely into what we push with managed services, which is a huge step toward moving customers to the highest level," said Jack Safrit, president of Axxys Technologies, a VAR based in the Dallas suburb of Frisco, Texas.

"Microsoft's efforts to publish this and get the attention of business decision makers is going to help us on the managed services side of things," added Safrit.