Microsoft To Draw Clear Line

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Microsoft will draw a clear line in the sand between its channel partners and internal services arm with its rules of engagement, slated to be unveiled today.

Orlando Ayala, group vice president of worldwide sales, marketing and services at Microsoft, indicated the company will implement a model based on a financial threshold that Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS) will not go below.

Microsoft will debut Services Partner Framework, said Orlando Ayala.

"Yes. In the United States, we'll have a threshold in the very high end [of the market," Ayala said when asked if the rules will be structured on a named-accounts model, similar to one recently unveiled by Novell. "I want partnering to happen."

Ayala's comments came after the appointment of former IBM Global Services veteran Mike Sinneck to head up MCS as vice president of worldwide services. The announcement, which interrupted the planned unveiling of the rules of engagement to partners last Wednesday, does not signal a shift in Microsoft's channel commitment, Ayala said.

He declined to go into any more detail about the rules, to be called the Services Partner Framework, but emphasized that he recently implemented a hiring freeze at MCS. As part of the rules of engagement, Microsoft will deliver "precise and concrete escalation points" that protect solution providers from poaching by MCS. In the past year, some solution providers have reported conflicts with MCS.

While solution providers wait for the rules, which were originally expected last month, reaction is divided.

"It's a tough call. Even if it is just an issue of experience, it will be interesting to see how easily Sinneck can transition from an aggressive organization like IBM Global Services to a partner-friendly channel policy," said Ian Chronister, senior industry advisor at Chronister Consulting, Mobile, Ala.

After an eight-month recruiting effort by Microsoft, Sinneck comes from IBM Global Services Americas where he was vice president of business operations. He fill the shoes of outgoing MCS chief Robert McDowell.

"We will not be the next [IBM Global Services of the industry. And I mean it," Ayala said. "If you think we are creating the next [IBM Global Services in the industry, that would be a suicidal step. We are a partner solutions company based on technology. [Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer won't allow it. I cannot go and hire another 10,000 to 20,000 people. It will destroy our business."

Some solution providers fear that Microsoft's enterprise push,and Sinneck's appointment--will continue to erode channel relations.

"I have taken many public positions in support of Microsoft. IBM's enterprise services arm is presently making an attempt to partner with solution providers, but it has not really worked," said Alan Weinberger, chairman and CEO of The ASCII Group, which represents more than 2,000 resellers with $11 billion in sales.

"The rules of engagement will be very important, but many conflicts will arise, no matter what the rules say, since only Microsoft will be the executive, legislative and judicial branches and have complete authority in deciding what is theirs and what is the reseller's take on a project," Weinberger said.

"I know partners are concerned, and I'm not saying it's not real, but it's a distortion," Ayala said. "[Sinneck understands the importance of the partner model. . . . I don't have any angst Mike is going to change the culture of MCS."

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