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Microsoft Offers Partners Assistance To Make The Jump To Cloud Computing

New programs designed to encourage solution providers to sell Microsoft BPOS, Dynamics CRM Online, and other cloud services

Microsoft Tuesday unveiled channel program tools, sales support services and other resources to help channel partners make the transition to become cloud service providers.

’Together we’re going to succeed in this transition to the cloud,’ said Jon Roskill, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Group, in a keynote on the second day of Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington D.C.

Roskill, speaking onstage at the Verizon Center, introduced onstage a handful of solution providers who have already begun selling Microsoft cloud software. They spoke briefly about their experiences selling Business Productivity Online Standard Suite, Dynamics CRM Online and other Microsoft products, and offered tips on how to make the transition.

’We’ve been at this for five years,’ said Kenneth Lamnech, president and CEO of Insight Enterprises, a Microsoft large-account reseller. ’The cloud is real and we’re really starting to see meaningful revenue from the cloud.’

Lamnech said Insight develop a special set of services to help customers migrate to cloud computing, and developed a cloud-based IT management application and a single sign-on cloud software aggregation tool for its clients. The LAR now has 650 cloud-computing customers totaling 195,000 seats.

Webfortis, a San Francisco-based solution provider that sells on-premise and on-demand versions of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, created a separate line-of-business for cloud computing with a defined practice manager and dedicated sales and marketing resources, said CEO Marc Wolenik. ’We anticipate doubling our customer growth next year,’ he said.

To help partners plan for a move into cloud computing, Microsoft developed Business Builder for Cloud Services for defining cloud computing opportunities among small, midsize and large companies and in the public sector. The new Cloud Profitability Modeler business-planning tool helps solution providers develop a three-year forecast of revenue, profits and losses, and other metrics for a cloud business.

A new Microsoft Cloud Essentials Pack offers a range of training services, pre-sales and technical support, and marketing resources.

Channel partners also will be given free 250-seat licenses for Microsoft BPOS, Azure, CRM Online and Intune for their own use. ’We’re doing this because we want you running on our latest software,’ Roskill said. The idea: Solution providers can’t adequately sell cloud computing software they don’t use themselves.

Microsoft has created a Microsoft Cloud Accelerate designation for partners Microsoft deems the most committed to cloud computing. To participate partners must sell online services or have an application certified for the Azure platform, complete training and assessment requirements, and provide cloud computing customer references.

Also new are tools for managing cloud customer accounts, including a dashboard for managing BPOS sales pipelines, BPOS readiness workshops, and services for supporting customer deployments of Microsoft cloud applications. And a new toolset called Administration on Behalf will allow partners to manage their customers’ online services.

Roskill urged partners to develop a profile on Pinpoint, Microsoft’s online marketplace for solution providers, and strive to meet the new customer satisfaction requirements for Gold partners – a requirement that has irked some partners. ’Nothing less than excellence is what we will accept in this space,’ Roskill said, indicating Microsoft has no intention of backing off.

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