Microsoft Exec Discusses Plan To Offer Customers Free Office 365 Migration Services

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Microsoft will start offering customers free migration services sometime this fall when they switch from on-premise software to its Office 365 suite of cloud apps. But when that happens, Microsoft partners who've built thriving businesses around providing these services could have their worlds rocked, and not in a good way.

It's all part of Office 365 FastTrack, a program Microsoft launched last year that is supposed to give customers a quick way of signing up and using its cloud apps. Microsoft shared some details about a coming program update last week at its Worldwide Partner Conference, and early reactions in the channel are not positive.

Sources familiar with Microsoft's plans told CRN the company is hiring between 250 and 600 new engineers to provide "on-boarding" services for Office 365, which cover basic tasks involved in switching customers from on-premise to cloud apps, such as Active Directory integration, cloud services activation and provisioning users.

Microsoft also is planning to use this engineering team to provide free Office 365 migration services to customers on deals of 150 seats or more. All of this could potentially take a big bite out of many Microsoft partners' businesses, but Microsoft says it's providing these low-end services so partners can focus on higher-value services.

Related: Microsoft Offers Details On Coming Office 365 Price Hike For Enterprise Customers

Tanuj Bansal, Microsoft's director of partner and channel Office marketing, confirmed in an interview Monday the new engineering hires but declined to provide a specific number. These are engineers and not consultants, he said.

The engineers will work closely with partners and customers around the world to provide Office 365 on-boarding services, Bansal said. Eventually, Microsoft plans to provide on-boarding services for Office 365 in eight languages, and some of the engineers will operate in a support center setting.

"Microsoft is providing tools and guidance, and we're automating consistent, repeatable tasks," Bansal told CRN. "We're like a proactive support center, working with partners and their customers on-site for things that can be automated."

If a customer isn't already working with a partner, Microsoft will try to connect them with one, Bansal said.

Once the on-boarding services are completed, customers can have Microsoft handle Office 365 migration services free of charge. Or, they can have a partner do the migration work with funding from Microsoft.

For the latter scenario, Microsoft will pay partners $15 per seat for up to 1,000 seats, and then $5 per seat after that, with a limit of $60,000 per customer. Bansal said Microsoft will not pay $15 for each Exchange, SharePoint and Lync workload, as has been rumored.

It's not clear when the FastTrack program changes will take effect; sources told CRN Microsoft is planning to launch it Sept. 1, but Bansal declined to offer a time frame more specific than "late fall."

Microsoft shared details on the FastTrack changes with partners last week at WPC, in a tension-filled session that was scheduled for one hour but ended up taking more than two and half hours. Some partners loudly voiced their frustration directly to Microsoft representatives, according to sources who attended the session.

NEXT: What Happened When Microsoft Revealed Its Plans To Partners

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