5 Channel Changes Partners Will Hear About At Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference

Embracing The Cloud Era

About 15,000 Microsoft partners will gather in Orlando, Fla., for the software giant's annual partner conference. While the Redmond, Wash., company has been on a tear of late with its cloud offerings and is preparing to roll out new products, including Windows 10, some of the most exciting news for partners will be around Microsoft's channel programs, structure and incentives.

Attendees are eager to hear how Microsoft plans to evolve and reinvigorate its channel to help partners capitalize on the new products and technologies.

Gavriella Schuster, general manager of Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Group, previewed for CRN some of the channel issues CEO Satya Nadella and other Microsoft leaders will address over the course of the conference.

More Cloud Solution Providers

Microsoft launched the Cloud Solution Provider program to broaden its channel and make it easier for partners to build cloud practices. The program for the first time enabled many distributors, MSPs, ISVs and hosting providers to directly provision cloud services and handle technical support for their customers.

Already rolled out in more than 40 countries and 131 markets in its first year, Microsoft plans to recruit even more Cloud Solution Providers in the coming year.

Azure and CRM Online will join Office 365, Windows Intune and Enterprise Mobility Suite as services available to Cloud Solution Providers. The program also will give partners greater control over billing, the bundling of products and services, provisioning and managing customer workloads.

APIs Aplenty

Microsoft wants to give its channel more tools to fully automate the processes of provisioning, managing and billing their customer accounts.

Partners already use APIs to automate Office 365 provisioning, but new ones are on the horizon that will allow solution providers to build direct connections to back-end systems such as CRM.

Microsoft also is adding capabilities to its portal to further help partners automate their services and efficiently scale.

Surface Channel Expansion

Microsoft soon will introduce a two-tier distribution model for its Surface reseller channel, one element of a push to significantly expand opportunities for partners to sell the tablet line.

The new structure is likely to increase the number of partners that can sell Surface from a few hundred to thousands, according to Schuster.

Coming changes to the program "can make all of our VARs into Surface resellers," she told CRN.

Cloud And Mobility Expertise

Two new competencies will help partners capitalize on opportunities from the two most significant trends in enterprise computing: cloud and mobility.

Microsoft will introduce an Enterprise Mobility Suite competency to help partners differentiate their expertise in delivering to customers the line of mobile and cloud services that encompass the suite.

A new Windows 10 competency also is in the works for later in the year.

Azure Incentives

Microsoft will launch an initiative to boost profit for Azure resellers at the start of August. The program will reward Silver or Gold platform partners who drive greater consumption of resources on its public cloud.

Microsoft said such an incentive will help partners earn more and grow their business.

Partners also can earn Azure consumption rewards by engaging customers through project services, managed services or repeatable IP built around the Azure cloud.