Microsoft Inspire 2018: 5 Key Partner Takeaways On Azure And Office 365

Partner Inspiration

Microsoft merged its Windows and Azure teams in March and since then, the combination has been creating synergies for Microsoft, which is also benefiting the channel. The Redmond, Wash.-based IT giant hasn't been shy during this year's Inspire partner conference about its focus on co-selling alongside its channel community, but on Day Two, Jason Zander, executive vice president of Azure, and Ron Markezich, corporate vice president of Office 365 Marketing, took to the stage to share specific updates from Azure and Microsoft 365.

Zander and Markezich talked new products and business momentum, and what partners should focus on during the upcoming fiscal year. What follows are five key announcements from the Azure and Microsoft 365 teams to partners.

Data Decisions

Microsoft gives partners many fully-managed options when it comes to data storage, from SQL DB, to Cosmos DB. The company is introducing Azure SQL database managed instance to make migrating to the cloud easier for partners and customers. Azure DB Managed Instance will be generally available in early Q4 of Microsoft's 2019 fiscal year. Zander said that the offer, which is currently in preview, is "a new flavor" of Azure SQL Database that represents fully managed on-premise SQL Server Instance hosted in Azure cloud.

In preview alone, Microsoft has seen over 2,000 customer opportunities, Zander said.

Betting Big On IoT

Microsoft in April announced its plans to invest $5 billion over the next four years in IoT to encourage partner and customer use case innovation through research and development, new programs and offerings. In fact, Zander said that much of the money is "earmarked" for generating leads and doing IoT projects with partners.

To that end, Microsoft has invested heavily in products such as Azure IoT Hub, a platform as a Service for IoT. It has also invested in the first software as a service solution for IoT, Azure IoT Central, an offering that now supports Power BI and Microsoft Flow, which lets customers visualize real-time intelligence and create workflows to take action based on these insights.

The Modern Desktop Opportunity

Markezich said that 81 percent of business leaders are going to increase their investments in the modern workplace over the next two years -- a significant change, he said, noting that having relevant tools is critical to staying competitive and retain the best talent.

The Microsoft 365 modern desktop is a perfect foundation because it brings Windows 10 and Office 365 together in a secure, cloud-connected fashion. Over the next three years as Windows 7 and Office 2010 support comes to end, it's critical that solution providers update clients to modern devices that stay modern, Markezich said. This move represents a $100 billion opportunity for all Microsoft partners, he added.

Compliance Requirements

Compliance is being reshaped around the world thanks to movements like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), but only 42 percent of customers expect to be GDRP compliant in the coming year. Clients like this are looking to partners for help, and it’s a big opportunity, Markezich said.

Helping partners reach their various compliance requirements and making sure they stay compliant is critical, and Microsoft 365 meets most compliance requirements, including GDRP. Microsoft also offers tools such as Compliance Manager, which lets customers store their controls in one environment, or Microsoft Information Protection to reduce human error, a tool that uses AI inside the customer's environments.

Partner Success On Azure

At the end of the day, Azure is a consumption-based business. For every dollar of Azure consumption the company gets, it drives $5 dollars of partner business, Zander said.

Microsoft took to Inspire to highlight its partnerships with third-party providers, and how those partnerships have led to bigger books of business for solution providers. For every $1 of SAP workloads running on Azure, partners are earning 2x on infrastructure services and 7x on transformation services. Microsoft's top MSP partner, Rackspace, has experienced a 425 percent year-over-year growth thanks to Microsoft's CSP program.