Office 365 has been a hit in the enterprise. Many of those who have not already deployed it are planning to do so, a trend confirmed by recent  research from enterprise collaboration vendor Harmon.ie.

But the research also shows though that Microsoft partners want more, and that as cloud migration continues, the idea of a single vendor for all enterprise needs is starting to fade. The partners aren't looking to leave the fold, but they are going to have to look further afield to turn a buck, research shows.

These are people whose bread and butter for many years has been Microsoft products. "There is a certain amount of anxiety that the traditional businesses are been taken over by the move to the cloud,” David Lavender, VP of Product Strategy of Harmon.ie told CMSWire.

“There isn’t as many servers to be installed and to be patched and to be managed, nor as many as software update as there were before and so on. There’s a bit of apprehension [among partners] that Microsoft is making these people’s business redundant."

Cloud Adoption Progresses

The research, Transitioning to the Mobile Cloud: Microsoft Office 365 Opportunities and Challenges for Microsoft Ecosystem Partners, was released yesterday. The research, designed to uncover the impact of the mobile cloud on Microsoft partners, was carried out around the Microsoft Ignite conference in May. It consisted of a questionnaire given out to 190 Microsoft partners.

Globally, it showed that businesses are adopting the cloud at different paces — with an almost even split between those committed to Office 365 and those still dabbling with it.

Partners see immediate revenue opportunities with consulting, cloud management and hybrid integration, although no single service is expected to drive more than a quarter of revenues in 2015 and 2016, the research found.

Some of the findings are particularly striking. In relation to Office 365 use:

  • 97 percent of survey respondents expect their clients’ use of Microsoft Office 365 to increase in the next 12 months
  • More than half of the respondents expect an increase of 30 percent to more than 50 percent of Office 365 adoption among their customers
  • 47 percent of the respondents expect 30 percent or lower increase in customer use of Office 365

In terms of the cloud, email and Office apps are moving first. SharePoint is still mostly on-premises while social tools lag in adoption as they are yet to be integrated into the workers’ daily flow.

Office 365 usage plans

“There is a big play to make cost savings on email so people are saying that if they move email at least to Office 365 they can save storage and money on managing that. But anything beyond email is second stage, if at all and if it takes place, and there are challenges like customizations that people have done, or apprehension around release cycles that people don’t have control over, as well as anxiety about upgrading,” Lavenda said.

Email and Hybrid

Similar to what we have seen in other reports, the biggest obstacles to cloud adoption are as follows:

  • 62 percent of partners cite security as an obstacle
  • Migration factors are also a top concern for customers, especially migration of customized environments (39 percent) and effective data migration (36 percent)

According to Lavenda, there are a number of notable findings.

“There are a couple of surprises. Certainly the idea that email is the big thing and that everything else is behind is interesting. I think one of the things that I found interesting is the realization that a lot of companies, who tended to be in the Microsoft camp have realized that the move to the cloud is very much a multivendor world and that they need to build competencies in other technologies,” he said.

The result of this is that hybrid, once again, has been identified as the way forward for most partners with hybrid integration see as one of the big business opportunities for partners moving forward.

“The issue with hybrid is that there are definitely things that people are going to take advantage of. The big problem at the moment is storing content and the storage is expensive and the maintenance is expensive,” Lavenda said.

“So offloading email is a no-brainer. People are comfortable with it [in the cloud] they are used working with Hotmail, Gmail and Outlook for years so it’s a very simple. Apart from that there are some things that just don’t want in the cloud. There has to be seamless support for both sides of the equation for hybrid to work,” he said.

Developing Services

But it’s not the only place that partners see their future. The research also shows that partners are betting on consulting services (72 percent), hybrid integration (47 percent) and cloud management (41 percent) as the top three services with the biggest immediate revenue potential.

More than half (60 percent) are developing expertise in other business cloud providers for cloud applications outside of the Microsoft portfolio of mobile and cloud applications and services.

Office 365 serrvices offered by partners

The survey also identified the most popular cloud applications being implemented by partners, which include enterprise file sync and storage workloads, CRM, collaboration and customer service apps, while noted cloud partners include Dropbox, Box, Salesforce, SugarCRM, Citrix, WebEx and Zendesk.

"Any consulting services that can’t be done by the vendor out of the box is a safe bet [for partners]. The thing about is that going forward there is going to be nothing like an IBM shop, or a Microsoft shop. Vendors are going to have to support what people want to use and that’s what we are seeing and that was the realization with our Collage product. It’s really a multivendor world,” Lavenda said.

For this, the report concludes that as cloud computing is still in its infancy, there is a huge business opportunity to partners to offer migration services and as well as enabling hybrid environments.

Microsoft partners non-microsoft services

The development of cloud computing also enables the development of multi-vendor best-of-breed cloud solutions that integrate different solutions into a single work stream.

However, it also found the future for Office 365 is looking good with migration services to the suite ta key customer consideration.