Microsoft Makes It Easier to Move to the Cloud WPC14

Much of what's going to be announced this week at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Washington, DC, is already known. 

Satya Nadella underlined Microsoft’s commitment to cloud and mobile computing almost as soon as he took over the reins as CEO, so his message to partners yesterday about pushing cloud computing was not unexpected.

Microsoft is a cloud company and partners need to get on board. The whole focus of Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner's keynote, for example, was cloud, mobile and more cloud. The cloud isn’t the future, he said, it’s the present.

More Details Emerging

However, Microsoft wasn’t just pointing out what everyone knows already. It was also there to announce a number of initiatives that push the cloud strategy forward. Phil Sorgen, corporate vice president, Worldwide Partner Group, outlined some of those yesterday.

"To better help partners serve our mutual customers in the cloud, we announced that we are integrating the cloud into the Microsoft Partner Network, with three new cloud-focused competencies based on performance for Office 365 and Microsoft Azure,” he said in a statement. Those new competencies consist of three main drivers:

  • Small and Mid-market Cloud Solutions: For partners selling Microsoft Office 365 to small and mid-market customers
  • Cloud Productivity: For partners deploying Microsoft Office 365 for enterprise customers
  • Cloud Platform: For partners who specialize in delivering infrastructure, PaaS and SaaS solutions on Microsoft Azure

On the basis of this, Microsoft is retiring the Cloud Accelerate, Cloud Deployment and Azure Circle programs and will instead offer ways for partners to move to whatever one program best suits them.

Microsoft is also making it easier and cheaper for partners to integrate and develop these competencies. Gavriella Schuster, general manager, Worldwide Partner Group, told delegates yesterday that Microsoft would lift some of the financial burden normally associated with cloud investments. It will do it in four ways, Schuster said:

  1. It is waiving the first year entry into the silver cloud competencies plan to help free up some resources. In addition to this. It is also changing the primary eligibility requirement to be based on ability to drive active usage on Office 365 and Microsoft Azure consumption.
  2.  Enhancing the internal use rights for Office 365 and Azure.
  3.  Providing unlimited cloud support through our new Signature Cloud Support. In the coming months ahead, it will extend this new offer to CRM Online, giving partners the ability to build Office 365, Azure and CRM Online cloud and hybrid practices.
  4. Reducing the fees for on-premises competencies by up to 10 percent to enable investment in cloud technologies.

To prepare and train partners in the use of Microsoft cloud services, the company is also setting up the Azure Machine Learning University, a portfolio of online self-service learning assets designed to get partners started with Azure ML.

Office 365 Open

Finally, Microsoft is extending its Office 365 Open program, which it launched at last year’s WPC. Microsoft says that the program was so successful that the number of partners selling Office on Open grew by 16 times year-over-year.

The Open programs provide a way for small and midsize businesses (SMB) to acquire the latest Microsoft technology. They also offer the ability to add online services purchases to business agreements, so the business can transition to the cloud through their existing agreement.

The new capabilities will enable enterprises package their own products and services alongside Office 365 and enables partners to directly manage customers' cloud subscriptions.

This means controlling the entire customer lifecycle, with partners serving as the only contact for all customer needs, including billing, provisioning, support, as well as the ability to sell their own tools, products and services.

This is only the first salvo in what looks set to be a crowded week. The highlight will likely be tomorrow when CEO Satya Nadealla delivers his keynote speech.