Microsoft alters channel program for the cloud

Washington, D.C. – Newly minted channel chief Jon Roskill addressed the more than 9,000 partners at Microsoft Corp.‘s (NASDAQ: MSFT) Worldwide Partner Conference and promised to bolster the Microsoft Partner Network channel program with new tools, resources and sales support to help solution providers fast track customers to the cloud.

The new tweaks will come in the form of a branded effort named Cloud Essentials Pack and the Cloud Accelerate Program.

Roskill described the program changes as business builders for cloud services for all types of customers: (small, mid, enterprise and public sector) and partners (reseller, LAR, ISV, hoster, system integrator).

One of the many issues surrounding cloud computing for channel partners is profit and sales compensation. Roskill outlined a partner profitability modeler and tool that can iron out all of the possible financial aspects of the cloud opportunity over a three year term with items such as quarterly profit and loss, costs, margins, return on investment and other business forecasts.

The Cloud Accelerate Program will have one brand for committed partners who give sales targets, business plans for new products such as Azure, Intune, Online Services, CRM Online and BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite) and get from Microsoft market place priority with solution finder. CDN has learned that BPOS will have a new name starting in 2011 and the “Network” will be dropped on the Microsoft Partner Network brand.

The new channel chief also took a firm stance against channel partners who are not loyal to Microsoft.

“We need you to run the latest and greatest software and if you run XP or Linux then you’re not going to be our best partner. We want you running Windows 7, CRM Online and BPOS,” Roskill said.

To that end, Roskill announced Microsoft will be giving away 250 free licenses for internal use for BPOS, CRM Online along with preferred partner pricing for solution providers who want more. That is a total of $25,000 worth of software. “We want you to run on our latest software so that you can evangelize to the customer,” he said.

Bill Baldasti, vice president of sales for Toronto solution provider Infusion Development, said the 250 seats will help his company set up internal demos to showcase the new features and functions of the Azure platform, while the new financial tools will enable Infusion to track its cloud commitments and sales activities.

“What excited me is that Microsoft is finally taking it seriously. They’re making it harder to achieve the higher echelons of the Microsoft certified partner program. We’re a gold partner and we threw it up on the screen, but it wasn’t something we took a lot of extra pride in because it was easy for many others to accomplish the same thing. Now they’re enforcing us to reach those echelons and commit to the Microsoft program and they’ll reward us with preferential treatment,” Baldasti said.

Beth Vanni, director of market intelligence for Amazon Consulting of Fallbrook, Calif., said that Cloud Essentials and Accelerate tools and programs are a logical step for the company and the profit planning and customer conversion tools will be benefits for partners in the coming year.Go to Yahoo

“They are smart to recognize that partners, even if they’re excited about the Azure appliance, the development tools and other technologies, they still have competitive issues to deal with in terms in winning the hearts and minds of partners to start building these new cloud services and apps. Google, and Oracle are also after the same hearts and mind of the partner community,” she said.

Vanni said that Microsoft’s long-established partner relationships are an advantage in keeping mind share and loyalty in the new cloud marketplace. She believes channel partners will initially encounter some customer resistance as they transition to cloud services, but eventually it will bring huge services opportunities for system integrators, managed services providers and hybrids of those in pre-sales, professional services, integration, and application development. “Microsoft has finally realized that they needed to be all-in with the cloud to make it happen,” Vanni said.

Also revamped for the channel program is PinPoint, which was originally released in 2007. According to Roskill, the new PinPoint has 380,000 prospects worldwide for the fiscal year 2010. Next year, Roskill said PinPoint will have 680,000 across 46 countries. In Canada, CDN has learned that 19,681 leads will be made available for solution providers. Roskill added that those partners who update their profile in PinPoint get eight times more leads than those who don’t.

Follow Paolo Del Nibletto on Twitter: @PaoloCDN.

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Former editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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