Microsoft Inspire 2020: Azure Lighthouse updates, expanded partnerships and new playbooks

Microsoft’s top channel-focused executives on Tuesday echoed themselves from last year, telling partners during Microsoft Inspire that the next 12 months will be a crucial period for both partners and customers as they further transition to cloud solutions and managed services. But as COVID-19 maintains a grip on the world forcing businesses to modernize or risk losing everything, the message hit a little harder this time.

“If it looked good to get out of your data centre, pre-COVID, it looks really good to get out of your data centre now,” said Judson Althoff, Microsoft’s executive vice-president for worldwide commercial business. “Our solution areas, our cloud capabilities – from modern workplace through security, business applications, apps and infrastructure, data and AI–across Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365 and Azure, these are the ingredients that will help customers persevere in these difficult times.”

There are 30 pages worth of announcements in Microsoft’s “Book of News” this year. The few pages dedicated to customer and partner enablement consist of Azure Lighthouse updates, a pair of partnership expansions, and two new Microsoft playbooks. Let’s break it all down.

Judson Althoff, Microsoft’s executive vice-president for worldwide commercial business, delivers a keynote during Microsoft Inspire’s first-ever virtual-only event. Source: Screenshot.

Major security enhancements for Azure Lighthouse

Microsoft announced some important updates for that handy tool that lets partners control how customers access Azure and from a single screen.

Azure Lighthouse is getting Azure Multi-Factor Authentication and Azure Privileged Identity Management support for just-in-time access, two big asks from both customers and partners in recent months, according to Microsoft.

Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) for partners can now be permanent or eligible and can be achieved by adding a few parameters to the ARM template file customers use to onboard to Azure Lighthouse. Partners can elevate access to a privileged (built-in RBAC) role for a shorter period for management tasks in their customer’s tenants. They can now support their customers without needing a permanent level of higher access. 

Lighthouse entered general availability July 19 aimed primarily at service providers, although some partners early on were confused about its purpose. But here’s a quick and dirty rundown: As a service provider, if you need to work with a customer’s resources, Lighthouse removes the pain of having to get your account added as a guest user in their Azure Active Directory (AAD). It also allows partners to manage all customers from a single portal without needing to switch between tenants.

For customers, it provides a single point for them to monitor what access service providers have to their subscription, eliminating that pesky need to work with guest users from other tenants.

Two new playbooks

A question of the rhetorical kind: Did you know that cloud spending is going up? With more than 80 per cent of application development happening on cloud platforms (PaaS) by 2021, partner development capabilities will need to keep up with customer demand for custom and packaged software. Microsoft is responding with two new Cloud Practice Playbooks. The App Innovation Practice Development playbook outlines the customer demand for cloud-based applications and guidance from partners on how to take advantage of the opportunity, while the Microsoft Azure Center of Excellence playbook, which will be available post-Inspire, guides partners on how to scale an Azure-focused practice.

Nick Parker, corporate VP of global partner solutions at Microsoft, highlights the opportunities for channel partners. Source: Screenshot Inspire.

“Successful app innovation partners focus on industries that need to coordinate highly mobile workforces, provide security for remote workers, integrate with Microsoft Teams and third-party apps, and package their IP with a subscription model. Every partner practice can benefit from efficiencies and cost savings while the inherent connectivity and extensibility of a low-code development platform increase a partner’s ability to up-sell and cross-sell, continually enhancing, integrating, and updating solutions,” Melissa Mulholland, director, partner enablement and profitability for Microsoft wrote in a blog post.

Lenovo Managed Services

On Tuesday Lenovo introduced the world to Lenovo Managed Services, a suite of tools built to Microsoft specifications and delivered through Lenovo’s partners. Lenovo says it’s a way for SMBs to “get the support they need to get the most out of Microsoft 365.”

Consisting of two offerings – CSP (Cloud Solution Provider) Managed Services and Endpoint Managed Services – the two services offer varying levels of support from which SMBs can choose according to their needs and budgets.

Lenovo describes the base offer, CSP Managed Services, as a program designed to help companies manage their Microsoft 365 tools by removing the time-consuming maintenance and support tasks from their IT staff. This means that Lenovo manages all Microsoft 365 accounts on a company’s license, onboarding and migrating them to the cloud and configuring application settings across Microsoft Outlook and Teams. CSP Managed Services customers will also have access to 24/7 issue resolution support in their local language.

Endpoint Managed Services is a more advanced offering. It includes all of the features within CSP Managed Services but boasts enhanced security and support benefits. Customers who opt for this level of service will receive automatic device enrollment into Lenovo’s endpoint and security management service, threat protection and asset management, as well as access to Lenovo’s proprietary Endpoint 360 Dashboard. Endpoint Managed Services customers will also receive access to Lenovo’s advanced, VIP break-fix support services, Premier Support and Premium Care, as well as its Accidental Damage Protection service for new Lenovo PCs.

CSP Managed Services will be available first in Australia and North America starting July 2020. Endpoint Managed Services will be available in the same markets starting in October 2020. A phased expansion to other regions will continue into 2021.

SAP partnership expansion … or not?

Microsoft’s “Book of News” makes mention of SAP expanding its partnership with the tech giant to let organizations use SAP Digital Supply Chain solutions in a Software-as-a-Service model on Azure. Microsoft says this extends to SAP Solutions for Digital Manufacturing, SAP Intelligent Asset Management, SAP Integrated Business Planning, and SAP supply chain network solutions.

Strangely, the news – as of this morning – is not available on Microsoft’s website and is absent in Gavriella’s own roundup of Inspire announcements. Channel Daily News has followed up with Microsoft to confirm the status of the announcement.


[UPDATE, July 22, 12:30 pm]

A spokesperson for Microsoft has confirmed with CDN that news around SAP and Microsoft has been delayed for now. We’ll follow up about the announcement when it gets the green light.

‘We don’t make it easy’

During a breakout session about opportunities for Microsoft’s global system integrators and advisory partners, Takuya Hirano, the company’s VP of global system integrators and advisory consultants, Hirano acknowledged that the dialogue between Microsoft’s and its partners could be better.

“We don’t make it easy to work with us,” he said after answering a question from the chat about co-selling. “I’ve been critical about this as well. We’re acknowledging this and we’re committed to simplifying the sales process.”

The response came after a virtual session participant asked the following: “How do we make sure that from a co-sell perspective MSFT and GSIs are sharing the same knowledge and ideas. Reason for asking we often see Enterprise Customers testing either the Partner or MSFT.”

In addition to Hirano’s response, an official Microsoft moderator directly responded to the question as well.

We are enabling our sales teams to make sure that they can learn about our partner solutions and speak one voice with the partner in front of our customers,” they wrote. 

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Alex Coop
Alex Coop
Former Editorial Director for IT World Canada and its sister publications.

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