Channel partner programs, CSPs

Microsoft Bolsters Office 365, Azure Cloud Partner Efforts

Microsoft has launched several cloud partner program enhancements for its Office 365 and Azure platforms. The move comes as VARs, managed services providers (MSPs) and cloud integrators begin to push beyond basic SaaS offerings -- exploring emerging ISV and big data opportunities atop Azure, in particular.

Microsoft Channel Chief Gavriella Schuster
Gavriella Schuster (pictured), general manager of Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Group, outlined the changes today in a blog post. They included:

  • Small and Midmarket Cloud Solutions competency (SMCS) that "makes it easier for partners to leverage demand for cloud and hybrid solutions in the SMB marketplace," the company asserted.
  • Cloud Platform is now aligned with Azure pricing fluctuations and "ensured SMB-focused partners can qualify by reducing the performance goal required for silver. And now there is no silver competency fee."
  • Microsoft  ended manual tracking of unique MCPs per competency.
  • Cloud Productivity competency: The performance definition for partners has shifted from "seats assigned for Office 365" toward "when partners drive Active Entitlements (active users) for silver and gold."
  • For Cloud Platform competency partners, there are additional licenses of MSDN and Visual Studio 2015, the company said.
  • A new Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) competency, originally announced at WPC, has finally emerged.

Gradual, Sustained Progress

I must concede, I haven't had a chance to inspect each update in deep detail. But generally speaking, Microsoft's cloud partner program has gradually improved -- year after year -- since Office 365 replaced Microsoft's old BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite) hosted applications.

Microsoft's gradual moves have helped Office 365 to leapfrog Google Apps for Work in terms of business customer adoption, according to ChannelE2E's Cloud Services FAQ.

Moreover, Microsoft in recent years apparently has worked with TruMethods and other consulting firms to promote profitability and cloud adoption models to channel partners.

Cloud Channel Partner Shift

While the SaaS market remains strong, the next round of cloud-centric channel competition ahead likely involves Microsoft vs. Amazon Web Services for a range of emerging ISV applications running on IaaS.

Indeed, keep a close eye on this week's Strata+Hadoop World in New York, where Microsoft is expected to unveil a range of big data partnerships that could bolster analytics-centric partners.

Longer term, Amazon will surely follow with a range of cloud partner enhancements during the AWS re:Invent conference  (Oct. 6-9, Las Vegas).

Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.