In the first session in the hosting and cloud track at Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference on Tuesday, Microsoft illustrated how web hosts are growing with cloud

Microsoft Hosting Partners Drive Growth Through Cloud – WPC 2012

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In the hosting and cloud track at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference on Tuesday, Marco Limena, VP hosting service providers business, Microsoft Coporation, started the afternoon presentation by illustrating how its web hosting partners are driving business through Microsoft cloud products.

“Cloud is a unique business opportunity for its size, and its pace and acceleration,” Limena says. “Different from any other business IT transformation, cloud brings its benefit to customers on day one.”

Limena says Microsoft has doubled down its investment in hosting partners, and its service provider license agreement has become one of the fastest growing licensing models for Microsoft.

Since the consumption model for cloud is specific for each customer, Microsoft partners of all sizes are winning customers by catering to specific compliance and regulatory cloud requirements. In one example, Limena says its partner Outsourcery won publishing company Pearson, the company that owns Penguin and Financial Times, and has enabled its 20,000 employees to communicate with Microsoft cloud suite.

Limena brought John Engates, chief technology officer, Rackspace Hosting, on stage to discuss how Rackspace is using Microsoft SharePoint to drive growth in the cloud. Rackspace has won Microsoft Partner of the Year 2012, and though it has won the award in the past, Engates says this year’s award is different.

“This is a different year, a different scale,” Engates says. “The cloud is in the middle of everything we’re doing.”

While Rackspace has its roots in SMB hosting, Engates says its aspirations are in the enterprise, and that Microsoft is helping it win these types of customers.

“We’ve been doing some work to tap into the enterprise,” he says, including bolstering its investment in Microsoft SharePoint. In February, Rackspace acquired SharePoint consulting and training services provider SharePoint 911 to help expand this area of its business.

Engates says enterprise customers have been choosing dedicated SharePoint over the other “flavours” of SharePoint it offers.

Of course, SharePoint is only a piece of the puzzle for Rackspace, since its underlying Fanatical Support is such a crucial part of its cloud success. Limena says the last time he was in Engates office he noticed a framed straightjacket, which Engates explained has become a revered reward at Rackspace since the jacket is given to employees that exemplify “fanatical support.”

“Enterprises like a relationship,” Engates says. “Fanatical Support is more important than ever.”

Recently, Rackspace released a study that showed enterprises are willing to pay more for cloud services from a cloud provider with strong customer service.

Based on SPLA information, Limena says 14,000 hosting partners report on Windows Server, 8,500 of partners on SQL Server, 5,000 on Microsoft Exchange Server and 1,600 partners (including Rackspace) on Microsoft SharePoint.

According to Mike Shutz, general manager, Windows server and management, product marketing, Microsoft hosting partners have delivered one million seats in Microsoft Exchange to date.

The session ended with a short demo of features in Windows Server 2012 for web hosting providers.

Windows Server 2012 enables web hosts to handle customers diverse workloads, and complex networking requirements. In addition, based on feedback from web hosting partners, Windows Server 2012 enables hosts to use industry standard hardware with the new operating system. It also makes it simple for end customers to onboard infrastructure.

Web hosting on Windows Server 2012 will improve scalability, feature IIS sandboxing and CPU metering to eliminate “noisy neighbors”, and is designed to support modern applications and web frameworks. Also, the service management API will allow web hosts to use existing portals as Parallels has done.

Talk back: Have you partnered with Microsoft to offer cloud services? if so, which ones are your customers demanding? Let us know in a comment.

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