At WPC 2014, Microsoft Re-Focuses on Cloud Services with Partner Program Updates

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At its Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington D.C., Microsoft announced new cloud-based options for its channel partners designed to make providing Microsoft cloud computing solutions easier and less expensive for resellers.

Microsoft is retiring the Cloud Accelerate, Cloud Deployment and Azure Circle programs in favor of three new cloud-focused membership categories or “competencies”: Small and Midmarket Cloud Solutions, Cloud Productivity, and Cloud Platform. The Small and Midmarket Cloud Solutions competency is for partners selling Microsoft Office 365 to the SMB segment, and Cloud Productivity is for partners deploying Office 365 for enterprises. Cloud Platform is aimed at providers of Azure-based IaaS, PaaS and SaaS solutions.

Microsoft has said that Dynamics CRM Online will be available through the Microsoft Open Licensing program by the end of the year. This will essentially allow partners to purchase licenses for Microsoft products on behalf of their customers, and then bill those customers directly, making it easier to bundle Microsoft services with their own offerings and provide just one invoice.

Microsoft already announced that Open Licensing would be available on Azure starting in August, and it is already available for Office 365, Windows Intune, and Power BI.

The company also announced the Azure Certified program, which allows Microsoft partners to promote themselves using an Azure Certified logo, and sell their Azure applications and services directly from the Azure Management Portal. The program begins with “Microsoft Azure Certified for Virtual Machines”. Eventually, Azure Certified partners will also have access to sales and marketing tools and offers, such as Sales Accelerator Toolkit, a self-service marketing portal and Azure social media feeds, and have access to technical training such as Azure DevCamps.

Starting in September, Microsoft will also be providing partners unlimited cloud support from its technical experts through its new “Signature Cloud Support” offering. It is also providing a as much as a 10 percent discount on partner programs for on-premises software products. It is waiving the first year fee for Silver-level cloud competencies, and providing between 25 percent and 200 percent more Internal Use Rights licences for Office 365 and Azure based on the competency level achieved.

With IDC predicting the cloud industry to be worth $108 billion by 2017, Microsoft has been adamant that its partners can use its cloud ecosystem to create sustainable revenue streams and that (as alternative options abound) Microsoft remains the right partner in delivering public and hybrid cloud applications to customers.

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