Microsoft Partner Network to Integrate Cloud Programs

Julie Bennani, general manager of the Microsoft Partner Network

Julie Bennani, general manager of the Microsoft Partner Network

Microsoft Corp. is makings its cloud partners mainstream within flagship Microsoft Partner Network (MPN), announcing that that by the beginning of 2014, its cloud partner programs will be integrated into MPN competencies.

The change in program details, the highlight of a quiet second day on the new front from its Worldwide Partner Conference, comes as the company says it’s time for all of its partners to become, at least in part, cloud partners.

Jon Roskill, corporate vice president of the worldwide partner group, said the company now has 150,000 partners worldwide with cloud practices.

“We have crossed the chasm, we do have critical mass,” Roskill said. “I consider this a really significant milestone in the partner ramp for Microsoft cloud products.”

That number is more than twice the number of partners who were representing the company’s cloud offerings as recently as last year’s WPC in Toronto, and represents “the fastest awakening of the slowest ramp we’ve ever done,” as Roskill puts it. The company first started discussing the move towards cloud technologies five years ago – when last WPC was in Houston as it is this week – but really has turned up the volume over the last three years, starting with CEO Steve Ballmer’s bold proclamation in 2010 that partners need to be ready for a future that includes cloud in their business model, or they risk being left aside.

A study commissioned by IDC and released in time for IDC notes that cloud-focused partners (those who do more than 50 percent of their revenues on cloud-related solutions) are more profitable, pick up more new customers, and generally excel in most metrics. That study will be a key weapon for Microsoft as it looks to take the word to the nearly 500,000 partners in the Microsoft Partner Network who have not yet made the transition.

“They’ve seen the possibilities, and that’s going to drive the next wave. Our goal is to get all 640,000 partners in the Microsoft Partner Network in the program, fully supporting our cloud solutions,” Roskill said.

In a blog post announcing the changes to the program, Juli Bennani, general manager of MPN, says the changes reflect the fact that “every Microsoft partner must be able to sell and deliver solutions that are fully or partially cloud based,” echoing Ballmer’s “you’re in or you’re out” ultimatum of three years ago.

Elements of the Cloud Essentials and Cloud Accelerate programs will be bought into MPN as part of an overall revamp that will also see increased focus on devices and Windows applications, data center practices, and business analytics and Big Data opportunities.

Embeeded Partners Welcome

The company also announced that it was integrating its Windows Embedded Partner Program (WEPP) into the Microsoft Partner Network, a move due before the end of the year. The existing Gold and Silver tiers of WEPP will map to the same levels within MPN, and the company’s new intelligent systems specialization will address opportunities for ISVs and SIs looking to work with Windows Embedded.

The move closes the loop on the now all-encompassing Microsoft Partner Network, and comes as Microsoft is positioning Windows Embedded for the rise of intelligent systems in several key markets. IDC estimates that market will double between 2012 and 2016.

“Partners play a critical role in creating solutions that address the needs of retail, manufacturing, healthcare and a range of industries,” says Barb Edson, general manager of marketing and business development for Windows Embedded at Microsoft. “This move will provide them with added support and resources to create intelligent systems solutions that address their customers’ needs.”