Microsoft makes Windows 10 Enterprise available as a service

Windows 10 screenTORONTO — The addition of Windows 10 Enterprise to the Cloud Service Provider (CSP) program brings with it some very interesting storylines for solution providers.

The move, announced at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference, makes it possible for CSP partners, or those purchasing from a CSP-authorized distributor, to sell the software titan’s top tier of its operating system as a $7 per user per month subscription. It also opens up the top tier to a lot of new customers.

“Historically, small customers have not had the ability to access the Enterprise Edition of Windows,” said Nic Fillingham, senior partner and channel marketing manager at Microsoft, who wryly points out that the name of the product alone would seem to suggest that.

But the primary point of differentiation of Enterprise versus Pro (typically included with commercial PCs) and Home (typically included with consumer PCs) versions of Windows 10 is security. And increasingly, the need for security is not, Fillingham points out, exclusively a function of customer size.

“Traditionally, Enterprise has just been available through a licensing movement, and while that works great for big companies, it doesn’t work so well for smaller businesses, where customers want to go to a partner,” he said. “It’s been a challenge for them to get through the motions required to get that deployed.”

But the addition of Windows 10 Enterprise-as-a-Service to CSP means that customers of any size who feel they need security enhanced beyond what’s included with Pro can get access — and can get access through their partner of choice, and very quickly. In fact, Fillingham said a partner can essentially move a customer from Pro to Enterprise in “about two minutes,” since it doesn’t require a reboot of the system, much less additional bits downloaded.

The upgrade obviously is a little bit more involved if moving the customer from Windows 7 or previous editions, and that’s where Microsoft thinks it may see a lot of movement with making the Enterprise edition available via CSP. It will make it possible for a small customer — down even to a single-person organization — to both get access to the latest version of Windows, and to make the acquisition part of their overall stack with their MSP or cloud service provider.

Windows 10 Enterprise edition adds a number of security of functions to Windows 10 Pro, which in turn adds a number of security functions for those coming from Windows 7 or previous. And it perhaps becomes more compelling as the August 2 arrival date of the upcoming Windows 10 Anniversary Update approaches. The Anniversary Update adds, among other features, Windows Information Protection, content encryption that’s app-aware and aims to prevent sensitive data being sent out. That kind of functionality needs to be configured and managed by policy, which of course speaks to partner services opportunities.

“Getting the bits on the device is only one step,” Fillingham said. “The next step is the partner relationship with the customer and developing the customer security portfolio. We’re really changing how Windows, licenses, and the customer all interact. It used to be very transactional. It used to be ‘they buy it, they get the disk, and you don’t see them again for three years.’ Now this is a massive opportunity for partners to have an ongoing discussion about a number of configuration and management issues.”

The introduction of Windows on a pure subscription basis is also worth noting from a Microsoft partner perspective because it is represents the last of the company’s crown jewels to be available on a recurring revenue basis, a symbolic gesture that would suggest the company’s evolution from “software maker” to “services company” is just about finished, with the Windows platform joining other major products like Office, SQL Server, and now even Dynamics for sale on a subscription, opex, or recurring revenue basis.