SAS and Microsoft team up on cloud analytics

Jay Upchurch, executive vice president and CIO of SAS

As Microsoft and SAS get closer together, so too will the companies’ channels.

Analytics software vendor SAS this week announced an expansion of its longstanding connection with Microsoft, one that will see SAS ordain Azure as its preferred cloud platform, and will also see the two companies work more closely on tying SAS’ analytics offerings across the Microsoft stack.

Under a deal announced at SAS’ revamped Global Forum event, turned into a virtual event for this year, SAS will make its flagship version 9 analytics platform and SAS Viya 3.5 available on containers or as quickstarts on Azure, and will also move it much of its own operations to Azure. The partnership will also see the next generation of Viya available on the Azure Marketplace, and the two companies will work together to “jointly explore solutions between SAS analytics and the Microsoft cloud,” including Azure and its Dynamics 365 business software lineup.

“We think that’s particularly fascinating, given the reach of Microsoft’s cloud platform combined with SAS’ leadership in analytics,” said Jay Upchurch, executive vice president and CIO of SAS.

Upchurch described the expanded partnership, over a year in the making, as an effort to “define the operating system for digital transformation” when it comes to business data and getting value out of it in the cloud.

The partners have already worked together on a number of customer implementations, the companies said, including the combination of Microsoft IoT solutions and SAS Analytics to build a flood detection system in SAS’ hometown of Cary, North Carolina.

“We’re not just taking existing assets and combining them in great new ways, we’re bringing new capabilities to market that combine the two product sets intelligently,” said Ulrich Homann, corporate vice president of cloud and AI at Microsoft.

The new partnership comes as SAS sees an increasing role for channel partners in its business, a shift in corporate mindset that’s been lead in many regards by the company’s Canadian organization opening itself up to the channel. And in getting closer with Microsoft, it is getting closer to probably the biggest base of channel partners in the industry. 

There’s already a great deal of crossover in the SAS Canada and Microsoft Canada channels, said Doug McLaren, director of alliances for SAS Canada, with 60 percent of the company’s existing partners already selling or building on Azure. As Microsoft and SAS go to market together, those partners will have access to new opportunities, he said.

Doug McLaren, director of alliances and channels at SAS Canada

“It’s an opportunity to take advantage of new revenue streams around migration services, but also around working with us on new services,” McLaren said.

The partnership will see a lot of joint go-to-market effort, and McLaren said his team is working with their counterparts at Microsoft not just to identify deals, but to “make sure that at the geographic level in Canada that we understand each other and can co-sell together.”

That includes new training programs and tools from SAS to help Microsoft and its partners get up to speed on what SAS brings to the table. While McLaren said there are opportunities to address new needs and new customers through new partners, that SAS will continue to be “selective in authorizing partners” in an effort not to flood the market and dilute the value available to SAS partners.

Steve Holder, head of strategy and innovation for SAS Canada, said that just like there’s alignment between SAS and Microsoft channels, there’s also customer alignment, with more than 50 percent of the company’s customers having “a preference for, or having Azure as their primary cloud provider.”

The new partnership “will create more agility in their SAS landscapes,” Holder said.

While the new partnership makes Azure the preferred partner for cloud infrastructure, Upchurch stressed that SAS will “continue to be cloud-agnostic” and support running its offerings in a number of different cloud environments.

Robert Dutt

Robert Dutt is the founder and head blogger at ChannelBuzz.ca. He has been covering the Canadian solution provider channel community for a variety of publications and Web sites since 1997. 

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