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Kaseya Launches BYOD Solution

Five months after acquiring Rover Apps, Kaseya has released a rebranded version of Rover's bring-your-own-device (BYOD) management technology for Kaseya's managed service provider and enterprise IT customers.

Kaseya bought Rover Apps in a burst of acquisition activity this summer. Insight Venture Partners announced a significant investment in Kaseya on June 24, bringing in new CEO Yogesh Gupta. A few weeks later on July 9, Kaseya acquired cloud and network monitoring solution vendor Zyrion Inc., with the Rover Apps acquisition coming July 16. 

In an interview, Kaseya Chief Marketing Officer Loren Jarrett said those acquisitions, along with the Oct. 24 purchase of Office 365 Command, all fit with Gupta's vision for Kaseya. "What Kaseya does is we manage across everything that an IT department may be grappling with," Jarrett said.

The conversion of the Rover Apps BYOD solution addresses a relatively recent major requirement -- handling personal devices that employees need to use with corporate data.

"It's a challenge because employees don't want heavy-handed corporate management over their device. They don't want the corporation to be able to see what they're doing, read their data or control their device at all," she said. "At the same time, IT needs very strict controls over corporate data. They need to have the highest levels of security around corporate data and assets."

Kaseya rebranded and integrated the licensing of the Rover Apps technology as the Kaseya BYOD Suite. Unlike many mobile device management solutions, which require corporate control of an entire smartphone or tablet, the Kaseya BYOD solution relies on what are called "containerized" apps.

End users download three apps -- Browser, Docs and Mail -- on their iOS or Android devices and connect to a Kaseya BYOD Gateway. Users only need to follow corporate authentication requirements when accessing those apps, not when accessing the device.

"We're essentially moving the locus of endpoint control," said Jonathan Foulkes, vice president of Mobile Product Management for Kaseya and the former CEO and co-founder of Rover Apps. "We're moving the endpoint to be the secure containers for those applications."

[Click on image for larger view.] Users of Kaseya BYOD Suite see three apps on their devices -- Mail, Docs and Browser. Signing in with corporate credentials is only required when launching the apps, not when using the device itself.

According to Kaseya, security for the containerized apps includes AES 256 encryption atop SSL encryption and complies with privacy standards including FINRA and FIPS 140-2.

To access either corporate mail or documents or to browse corporate Web sites securely, users authenticate against the Active Directory with a username and password. Foulkes said the frequency of that password authentication is set by policy -- for example, once every 24 hours. After briefer periods of inactivity, users can re-enter the app with a PIN.

Kaseya's Docs app connects with back-end data sources, such as Microsoft SharePoint, and the app includes a third-party Office and PDF editor. "We wanted to make sure that we had a full built-in Office editor suite in this secure container. This allows organizations to be guaranteed that if their employee is viewing or editing a document, it's all within the context of a secure, managed application. That it's not, 'Boy, I hope they don't put it in that crazy new editor they just downloaded from the Google Play Store,'" Foulkes said.

The back-end of the Kaseya BYOD Suite consists of a cloud-based relayer and a BYOD Gateway that is installed as a service on a PC or server in the customers' network. In this first version as a Kaseya-branded product, the BYOD Suite is integrated with Kaseya licensing, but management of the technology is through the rebranded gateway software -- not through regular Kaseya dashboards.

"Our very next deliverable in 2014 will be a single pane of glass where you'll be able to see and manage all of the mobility needs of an organization," Foulkes said.

The need to administer the solution from the gateway also means MSPs will need to monitor and manage their customers individually, rather than from a multi-customer dashboard. Foulkes noted that very little subsequent management is usually required after initial setup. For an administrator, he said, "Most of the work is the initial configuration of what things am I going to publish and what's my configuration. Once you complete these, you can have 100 new users join the system and there's no activity that needs to happen with the MSP."

Stephen Lawson, principal consultant with Bulletproof InfoTech, a Calgary, Alberta-based MSP and Kaseya customer, is very interested in Kaseya's new BYOD approach, although he hasn't tried it yet.

"Right now, with a lot of our BYODs, if they are uncompliant, they're getting their phones purged by us. This would save us from those messy moments where you just nuke the corporate data," Lawson said.

Of Bulletproof InfoTech's small and medium business customers, Lawson said he expects the larger organizations to be more interested. "The small businesses, they almost don't care. If they're only a 10-seat company, they have a pretty close relationship between the owner and the person who has the phone. Bigger customers are more concerned with unique processes and what happens if they have to terminate an employee or if the phone gets lost," Lawson said.

Posted by Scott Bekker on December 16, 2013 at 2:59 PM0 comments

Microsoft Taps Service Providers for New Cloud OS Program

In a move to build a channel presence behind its emerging "Cloud OS" strategy, Microsoft on Thursday launched a consortium of about two dozen cloud service providers worldwide that can provide and support hybrid clouds for customers.

Cloud OS is Microsoft's attempt to build a unified platform for customers that allows them to move workloads and services among on-premise facilities, Microsoft public cloud services and service provider-hosted clouds. Microsoft formally launched what senior Microsoft executive Satya Nadella called its "cloud operating system era" in September 2012 with the availability of Windows Server 2012

The initial focus was on ensuring the ability to move virtualized servers within on-premise servers and private clouds, as well as with Microsoft's own cloud services, such as Windows Azure.

The new program, the Cloud OS Network, marks a maturity of Microsoft's Cloud OS platform to include service providers, as well, said Eugene Saburi, general manager of Cloud OS Marketing in Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise Division, which is driving the new partner program.

Microsoft is working closely with about 25 service providers who will now be able to provide a "single-pane-of-glass" management experience using Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 and the Windows Azure Pack. The idea, Saburi said, is to "enable boundary-less datacenters."

Partners named to the Cloud OS Network on Thursday include Alog, Aruba S.p.A., Capgemini, Capita IT Services, CGI, CSC, Dimension Data, DorukNet, Fujitsu Finland Oy., Fujitsu Ltd., iWeb, Lenovo, NTTX, Outsourcery, OVH.com, Revera, SingTel, Sogeti, TeleComputing, Tieto, Triple C Cloud Computing, T-Systems, VTC Digilink and Wortmann AG. According to Microsoft documentation, those service providers run more than 425 datacenters, manage more than 2.4 million servers and serve more than 3 million customers worldwide.

Saburi said Microsoft will likely add more partners later.

Piers Linney, co-CEO of U.K.-based Outsourcery, said his cloud service provider company expects to benefit from participation in Microsoft's new Cloud OS Network immediately. While Outsourcery has been providing Cloud OS-based solutions to customers that included Outsourcery-hosted components, Microsoft's recent technological improvements will remove sales barriers.

"The more friction you've got in terms of moving these workloads makes it a harder sell. The friction has been reduced. The ability to drag and drop, effectively, across the three [platforms], makes it easier," Linney said.

Outsourcery executives are not expecting leads or implementation business from Microsoft through the program. Rather, they're expecting Microsoft's validation of Outsourcery's expertise will help the cloud service provider's own sales efforts.

"It's very important to us to be part of this group of Microsoft partners in the network," Linney said. "It's very important that we are seen as experts in the Cloud OS."

Posted by Scott Bekker on December 12, 2013 at 5:20 AM0 comments

How Much Is Yahoo's Microsoft Partnership Worth?

Nearly a third. That's how much of Yahoo Inc.'s revenue comes from its Microsoft partnership.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has been pestering Yahoo with inquiries on the matter dating back several months and finally got an answer, the Reuters news service reported Tuesday. 

According to Reuters, Yahoo had previously stated that its 2009 search agreement with Microsoft comprised more than 10 percent of sales. The new filing indicates that the company received 31 percent of its revenue from the deal in the latest quarter, Reuters reported. Going by Yahoo's $1.1 billion in reported revenues for the quarter ended Sept. 30, that would amount to about $350 million from Microsoft.

Yahoo's earnings have missed Wall Street expectations for several quarters. The stock has rebounded substantially since Marissa Mayer came in as CEO in July 2012, though -- a result frequently attributed to the company's pre-existing large investment holdings in the Chinese company Alibaba and in Yahoo Japan, rather than to the strength of Yahoo's core business.

For more on the state of Microsoft's highest-profile dance partner (now that Nokia's relevant businesses are being brought in house), Vanity Fair recently posted a thoroughly reported Bethany McLean profile of Mayer.

Posted by Scott Bekker on December 11, 2013 at 10:19 AM0 comments

Tech Giants Call on President, Congress To Reform Surveillance

In the final weeks of a year in which the inability of major U.S.-based technology companies to protect their customers' data from U.S. government snooping became apparent, those companies are making a public stand.

Microsoft and its peers launched an aggressive public relations campaign on Monday with an open letter to President Barack Obama and to the U.S. Congress. 

The short letter, signed by AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo, reads:

Dear Mr. President and Members of Congress,

We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But this summer's revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide. The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual -- rights that are enshrined in our Constitution. This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It's time for a change.

For our part, we are focused on keeping users' data secure -- deploying the latest encryption technology to prevent unauthorized surveillance on our networks and by pushing back on government requests to ensure that they are legal and reasonable in scope.

We urge the U.S. to take the lead and make reforms that ensure that government surveillance efforts are clearly restricted by law, proportionate to the risks, transparent and subject to independent oversight. To see the full set of principles we support, visit ReformGovernmentSurveillance.com.

The group recommends reforms through five principles:

  1. Limiting governments' authority to collect users' information.
  2. Oversight and accountability.
  3. Transparency about government demands.
  4. Respecting the free flow of information.
  5. Avoiding conflict among governments.

Revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden began emerging over the summer and continue to trickle out (including an article Monday in The New York Times about U.S. government infiltration of online gaming communities, especially World of Warcraft and Second Life, but also including Xbox Live.)

U.S.-based tech companies have been doing the math and have become increasingly vocal about concerns that any appearance of collusion (coerced or voluntary) with the NSA will hurt their competitiveness in other countries. Already, some countries are imposing restrictions on the use of U.S.-based cloud providers.

For Microsoft, the open letter represents a second salvo in a week. Late last week, Microsoft announced plans to beef up and expand encryption across all of its services, to reinforce legal protections for customer data and to create new centers for governments to evaluate Microsoft's source code.

Posted by Scott Bekker on December 09, 2013 at 11:52 AM0 comments

PC Picture Keeps Getting Worse, According to IDC Data

Microsoft partners who haven't yet started retooling their businesses for a future with fewer new PC deployments are getting more warnings from industry analysts that it may be time.

Witness this week's recalibration by IDC of its PC sales estimate for all of 2013. The Framingham, Mass.-based market research firm downgraded its previous estimate of a 9.7 percent decline in worldwide PC shipments to a forecast of a 10.1 percent drop, now that more data is in. 

While the change amounts to little more than a rounding error, it does take the estimate into solid double-digit-drop territory. For the record, IDC is slightly, but only slightly, more downbeat about 2013 than fellow researchers at Gartner, who recently forecast an 8 percent drop in the worldwide PC market.

There's a long-term pessimism coming out of IDC, as well. The firm is calling for a further 3.8 percent drop in 2014, followed by "slightly positive" growth that keeps shipments in the neighborhood of 300 million units per year for the foreseeable future. According to IDC, by the time the slide is over, the PC market will be just ahead of 2008 levels.

"Perhaps the chief concern for future PC demand is a lack of reasons to replace an older system," said IDC analyst Jay Chou in a statement. "While IDC research finds that the PC still remains the primary computing device -- for example, PCs are used more hours per day than tablets or phones -- PC usage is nonetheless declining each year as more devices become available. And despite industry efforts, PC usage has not moved significantly beyond consumption and productivity tasks to differentiate PCs from other devices. As a result, PC lifespans continue to increase, thereby limiting market growth."

IDC notes that the commercial market is less bad than the consumer market, and sees hope for a short-term shot in the arm when Windows XP support expires next April and a long-term shot in the arm from two-in-one devices. The firm's analysts have modest expectations for both boosts, though.

Taking up much of the slack is the tablet market. In another forecast released this week, IDC predicted that global tablet shipments would be 221 million this year, slightly less than the firm earlier expected but good for a 53 percent shipment increase over 2012. For now, IDC is predicting Windows tablets could make up 10 percent of that market by 2017, when the firm's analysts suspect tablet shipments will peak.

Posted by Scott Bekker on December 05, 2013 at 11:38 AM0 comments

MPN Change Delay Includes Rethink of Cloud Approach

In mid-November, Microsoft's new channel chief Phil Sorgen e-mailed partners with a surprise delay in many of the planned updates to the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN). A host of changes to Microsoft's core partner program had been scheduled to go into effect in January.

Now many of the changes are being delayed until February and more are being held back until an unspecified date in the third calendar quarter of 2014. After Sorgen's e-mail, MPN General Manager Julie Bennani revealed in a blog post that Microsoft had rethought its plans to create cloud tracks for many of the competencies. 

We put some questions to Microsoft about the MPN changes, and received an e-mail response from Bennani. Here's the exchange:

Bekker: Are these moves a timing issue, allowing both Microsoft and partners more time to make necessary adjustments, or is there some rethinking going on about whether or not to do some of the changes that were announced in July? Why delay the integration of cloud into competency tracks?
Bennani: This change is based on partner feedback to allow both adequate time for preparing for the changes and improvements of the Microsoft Partner Network, as well as a modified design approach. We believe partners will benefit greatly from an improved partner portal experience and from more flexible ways to manage benefits. This includes cloud integration into the competencies, which is a simpler way for partners to secure benefits that does not involve creating separate cloud and on-premises tracks, but instead enables all partners to offer hybrid solutions.

On what date will Cloud Essentials sign-ups end? On what date will all Cloud Essentials internal use rights (IUR) benefits expire?
Net new enrollment into Cloud Essentials will stop with the February 2014 release. Cloud IUR rights for existing Cloud Essentials partners will extend until June 30, 2014 -- at that time, all partners must transition into either the new Microsoft Action Pack subscriptions (MAPs) or a competency to continue to use our Cloud IUR.

On hosting, was there pushback to the changes from hosters -- and if so, was it about the nature of the changes or was it about timing?
Retiring the Hosting competency and introducing solution-oriented hosting tracks has been well received by hosting partners. Per hosting partner feedback, the current Hosting competency does not effectively support their needs. In order to better meet their needs -- as well as to give partners more time to get ready -- we will offer unique hosting tracks within the following core competencies: Datacenter, Messaging, Communications and Data Analytics. This allows us to recognize hosters more precisely for the solution/service offered while introducing requirements and benefits that are more relevant and tailored.

Is Microsoft considering doing a Hosting Competency in parallel with hosting tracks in other competencies, or will it be one or the other?
Hosting tracks will replace the Hosting competency in Q3 2014.

Is Microsoft still planning to take the six Resource Center approach with the Microsoft Action Pack Subscription?

On the competency renamings and consolidations that are now delayed from January, are they still in the plan or is Microsoft reconsidering those changes?
The plan has not changed. We are delaying the implementation to give partners more time to prepare for the changes.

Was the Small Business Specialist Community formally retired in November as indicated in the July MPN disclosure document?

Any updates on the new small business community detailed on p. 7 of the disclosure guide, which read, "Plans are also being finalized to provide a partner-to-partner community for small business focused partners in January 2014"?
The Small & Medium Business Partner Area Leads (SMC PALs) communities are in place and thriving, and we look forward to continued engagement with this important group moving ahead.


Posted by Scott Bekker on December 02, 2013 at 10:31 AM0 comments

Microsoft Delays Partner Program Changes

Microsoft is putting the brakes on a number of substantial changes to its partner program that had been set to take effect early next year.

"Following compelling partner feedback and a thorough review of our planned roadmap, we've decided to prioritize the timing of certain program updates communicated at the Worldwide Partner Conference in July 2013," wrote Phil Sorgen, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group, in an e-mail sent to partners Thursday night. 

Sorgen took over about two months ago from former channel chief Jon Roskill, who had announced the changes and their timing in July. Microsoft had documented the changes in a July PDF called the "Microsoft Partner Network Disclosure of upcoming program changes" and RCP analyzed and clarified the changes in our MPN Roadmap. The planned changes represented the most substantial overhaul of the program since Microsoft launched the MPN about three years ago.

According to Sorgen's e-mail and an addendum to the disclosure guide titled "Important Update to Previously Announced Microsoft Partner Network Program Changes," Microsoft is tinkering with most elements of its carefully laid-out MPN roadmap:

  • The new Microsoft Action Pack Subscriptions, which will include Cloud Internal Use Rights benefits, will now launch in February, a month later than originally planned.

  • An Intelligent Systems Competency, designed to help partners capitalize on the "Internet of Things," will launch in February rather than January.

  • A planned consolidation and renaming of several competencies is postponed indefinitely. Those changes, which had been scheduled for January, included renaming Business Intelligence to Data Analytics; merging the Server Platform, Management and Virtualization, and Identity and Access Competencies; and retiring the Mobility Competency.

  • The Hosting Competency was supposed to be retired and replaced with a number of hosting tracks in other competencies. That change is being delayed, although Microsoft documents indicate it remains the plan.

  • The integration of cloud tracks into a number of competencies is also delayed, extending the life of several existing cloud programs. Cloud Accelerate, Cloud Deployment and Azure Circle were all scheduled to be retired June 30, 2014. Now they will continue into at least the third quarter of calendar 2014. Cloud Essentials, the free-to-enroll program with five IURs for various Microsoft cloud products, will still be fully retired June 30, 2014, as planned. Partners will now have access to those program benefits only through the paid Action Pack subscription or a paid competency.

  • A new competency, User Experience Design Competency, has been killed before its launch. Originally planned to go live in January, Microsoft has had a change of heart. According to the addendum document: "While a dedicated competency for design was to be introduced, it has since been determined that design must be an integral part of application development. For this reason, development partners will be offered design focused tools and training resources instead of creating a new competency."

  • The Digital Marketing Competency is being renamed the Digital Advertising Competency "to better reflect the opportunity and partners this is designed for," the addendum says.

In his e-mail, Sorgen promised more details to come. "In the near future, we will share an updated program roadmap and launch dates," he wrote. RCP has a list of questions out to Microsoft for clarifications and for information about the thinking and causes for some of the changes. Check back here and at RCP's MPN Roadmap for updates.


Posted by Scott Bekker on November 22, 2013 at 10:32 AM0 comments

Dell Shuffles Channel Organization

The executive most closely associated with Dell's current channel approach is moving on.

Greg Davis was the public face of Dell's partner program, helping to launch Dell PartnerDirect in December 2007, to sell the program to a skeptical channel and to advocate for it for the ensuing six years. 

With Dell now officially a private company, Davis on Monday sent out an e-mail to partners that he is shifting to a new role as vice president for Software and Peripherals at Dell. Filling in for Davis is Cheryl Cook, who becomes vice president of Global Channels and Alliances for Dell.

Cook is an internal hire with external channel experience. Until this week, she was vice president of Enterprise Solutions at Dell, but she previously spent time at Sun Microsystems as senior vice president of Americas Sales, a role that included responsibility for Sun's channel.

The role Cook will fill is slightly different from Davis'.

In the e-mail to partners, Davis explained one way the scope of Cook's job will be narrowed. "Our regional channel leaders will continue in their present roles, but will now report to regional Dell sales leadership. This means they will be able to integrate more closely with our sales and product teams, which will allow for faster feedback between partners and business unit leaders," Davis wrote.

Specifically, that means channel executives Frank Vitagliano and Jim DeFoe will report to North America sales leadership; Laurent Binetti, to Europe/Middle East/Africa; and Richard Lee, to Asia/Pacific/Japan.

In another way, Cook's portfolio will be broader. "This team will have responsibility for defining and delivering innovative programs, training and certification and global marketing programs for our partners to grow, differentiate, and flourish with Dell. Her organization will ensure a consistent and coordinated approach to our Channel, Alliances, strategic ISV, and OEM partners," Davis wrote.

Dell spokesperson Laura Thomas said that Davis had not had responsibility for alliance partners and strategic ISVs.

Davis sought to assure partners that Dell's focus on the channel of the last few years would continue. "Our channel strategy and the global nature of our PartnerDirect program will stay the same. We will continue to focus on: winning in the data center, investing in training, being easy to do business with, and being your long-term partner. And PartnerDirect will continue to enable the sale of end-to-end and point solutions through one simple, consistent program," Davis wrote.

Davis leaves behind a much more robust partner program than the unofficial program he started with. When Michael Dell unveiled his intentions to turn his direct-sales empire into more of a channel company in mid-2007, Dell already had about 30,000 partners.

Through nearly six years of constant effort, Dell has built its channel into about 143,000 partners worldwide, and the company says that more than a third of global commercial revenue flows through the channel now.

Posted by Scott Bekker on November 19, 2013 at 10:42 AM0 comments

SkyKick Automates Public Folder Migrations to Office 365

Migration project automation startup SkyKick on Tuesday released an update of the SkyKick Automation Suite to bring support for Microsoft Exchange Public Folder migrations into Office 365 and deliver a more robust dashboard for partners.

Earlier this year, Microsoft expanded Office 365 to support migration of Exchange Public Folders into its cloud productivity suite. 

Although SkyKick launched its migration automation tool slightly after Microsoft added Public Folder support, SkyKick's initial version went through a two-year beta testing process and focused on the core elements of an Office 365 migration that a partner needed -- from selling, to planning, to provisioning, to migrating, to managing, to setting up users. In all, one early-adopter partner told RCP in April that the Seattle-based startup's solution cut the Office 365 migration process from about 40 hours of work and interaction with the customer down to two or three hours spread over a week or two.

With the initial version out for half a year and used by hundreds of partners and thousands of customers, SkyKick was ready to start adding some new features, said Todd Schwartz, co-CEO of SkyKick. Public Folders were an obvious Office 365 pain point for partners.

"It's so messy and tedious, a lot of MSPs wouldn't even offer public folder migrations to their customers," Schwartz said. "An MSP would have to go in manually, go through hundreds of folders, and, per public folder, it could take as much as four hours. We've now automated public folder migration within the SkyKick Application Suite."

The automation works much like the initial suite's automated discovery of e-mail addresses. Using SkyKick, a partner selling the migration to a customer only needs that employee's e-mail and password to begin the process of discovering all the e-mail addresses on the server and to kick off the migration process. The e-mail/password combo does not need to be an administrator credential.

The latest version of the suite now does the same with Public Folders. "If they're on an Exchange Server, we will discover their Public Folders," Schwartz said

Arterian, a managed services provider in the Seattle area, has been using SkyKick for six months and helped test the Public Folder migration automation, said Jamison West, CEO and founder of the Seattle-based MSP.

West confirmed that Public Folder migrations have been a burden, and that about half of customers Arterian has migrated from on-premises Exchange to Office 365 need to bring Public Folders with them.

"There was really no way to see what the permissions were. We'd go manually to public properties, pull up the permissions and export the public folders. It was just a purely manual, look at what the settings are, export and do the settings again. It was very labor-intensive," West said.

With the new capability, Public Folder migrations "go as smoothly as the end user migrations," said West, adding that the availability of the tool was critical in a recent migration project that involved a lot of important Public Folders. "We would have lost it, or had to charge more. It saved a significant project for us."

The other major enhancement in SkyKick's update is the Project Management Application (PMA), which is part of a redesigned partner portal. The PMA gives partners real-time alerts about the status of migrations, automates some previously manual tasks and allows partners to manage parts of the migration project.

One critical new feature of the PMA is the ability for partners to modify a migration order, such as adding, removing or changing forwarding settings on mailboxes, once the migration has been scheduled but as late as four hours before the migration start time, SkyKick executives said.

Posted by Scott Bekker on November 19, 2013 at 10:41 AM0 comments

Spinning Steve Ballmer's Departure from Microsoft

Steve Ballmer granted a series of interviews to The Wall Street Journal that resulted in an article over the weekend on how he decided to retire.

Ballmer's story, corroborated for the WSJ's Monica Langley by Microsoft board member John Thompson, is that he came to a realization on a London street in May that Microsoft might undergo its necessary transformations without him and all the old-guard Microsoft baggage he carries. 

It's an interesting and very readable story. It's also corporate board-level spin orchestrated by one of the cagiest and savviest companies in the world. Count me as highly skeptical that it approaches the truth of what happened.

That aside, I read this piece as Microsoft trying to communicate two things to the world.

One message is that nothing was forced upon Microsoft's board by outside investors, and that Ballmer's ouster, the executive shocker of the summer, was just a logical outcome of orderly processes at mature company.

The other message is that nobody should expect Microsoft to abandon the "devices and services" strategy that Ballmer put in place over the last few years. (See my column, "34 Billion Reasons Microsoft's Next CEO Will Stay the Course," from last week for more on this theme.)

Here's the key portion on devices and services from the WSJ's account:

Mr. Ballmer and his board have been in agreement: Microsoft, while maintaining its strong software business, must shake up its management structure and refocus on mobile devices and online services if it is to find future profit growth and reduce its dependence on the fading PC market.

The board's beef was speed. The directors "didn't push Steve to step down," says Mr. Thompson, a longtime technology executive who heads the board's CEO-search committee, "but we were pushing him damn hard to go faster."

Not only is devices and services what the board of directors wants for Microsoft's future, it's something they will want faster from the next CEO.


Posted by Scott Bekker on November 18, 2013 at 12:02 PM0 comments

Look for New Channel Approach from Symantec

The channel will play a more central role for Symantec Corp. under a program rolling out next year.

Symantec telegraphed some of the changes on Wednesday at its Symantec Partner Engage event in Scottsdale, Ariz. 

In a pre-briefing, Garrett Jones, a Symantec veteran who became vice president for global channel operations this spring, said the changes stemmed from Symantec 4.0, the new strategy under CEO Steve Bennett, who is the company's fourth CEO (thus 4.0). The strategy developed out of Bennett's review of the company after taking over as CEO in 2012. 

Symantec is the sum of a lot of acquisitions with hundreds of products in dozens of areas. Previous channel efforts pushed partners to represent as many of the company's products as possible.

"Before to climb tiers, you would have sell very broadly across our portfolio," Jones said. "We had 20 programs, even more than 20. Now we've consolidated those down to one overarching framework."

Symantec is also recognizing that partners don't want to operate in multiple Symantec programs; they want to operate in one Symantec program. Moreover, if they're successful as security partners, for example, Symantec doesn't want its incentives to force them to go into adjacent areas, such as backup, to access program benefits like higher margins.

"Our [old] programs were designed more as a one-size-fits-all. It wasn't designed so that partners can go deep in one area and be successful and be rewarded for it. Before, [it was] sell everything in a peanut-butter approach," Jones said.

Symantec isn't ready to go public with specifics of the new channel program yet. Jones said the company has taken its roughly 150-point solutions and is moving toward a roadmap for partners with 10 integrated offerings.

"What we're hoping to do is really clarify the Symantec portfolio," Jones said. While details will be available later, examples of integrated offering areas would include things like user productivity, information security, information management and data-loss prevention, he said.

Meanwhile, Symantec is already tinkering with its indirect-direct sales mix and started implementing some changes in July. Among the changes, Symantec is:

  • reducing the number of named accounts that Symantec sells to directly,
  • expanding the number of accounts in the 100-percent-channel-led commercial space,
  • investing in the inside sales organization to better support the channel,
  • clarifying the rules of engagement for Symantec's sales teams and
  • adjusting compensation internally to incentivize Symantec sellers to engage with partners.

Jones said Bennett's review found that Symantec's best bet is to rely more on channel partners.

"We [have] clear evidence that our sales and marketing costs were out of line with where we wanted to be and we weren't really getting return on investment," Jones said. "We need to effectively embrace channel and give them opportunity. We need to let them lead."

Posted by Scott Bekker on November 13, 2013 at 12:35 PM0 comments

Mergers and Acquisitions Drive Customers to Office 365

One partner's view from the trenches is that mergers and acquisitions are a powerful driver for midmarket customers to move to the Microsoft cloud.

Matt Scherocman is president of Interlink Cloud Advisors Inc. in Cincinnati. A longtime Microsoft channel player, Scherocman and some business partners spun up an Office 365-focused consultancy a couple of years ago. He blogs occasionally, and this week provided some interesting insights about M&A. 

Scherocman called M&A "the #1 driver of the cloud."

Some of the reasons his clients cite include capacity limitations in both environments preventing either party from consolidating all users, the ability to quickly create collaboration through SharePoint or Lync, the opportunity to break or renegotiate existing contracts, and covering IT costs in the integration budget.

See Scherocman's blog for a lot more detail.

Posted by Scott Bekker on November 04, 2013 at 5:33 AM0 comments