A Virtual Home for Virtualization Partners

Microsoft systems integrators (SIs) specializing in virtualization deployments now have a place to land in the Microsoft Partner Program (MSPP).

In a September announcement timed to VMware Inc.'s VMworld conference in San Francisco, Microsoft unveiled the QuickStart for Get Virtual community for Microsoft Certified and Gold Certified partners.

Microsoft describes the program as a place for partners to showcase their virtualization solutions and access sales, marketing and technical resources.

It's the first official home for virtualization-focused partners at Microsoft, which has had a complicated relationship with virtualization as a technology. Microsoft bought its way into the virtualization market earlier in the decade and, more recently, reinforced that commitment with its acquisition of Boston-based Softricity Inc. But Microsoft officials have also downplayed virtualization's potential, contending publicly that the limited role of server consolidation may end up being the technology's main use.

"The sky's the limit" evangelism about virtualization scenarios is a more sensible story for pure-play virtualization firms with no concerns about losing revenues as they work through thorny questions about how to license virtualized systems.

Microsoft is aiming its new program at SIs worldwide. "We've set an initial goal at 300 new solutions partners in the first six months, just in the United States alone," says Tony Bailey, senior product manager for Microsoft virtualization.

Bailey calls the goal entirely realistic: "We currently have 750 solution-integrator Certified and Gold Certified Partners that have identified themselves as having implemented Microsoft virtualization solutions. Since Microsoft also has a large number of registered partners, the 750 number may actually be higher, but for this program we want to focus primarily on Certified Partners."

QuickStart programs are a route that Microsoft has used in the past to quickly build a partner program in a growing market without all the programmatic overhead of an MSPP Competency or Specialization.

For example, Microsoft launched a similar QuickStart program for search technology at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in 2006 and converted it into an MSPP specialization about a year later.

Bailey says the roadmap for QuickStart Get Virtual isn't yet clearly defined. "Initially, we're working to recruit, enable and engage a larger number of partners. Our roadmap is then to strengthen the program by offering the latest e-learning courses to partners for all of Microsoft's virtualization solutions in the next 12 to 24 months, and to ask partners to take the e-learning courses as a requirement," he says.

Microsoft has launched a QuickStart Get Virtual site for partners. However, as of early October, the site appeared to have been pulled together primarily from materials for general IT audiences rather than for partners.

The site's sales and marketing section also appeared light on tangible assistance. The main partner-specific aids were offers to help partners create and promote case studies and webcasts featuring their solutions. Still, the site is a start for partners seeking more information on the QuickStart Get Virtual program.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.