Channeling the Cloud

Microsoft Mulling Cloud Sales for Gold Competencies?

A recent interview with Jon Roskill, Microsoft's channel chief, hints at a possible cloud requirement for the Microsoft Partner Network's highest tier.

It's no secret that Microsoft is encouraging partners to sell its cloud computing offerings, but the company may ultimately step that up to a requirement.

In order to attain a gold competency in the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN), a certain percentage of licenses that channel partners sell would have to include the company's cloud offerings, perhaps as soon as the 2014 fiscal year, which kicks off in July 2013. If this comes to pass, it could be a wakeup call for any partner with a gold competency who has shrugged off the cloud.

"I think that would be a very reasonable thing to spec out to people," says Jon Roskill, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group. "It doesn't mean we don't love you if you're not doing [cloud sales] for some reason, but we also want to be very clear that gold is differentiating our best partners and there's an expectation around that."

Asked what percentage of overall sales Roskill expects cloud services to represent, he says that it's to be determined. "It's too early to say," he says. "We're talking about something that's a year and a half out. What we are going to see is how things develop. It will not be an unreasonable percentage. I'm a pretty reasonable person -- before I make a decision like that, I will do it with a lot of input, particularly from partners."

Microsoft has encouraged partners to subscribe to its Cloud Essentials Pack and higher-level Cloud Accelerate Pack, both of which provide internal use rights for Office 365, Windows Intune, Dynamics CRM Online and 750 hours of compute time using the Windows Azure platform.

Directions on Microsoft analyst John Cullen said it isn't surprising that Microsoft would ultimately require partners to sell its cloud-based offerings, considering the company's "all-in" messaging on the cloud.

"My take on it is, the ones that are really going to be successful are going to bite the bullet now, and move to that selling motion of selling online services," Cullen says. "They're adapting to those selling motions early because that's the future."

Yet for some partners, even gold ones, requiring them to sell cloud offerings might be easier said than done. Take Atidan, a consultancy that has four gold and eight silver certifications under the new MPN. Most of its clients are large enterprises and haven't expressed interest in services such as Office 365, Windows Intune and Windows Azure, says Atidan President and CEO David Rosenthal. "I'm trying hard to land cloud sales, but it's a little difficult for us," Rosenthal says.

Selling private cloud solutions are less of a concern. "I'm really bullish on the private cloud," he says. "I see in the enterprise space, everyone is talking cloud, cloud, cloud' -- but it really just means dedicated hosting."

Among the things still to be determined is what Microsoft will consider a cloud-based solution. But if you're a partner with a gold competency and you want to maintain that status but have avoided dealing with the cloud, the clock has started ticking.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.