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Microsoft on Track for 100,000 Cloud Essentials Partners this Year

A relatively minor change in the way Microsoft partners can sign up for the Cloud Essentials program is leading to a boom in the number of participants, according to Microsoft's top channel executive.

Cloud Essentials has always been a relatively easy program for partners to join. A free sign-up and a modest amount of training gives partners access to 25 internal use right seats each for Office 365, Dynamics CRM Online and Windows Intune. Other benefits include presales and technical support, marketing resources and sales incentives.

Yet participation stayed stubbornly low. Of the 640,000 partners Microsoft routinely claims to have, only 43,000 had signed up in the program's first two years.

Apparently, the trick is where and when you ask partners to join. Until a little over a week ago, partners had to navigate to Cloud Essentials-specific pages, such as But on Nov. 20, Microsoft turned joining Cloud Essentials into a one-button step that is part of the regular re-enrollment process in the Microsoft Partner Network.

"We've had over 15,000 partners signed up in one week," Jon Roskill, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group, said in an interview Thursday. With the program growing by almost a third in one week, Roskill has high hopes for the rest of the year.

"My expectation now is that we're going to track to be over 100,000 in the Cloud Essentials program this calendar year," Roskill said. "What this shows is how important it is to get the experience on the portal right."

Microsoft announced the Cloud Essentials change in a Nov. 20 blog entry, marking the start of a number of MPN changes that had been announced at the Worldwide Partner Conference in July.

Microsoft's goal with Cloud Essentials is to get partners familiar with Microsoft's cloud suites and get them selling without asking for major investments upfront. Some of those investments and commitments come later -- for example, re-enrolling in Cloud Essentials for a second year requires that a partner sell 25 seats worth of cloud services in the first year. The next level program, Cloud Accelerate, is similar in its requirements to obtaining a silver competency in the MPN.

Posted by Scott Bekker on December 03, 2012