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A Microsoft-Google Détente in Patent Fight?

The Microsoft-Google relationship appears to be entering a less hostile phase.

The companies issued a joint statement Wednesday bringing to an end five years' worth of patent lawsuits covering about 20 cases in the United States and Germany:

"Microsoft and Google are pleased to announce an agreement on patent issues. As part of the agreement, the companies will dismiss all pending patent infringement litigation between them, including cases related to Motorola Mobility. Separately, Google and Microsoft have agreed to collaborate on certain patent matters and anticipate working together in other areas in the future to benefit our customers."

Terms of the agreement weren't disclosed, and Microsoft's patent infringement agreements with Android device manufacturers don't appear to be affected.

In short, the agreement doesn't end all areas of conflict between the companies, by any means. But it does line up with the less combative style of Satya Nadella compared to his predecessors in the Microsoft CEO role.

Nadella's Microsoft has been much more visibly collaborative with competitors, which, frankly, has always been a sign of Microsoft at its best. When your product portfolio has as much surface area as Microsoft's does, it only makes sense to work with companies in some areas while competing vigorously in other areas.

The Google move is of a piece with a commentary on Microsoft's partnering guidelines last week by Peggy Johnson, executive vice president of business development at Microsoft. Pointing to the collaboration with Microsoft frenemies like Salesforce.com and Dropbox in Office 2016, Johnson laid out five principles -- respect, listen, say what you mean and mean what you say, stay focused, and don't be afraid to take a pause or hit reset.

This latest Google agreement would qualify as a reset.

Posted by Scott Bekker on October 01, 2015 at 11:09 AM0 comments

Microsoft Lowers Thresholds on Cloud Competencies

Editor's Note: This entry has been updated throughout based on an interview with Gavriella Schuster, general manager of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group.

Microsoft has slashed the minimum number of Office 365 seats partners need to sell to earn a cloud competency by about three-quarters.

The move was one of several reduced competency requirements announced Monday in a blog post by Gavriella Schuster, general manager of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group. The blog post provides specifics for changes that Schuster outlined at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in July.

In the biggest reduction, partners aiming for the silver level in the Small and Midmarket Cloud Solutions (SMCS) competency will now only need to sell 40 seats of Office 365 to four new Office 365 customers. That's down from the 150 seats and 10 customers that were required when the competency was introduced a year ago. For the gold level, Microsoft also relaxed the requirements, but less dramatically. To get gold, partners must now sell 250 seats at 25 customers, down from 300 seats at 30 customers last year.

In a telephone interview, Schuster said a lot of partners engaged in the original SMCS competency, but that the higher seat-count was sending a "bad message."

"As we started to work with [customers and partners], what we found is that we really wanted them to spend more time with their customers to ensure that they actually got them up and going and were driving the usage. By having the number of customers so high, we were pushing them in a way that we didn't actually want to. We were pushing them to get to volume rather than quality," Schuster said.

In a separate cloud competency focused on Azure, called the Cloud Platform competency, Microsoft also reduced the sales requirement to achieve silver. In this case, it's about a 40 percent reduction from $25,000 in Azure consumption previously to $15,000 now. That $15,000 requirement applies to what Microsoft calls "developed markets." The requirement for "developing markets" is $10,000.

Benefits are changing for partners with the Cloud Platform competency, as well. The silver level now carries $6,000 per year in Azure credits, up from $3,000 per year before. Gold is also doubled to $12,000 per year from $6,000. Microsoft also ramped up the MSDN and Visual Studio 2015 licenses available to Cloud Platform partners -- doubling silver to 10 licenses and more than tripling gold from 10 before all the way up to 35 licenses now.

For a third cloud competency, Cloud Productivity, which is similar to SMCS but focused on larger customers, Microsoft is shifting its partner-tracking metrics from seats sold and revenues to active use and consumption -- in line with a broad company strategy along those same lines.

"We previously defined performance as seats assigned for Office 365," Schuster wrote in her blog. "Now, achievement comes when you drive Active Entitlements (active users) for silver and gold. You can meet the active user requirement across any Office 365 workload (Exchange, SharePoint Online, etc.) or with Office 365 ProPlus."

Microsoft's internal systems previously could only track Exchange activations, Schuster explained. Now the systems are able to track multiple activations, making it possible to see how deeply a customer is using the Microsoft stack.

Where previously, 500 seats assigned for Cloud Productivity was the bar for silver and 1,500 seats was the bar for gold, the numbers are higher now. Microsoft is now looking for 2,000 Active Entitlements for silver and 4,000 Active Entitlements for gold.

However, that can translate to the same number of end users as before for silver and fewer end users than before for gold, Schuster explained. "If they were on E4, they would have had an entitlement across four different products, so it's essentially equivalent to say that if it was 500 seats, it should be 2,000 Active Entitlements on that same number of seats if they had activated everything," Schuster said.

The blog entry also confirmed official availability of several other WPC announcements. One is the end of the requirement for partners to individually track and assign unique Microsoft Certified Professionals to a specific competency. Another is the official launch of the previously announced Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) competency.

Eligibility for silver and gold in the EMM competency will also depend on Active Entitlements. Partners will need to register 500 Active Entitlements for silver and 2,000 for gold. Because EMM involves two products -- Microsoft Intune and Azure Active Directory Premium -- the actual number of users could be as little as half those numbers if partners sell both products for every user.

Additionally, Microsoft will continue for a second year to waive the silver competency fee for all of the cloud competencies in order to encourage participation and allow partners to invest the money in growing their businesses rather than paying Microsoft, Schuster said. The credit applies to all five of the cloud competencies -- SMCS, Cloud Platform, Cloud Productivity, Cloud CRM and EMM. The fee to join the Microsoft Partner Network with a silver competency is ordinarily $1,665 in the United States.

Posted by Scott Bekker on September 28, 2015 at 3:58 PM0 comments

Socius Buys IBIS Dynamics GP Practice

In a deal between two top U.S. Microsoft Dynamics partners, Socius on Friday announced the acquisition of the Dynamics GP practice of IBIS Inc.

The move expands Socius' national reach and bolsters the Columbus, Ohio-based company's GP practice, which has been around since 1984. With the sale, IBIS will concentrate on Dynamics AX and Dynamics CRM.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Socius gets IBIS' Dynamics GP consulting and development teams and the Atlanta-based company's GP client base.

Socius, one of the two original Master VARs when Microsoft unveiled that model in 2011, currently has 23 affiliate firms and a national business that covers 18 states and includes the entire Dynamics portfolio, as well as Sage and SYSPRO offerings. The addition of the IBIS practice will expand Socius' presence in Georgia, North Carolina, Florida and Texas.

"IBIS Inc. is a solid, strong Microsoft Dynamics partner and I am confident that the consultants joining our team will align well with our vision to fuel our clients' growth," said Jeff Geisler, CEO and senior managing director of Socius, in a statement.

Andy Vabulas, owner and CEO of IBIS, said the move allows IBIS to put a "laser focus" on Dynamics AX and CRM. "It is with mixed emotions that we enter into this agreement to divest our Dynamics GP practice to Socius," Vabulas said in the statement. "This move gives our former Dynamics GP employees and clients new opportunities through working with an organization that now has one of the largest Dynamics GP client bases anywhere."

Posted by Scott Bekker on September 25, 2015 at 2:16 PM0 comments

Flexera Buys Secunia, Combining SAM and Vulnerability Management

Flexera Software is betting that software asset management (SAM) and software vulnerability management are a natural fit.

The Itasca, Ill.-based vendor of software licensing, compliance and installation solutions this week bought Secunia, a software vulnerability management solution provider well-known for its state-of-the-industry reports about vulnerabilities in different products.

Terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but the 100-employee, Copenhagen-based Secunia is now part of Flexera, which is privately owned and had roughly 650 employees prior to the acquisition.

In an interview, Flexera CEO Mark Bishof said customers and analysts have been pushing the company to add security vulnerability to its core SAM capabilities, which the company calls Software License Optimization.

"While we're discovering all the software hardware and firmware out there, a lot of our customers have been asking us, 'Hey, wouldn't it be a good idea, since security vulnerabilities happen at the application level, to discover which applications are vulnerable?'" Bishof said.

"When you look at how our enterprise customers are typically organized, the software asset management group and the security group are normally separated. Whoever brings that information together in a digestible, usable framework can be a game changer," he said.

The companies already share some channel partners, who bring the two capabilities together for customers. "There's overlapping partners, but we don't have any overlapping technology. It's nice and clean. That's one of the reasons they sold to us as opposed to others that had security patching technologies," Bishof said.

The Flexera and Secunia products will continue to be sold separately, but the company also plans to integrate Secunia capabilities into the Flexera Software License Optimization platform.

Posted by Scott Bekker on September 16, 2015 at 12:21 PM0 comments

Citrix Names New Channel Leader

Citrix named Kimberly Martin to head its worldwide channel effort in the midst of a broader push to reinvigorate the channel and sales in general.

Martin is vice president of partner strategy and sales, with worldwide strategy responsibility for Citrix' diverse channel, which includes ISVs, OEMs, system integrators, service providers, resellers and distributors. She will report to Carlos Sartorius, senior vice president of worldwide sales and services.

Martin comes to Citrix from Datameer, where she was vice president of business development and worldwide partner and channels. She has also held a worldwide channel role at Informatica and an EMEA channel role at Microsoft.

"I'm excited to work with and help reinvigorate our partner community through new innovative programs and initiatives, and will further hone the incentives and engagement model we deliver to our partners," Martin said in a statement.

Posted by Scott Bekker on September 16, 2015 at 12:12 PM0 comments

LogicNow Opens a Big Data Chapter for MSPs

LogicNow wants to bring big data analytics capabilities to even the smallest of MSPs.

At its MAX 2015 conference that started Wednesday near Washington, D.C., LogicNow announced a new core technology called LOGICcards. The "cards" are toast-like notifications that appear in an MSP's remote monitoring and management (RMM) dashboard, providing warnings of configuration problems, security issues and other pitfalls that could lead to downtime for the customer and reduced profitability for an MSP.

In his conference keynote, LogicNow General Manager Alistair Forbes said LOGICcards will go beyond using rules based on the specific configuration at an individual customer site. In addition to that information, the LOGICcards will use algorithms to apply machine learning to troves of data drawn from LogicNow's massive installed base and stored in the company's Amazon Web Services (AWS) data stores. According to the Edinburgh, U.K.-based company, its nearly 13,000 MSPs are managing 175,000 networks and 2 million endpoints and processing some 12 billion e-mails, and the algorithms will extract patterns from that data.

"In essence, LOGICcards embeds a data science capability within every one of our MSP customers," Forbes said at the show. "It's like having an analyst in your business that works 24 hours a day, seven days a week to identify improvement opportunities."

From an MSP-to-customer conversation standpoint, the data will allow MSPs to present impressively predictive and prescriptive scenarios to customers, said David Sobel, director of partner community for LogicNow. "I've done my analysis and these are the things that are going to happen to you in the next quarter," Sobel said as an example of what the tool could allow an MSP to tell a customer.

Some of the "cards" will present best practice-style comparisons. For example, Sobel said, an MSP who can show that a customer's preferred timetable for patching servers is in the bottom 22 percent of all environments has a much stronger case to influence that customer to change their policy.

Forbes said a first batch of LOGICcards is available immediately. MSPs who use the MAXfocus RMM product only need to visit a URL and fill out four fields to get started.

LogicNow presents MSPs with a basic set of cards and uses algorithms to tailor which cards appear in the future depending on how an MSP responds to the prompts. If an MSP regularly ignores a certain type of alert, it will no longer appear, Forbes said. Reacting to other cards will cause cards with similar warnings or related types of information to begin to appear, he said.

LogicNow plans to roll out more cards as they are developed. The company planned to present its product roadmap, including more details on the LOGICcards, to partners on Thursday.

Posted by Scott Bekker on September 10, 2015 at 10:43 AM0 comments

Microsoft Enlists Dell, HP To Sell Surface

Dell will start selling Microsoft Surface Pro devices and Surface accessories bundled with the computer maker's own services and support offerings next month, and HP revealed similar but less concrete plans.

The companies on Tuesday jointly announced the partnerships, which mark a major advance from the adversarial response Microsoft initially got from many OEMs when it introduced the Surface tablets in 2012.

"We will be selling Microsoft Surface Pro and Surface accessories on Dell.com and through our large commercial sales organization. We'll be starting here in the United States in October and rolling it out globally wherever Surface is sold in 2016," said Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell Inc., in a video-taped statement on Microsoft's Web site. "Commercial customers interested in the Surface Pro can now benefit from Dell's broad infrastructure including industry leading services and support."

Services Dell will deliver around Surface include a Dell hardware warranty for up to four years, ProSupport with accidental damage service, and configuration and deployment services.

For Microsoft, the appeal of involvement by Dell and HP is clear.

"Our largest global customers have told us they want to buy Surface from one partner, in one transaction, and have devices deployed all over the world. To meet that need, Dell will now add Surface Pro to their device lineup and sell it along with their world-class enterprise support and services," said Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president in the Microsoft Windows and Devices Group, in a blog post.

Microsoft positions the Dell arrangement as the first in a new Surface Enterprise Initiative. Mehdi's blog is worded ambiguously but suggests that similar arrangements with HP, Accenture and Avanade are in the hopper.

HP confirmed it will sell and support Surface Pro in a separate blog post by Mike Nash, vice president of product management for consumer PCs at HP.

"[Customers] -- especially global customers -- have said they would like to see HP not only selling Surface Pro 3, but also supporting it," Nash said. "To respond to this set of customer needs, we are excited to announce that as part of the Surface Enterprise Initiative with Microsoft, we will be offering the Surface Pro 3 through the HP direct sales force. Independently, we will also be offering a new set of HP Care Packs designed specifically to help customers to plan, configure, deploy and manage in enterprise environments. We also plan to offer some mobility workflow transformation tools and services that will be available next year."

The push comes as Microsoft is simultaneously expanding the number of channel partners authorized to resell Surface devices, which accounted for nearly $4 billion in revenue in Microsoft's last fiscal year.

The appeal of the deal is less immediately clear for Dell and HP, which don't typically sell competing brands of computers and which have directly competitive devices of their own, such as the Dell Venue Pro, the Dell Latitude 2-in-1, the HP Elite X2 1011, the HP Pro X2 210, the HP Pro X2 612 and the HP Pavilion X2.

In his video, Dell himself offered one answer, which boils down to a services revenue opportunity and a solution sale. "Innovation isn't just about great devices. It's about partnerships that bring together products with software and services to deliver extraordinary customer value. In addition to our own tablet and 2-in-1 lineup of Dell devices, we are thrilled to bring this innovative and comprehensive offering to our customers," Dell said.

While Microsoft regularly referred to Surface Pro 3 in the announcement and blog, references to the product Dell would sell were to a numberless Surface Pro, leaving open the possibility that the rumored Surface Pro 4 could be the device on offer when Dell's services go live or shortly thereafter. HP's blog referred specifically to Surface Pro 3.

Editor's Note: This article has been updated throughout with more details of the HP partnership.

Posted by Scott Bekker on September 09, 2015 at 8:53 AM0 comments

Partner Deal Registrations Jump for Dell Security Lineup

Dell is seeing a significant bounce in partner deal registration activity in its security product lineup, the company told attendees at its annual North American Dell Security Peak Performance conference this week.

"With security being a top priority for all organizations, we are delighted to see the success of our partner strategy," said Marvin Blough, vice president of worldwide channel sales at Dell Security, in a blog post from the Las Vegas conference, which drew 650 attendees from 22 countries.

The number of deal registrations increased by 7 percent to more than 4,100 per quarter, and the number of individual partners submitting deal registrations increased by 12 percent to 1,300 per quarter, Blough said.

In the last 12 months, 12,000 partners sold Dell SonicWALL products, including firewalls, secure mobile access solutions and e-mail security solutions.

At the same time, Dell is building out its channel capacity for security solutions. The company reported that 320 partners earned the network security competency in the last 12 months. Dell's total number of Preferred and Premier level partners is now 1,500.

The Peak Performance conference runs through Wednesday.

Posted by Scott Bekker on September 01, 2015 at 10:57 AM0 comments

Windows 10 Share Hits 5 Percent at 1 Month

Windows 10 is off to a jackrabbit start in its first month of availability, according to two major market share tracking organizations.

Released on July 29, Windows 10 was a free upgrade for many Windows 7 and Windows 8 users and Microsoft has been rolling the download out in controlled waves to users who requested it in the subsequent weeks.

Both StatCounter and Net Applications published usage share data for all of August on Tuesday morning. StatCounter put Windows 10's worldwide share at 4.88 percent. Net Applications had Windows 10's global share at 5.21 percent.

The one-month figures compare favorably to previous releases, which is not surprising given that most users had to pay when upgrading to Windows 7 or Windows 8.

"Windows 10 came out of the traps much faster than Windows 8 and also exceeded the launch of Windows 7," said Aodhan Cullen, CEO of StatCounter, in a statement Tuesday morning.

Windows 8 had 1 percent share after its first month on the market, while Windows 7 had 4.05 percent, according to StatCounter. The new operating system is doing better in the United States and much better in the United Kingdom than previous releases, according to StatCounter. U.S. share is 5.64 percent and U.K. share is a whopping 8.45 percent. (See table for Windows 8 and Windows 7 comparisons.)

XXX Windows 10 Windows 8 Windows 7
Worldwide 4.88% 1% 4.05%
U.S. 5.64% 1.16% 4.3%
U.K. 8.45% 1.17% 4.34%
Internet usage share for first calendar month since launch. Source: StatCounter

Net Applications data shows the field still dominated by Windows 7 at nearly 58 percent share. Windows 8/8.1 is next at 15 percent, followed by the out-of-support Windows XP at 12 percent. Windows 10 and Mac OS X 10.10 are neck-and-neck at 5.21 percent and 4.76 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, StatCounter also looked at the new Edge browser in Windows 10 and concluded that most people aren't using it and it's gotten less popular over time. Edge usage went from 20 percent of Windows 10 users on July 30 to 14 percent on Aug. 31.

Last week, Microsoft said Windows 10 was running on 75 million devices. The company's stated goal is to get Windows 10 on 1 billion devices by its fiscal year 2018.

Posted by Scott Bekker on September 01, 2015 at 10:25 AM0 comments

Red Lights Flashing Everywhere in the PC, Device Market

The mid-year tech spending estimate revisions are in, and the board is lighting up red.

With the benefit of two quarters of earnings data from the tech majors, IDC now sees worldwide PC shipments falling by 8.7 percent in 2015 and falling again in 2016 before a "modest recovery" possibly starting in 2017.

Tablet revenues are actually falling twice as fast as IDC had expected earlier. Shipment declines for 2015 are now projected at 8 percent, the Framingham, Mass.-based market research firm said Wednesday.

Even smartphones aren't matching expectations, although growth continues at a (barely) double-digit pace. IDC this week revised its year-over-year growth forecast for smartphones in 2015 downward from 11.3 percent to 10.4 percent.

'A Transition Period'
In a statement, IDC pointed to a number of factors that are driving sales downward that mostly boil down to major economic forces, the disruptive model of Windows 10 and the difficult comparables to the Windows XP end-of-life bounce.

"Although IDC had expected the second quarter of 2015 to be a transition period as vendors prepare for Windows 10 systems in the second half of the year, final results nonetheless shrank even more than expected due to a stubbornly large inventory of notebooks from prior quarters, and severe constraints posed by the decline of major currencies relative to the US Dollar," IDC noted. "In addition to economic issues, free upgrades of Windows 10, a relative dearth of newer models in the short term, and channels that are reluctant to take stock also makes the prospect of growth unlikely through 2016."

That IDC take was likely influenced by comments made last week on an HP earnings call by Dion Weisler, who will be CEO of HP Inc. when it splits off from Hewlett-Packard Enterprise.

"We did anticipate a challenging operating system transition to Windows 10 on two dimensions," Weisler said. "One was a free upgrade that was, of course, offered. And the second was the very short transition time, which is normally about three months, which was compressed to under one month. And what that drove was fairly high Windows 8 channel inventory levels, and that will take a little bit of time to flush. I guess the good news is that the Windows 10 feedback is pretty good, and a great operating system is important for the ecosystem in the industry. So once Windows 8 flushes, which may take a little time here in the industry, we should see some stimulation from Windows 10."

'The Space to Watch'
One area within the tablet market is doing well: the 2-in-1 segment pioneered by the Microsoft Surface. It's a fraction of the projected 212-million-unit-overall market for tablets, but it's moving quickly and IDC sees it as poised for 86 percent growth in 2015 to 14.7 million shipments.

"In the past, the biggest challenges with 2-in-1 devices were high price points, less than appealing designs, and, quite frankly, lack of demand for Windows 8, which was the OS most devices were running," said Ryan Reith, program director with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, in a statement. "With more OEMs offering devices in this segment, prices have started to come down significantly. We estimate that over 40 different vendors shipped 2-in-1 products in the second quarter of 2015, which is up from just 14 vendors two years ago. With the launch of Windows 10, the introduction of more Android-based products, and the possibility that Apple will unveil a larger, screen-detachable iPad, this is the space to watch."

The commercial market has been very reluctant to migrate toward tablets, and IDC believes this is largely due to an unclear value proposition. The 2-in-1 segment should find opportunities within the commercial market, but IT buyers have been slow to move toward mobile devices beyond smartphones and do not yet see tablets or 2-in-1s as a true PC replacement.

Jean Philippe Bouchard, IDC research director for the tablet market, sees commercial clients playing a crucial role in 2-in-1 demand after having mainly sat out the tablet craze to date.

"It will take some time but we expect that once IT departments are done evaluating Windows 10 and the awaited iPad Pro, they will start migrating some their portable PC and tablet installed base towards 2-in-1's, which will accelerate the adoption of the form factor," Bouchard said. "So far, this category has been the led by Microsoft with its Surface product line. But with the arrival of the iPad Pro, the launch of Windows 10, which is better suited for the 2-in-1 form factor, and the introduction of Intel's Skylake silicon, we expect a flurry of new devices to launch between now and December 2015."

For its part, Microsoft is priming its channel for Surface. In Microsoft's earnings release in July, COO Kevin Turner said, "We are also expanding the opportunity for more partners to sell Surface, and in the coming months will go from over 150 to more than 4,500 resellers globally."

Smartphones continue to be a two-horse race between the Android ecosystem and Apple iPhones, and the fates of those platforms determine the fate of the overall market, which is facing slowing growth in China. Microsoft is rumored to have a few new Lumias on tap, but its massive writeoff of the Nokia deal cast a cloud over its commitment to the market.

In the meantime, IDC's shipment and market share projection for smartphones for all of 2015 is 1.1 billion Android units (81 percent), 224 million iPhones (16 percent) and 37 million Windows Phones (less than 3 percent). "IDC's view that Microsoft/Windows Phone will remain a marginal challenger at best has not changed," the research firm said.

Posted by Scott Bekker on August 26, 2015 at 11:14 AM0 comments

Steranka Takes the Channel Reins at Intel Security

Richard Steranka

A day into his job as the global channel leader for Intel Security, Richard Steranka says he sees the biggest opportunities for channel growth in the midmarket and SMB spaces, even as aggressive investment in datacenter solution-based enterprise partners will continue.

"Even as of yesterday, I had an opportunity to talk with all of the sales leaders across the globe and the current channel team," Steranka said in an interview Tuesday. "It's pretty clear that we've made great strides in the enterprise space. The midmarket and SMB have seen high growth but [we] feel there's still further potential there for our partner community."

Steranka was named to the post on Monday, and came to the job from a similar role as vice president of the worldwide partner organization at Avaya. Steranka also held numerous channel roles in nearly 20 years at Cisco.

For Intel Security, which rebranded itself from McAfee in January, Steranka's appointment marks the end of a six-month period without a worldwide channel leader. The job's former occupant, Gavin Struthers, took a role as president of Intel Security's Asia Pacific sales in March.

Identifying stability as a key ingredient of a successful channel program, Steranka said that he plans to continue with the channel program updates rolled out in two phases, the first in October 2014 and the second in July of this year. Last October, the company relaunched the McAfee SecurityAlliance Program as the Intel Security Partner Program, which changed the focus from product competencies to solution competencies, and introduced a Managed Services Specialization and an Authorized Support Specialization. Last month, Lisa Matherly, head of Worldwide Partner Programs, Marketing and Operations at Intel Security, unveiled a second phase of changes focused on improving partner profitability and reducing conflict among partners for deals.

Steranka said he will continue to work with Struthers and Matherly, who remains in her role, to continue rolling out those changes.

"[The changes] tend to recognize partners that were making the investments back in Intel Security. That program continues. But we'll continue with [Gavin's] efforts in rolling out the future changes of the program," said Steranka, adding that he's eager to get feedback in the next few weeks from partners about what they like so far and where they would like to see future changes.

As part of the program updates, Intel Security changed the old Elite, Premier and Associate partner level names to the more straightforward Platinum, Gold and Silver. Of Intel Security's 30,000 registered partners and 15,000 active partners worldwide, 250 are Platinum and 760 are Gold.

Asked if that was the right mix moving forward, Steranka said he'll be looking at it. "I think it's probably just too early for me to answer that. The recognition right now is based on individual specializations [and that] is the right way to do it. How partners have been grandfathered in or allowed to move into those levels, that's what I'm not completely up to speed on."

Another factor in his analysis will be the way that the security market is shifting.

"The one thing I do know is the security space in terms of channel partner coverage, how they define themselves, is changing from the pure-play security partner to those where it's the full datacenter offerings -- compute, storage, virtualization and, most importantly, securing all of that. That is a set of partners that we're very interested in working with. Then we also have, clearly, the move to those that want to be in the managed-services business, cloud business and selling complete turnkey services to customers," he said. "As I look to how to cover this market in the most effective way possible, one of the things will be how the program aligns partners to do that, rewards them, and if we can increase our number of medaled partners as a result, then that's acceptable."

Posted by Scott Bekker on August 25, 2015 at 4:00 PM0 comments

SHI Starts Bid for Microsoft FastTrack Funding Share

SHI went public Thursday with a customer education program designed to position the Microsoft partner for a share of the Microsoft FastTrack Adoption Offer budget.

SHI, based in Somerset, N.J., is one of about a dozen U.S. Licensing Solution Providers (LSPs), the only Microsoft partners able to transact licensing agreements with enterprise customers.

Microsoft introduced FastTrack in its 2015 fiscal year and renewed it for FY16, which began July 1. The FastTrack offer is closely affiliated with the Microsoft Onboarding Center, an internally-staffed center for getting customers started with and using cloud products, such as Office 365.

"In essence, customers that purchase at least 150 eligible O365 licenses, and in that two-month window, can work with a Certified Microsoft Partner to manage their deployment of O365 workloads, and in doing so can offset the total cost of moving to an O365 environment," wrote Jim Sheridan, SHI senior project manager, in a post on The SHI Blog. "Once the customer and partner complete the due diligence of the deployment, the partner will submit a funding claim to Microsoft to partially offset the costs of the organization's O365 adoption -- a process that could save organizations five figures off the total expense, for example."

SHI is playing up a few new elements of FastTrack this year, including the ability to have Microsoft conduct the data migrations and a round of bridge funding that allows customers who bought their seats between July 1 and Aug. 31 to leverage the benefit rather. Last year, eligibility began Sept. 1.

For more detail of Microsoft's changes to FastTrack and other incentives for FY16, see "Microsoft Expanding In-House Cloud Deployments."

Posted by Scott Bekker on August 20, 2015 at 11:25 AM0 comments