RCP Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.

Internet Milestone: Android Overtakes Windows

When it comes to overall Internet access across all device types worldwide, Microsoft's long reign as the dominant operating system has come to an end, according to researchers at StatCounter.

The independent Web analytics company, which tracks OS usage, on Monday reported that Android overtook Windows in March for the first time as the world's most popular operating system.

For now, Android's lead is very slight. Android's worldwide OS Internet usage market share hit 37.93 percent compared with 37.91 percent for Windows.

[Click on image for larger view.] Worldwide OS market shares (all devices) from March 2012 to March 2017. (Source: StatCounter)

How stable is a lead based on two hundredths of a percentage point? Based on current trends, it's not likely that Microsoft will grab the worldwide title back any time soon on the metric, which includes mobile phones and tablets along with desktops and laptops, according to a statement from StatCounter CEO Aodhan Cullen.

"This is a milestone in technology history and the end of an era," Cullen pronounced. "It marks the end of Microsoft's leadership worldwide of the OS market which it has held since the 1980s. It also represents a major breakthrough for Android which held just 2.4% of global internet usage share only five years ago."

By segment and geography, there are several areas where Microsoft retains its lead. First is worldwide PC and laptop Internet access, where Microsoft built its dominant position and which Windows still leads by a healthy margin, with an 84 percent share in March, according to StatCounter.

[Click on image for larger view.] Worldwide OS market shares (for PCs and tablets combined) for March 2017. (Source: StatCounter)

Then there is the lucrative North America market, where Windows still holds a lead across all platforms (40 percent share), and where Android (21 percent) has yet to surpass iOS (26 percent). Microsoft's advantage remains even more pronounced in Europe, with Windows leading Android 52 percent to 24 percent.

But alongside incremental gains in those important markets, Android has built a dominant position of its own in fast-growing Asian markets. On that continent, Android is a 52 percent to 29 percent leader over Windows.

Posted by Scott Bekker on April 03, 2017 at 9:53 AM0 comments


Dell Stuffs a Quad-Core into Entry-Level Wyse Thin Client

Dell refreshed its Wyse thin client line on Tuesday with a new device that sports the first quad-core processor in one of its entry-level devices for virtual workspace environments.

The Wyse 3040 has a lot of the specs you'd expect in a refreshed line -- lower weight at just over half a pound, about a quarter less power usage than previous models and a smaller overall size.

But Jeff McNaught, vice president of marketing and chief strategy officer for the Cloud Client Computing Unit at Dell, says the quad-core processor was a key enhancement to ensure lifetime value and flexibility for the little box.

"We selected a quad-core processor because one of the big tenets that we have with thin clients is delivering a device that can work for 8-10 years," McNaught said in an interview. "What we had found in the past with some other designs was that customers were [in] great [shape] as long as they didn't change their software strategy."

Specifically, the Intel Atom X5 1.44GHz quad-core processor with as much as 2GB DDR3 RAM and 8GB flash will help the 3040 support light multimedia activity and local application processing.

Dell's new Wyse 3040 thin client. (Source: Dell.)

The Dell team focused on a future Skype for Business use case, which is emerging as part of more and more business scenarios.

"With that quad-core processor, we licensed some key technology from Citrix and from Microsoft to be able to handle products like Skype for Business very effectively. Virtual environments have challenges -- called the trombone effect and the back-on-itself effect, where you have multiple video and audio streams operating simultaneously. This product is designed to be able to use the server to set up the call; but then once the call is set up, it operates with the target in a peer-to-peer manner, and that reduces the amount of bandwidth that's needed by a lot," McNaught said. "We needed to use a processor that had a tremendous amount of performance, and we needed to be able to have encode and decode handled separately from everything else you see on that screen delivered by Citrix, Microsoft or VMware."

With a starting price of $329, it's in the same price range as Wyse's current starter entries -- the single-core 3010 and the dual-core 3020 and 3030. The 3030 will remain on the market.

The Wyse 3040 will initially ship with the Wyse ThinOS software. Starting in June, Wyse will offer a new thin client option called Wyse ThinLinux. McNaught described ThinLinux as a thin-client-focused and hardened version of SUSE Linux that expands the use case for a thin client: "[You will] be able to have a local browser and to embed specific Linux applications right into that thin client. A lot of our customers like to do that because they might be replacing a PC with that thin client."

Posted by Scott Bekker on March 28, 2017 at 10:30 AM0 comments


Survey: Trusted Advisers Still Have a Role in the Cloud

A refrain among channel advocates musing about IT's future in the cloud is that even for customers interested in assembling best-of-breed collections of cloud services, they still want a trusted adviser to put it all together for them.

The other way of looking at it is that customers want a single throat to choke when things don't work.

In the form of a commissioned study by 451 Research, Microsoft added some survey-based buttressing for that argument. Microsoft released the hosting and cloud study, "Digital Transformation Opportunity for Service Providers: Beyond Infrastructures," during its Microsoft Cloud and Hosting Summit last week.

Aziz Benmalek, vice president for Worldwide Hosting & Managed Service Providers at Microsoft, blogged about the 1,700-respondent survey:

Half of all organizations surveyed consider service providers as vital for future digital transformation projects. Even better, 60% of those would be willing to pay twice as much as they currently spend to have a single trusted advisor solution to manage all their digital transformation-related sourcing, implementation, and management needs.

Additionally, the new research shows that 62% of cloud/hosting infrastructure spending comes bundled with value-added services, rising to 84% for the next hosting/cloud infrastructure engagement. By owning the customer relationship end to end it provides the perfect platform for partners to build value-added services for their customers that will create stickiness and differentiation from the competition.

Posted by Scott Bekker on March 27, 2017 at 11:01 AM0 comments


Cloud Distributor Pax8 Streamlines Operations

Cloud-focused distributor Pax8 on Monday unveiled new processes, organizational enhancements, roles and a key executive all aimed at streamlining its operations.

The 5-year-old Denver-based company offers a curated line card of cloud offerings to its 1,100 partners. Products offered from Pax8 come from BAE Systems, BitTitan, CloudJumper, DataMAPt, Double-Take, IBM MaaS360, Infrascale, Microsoft, ProfitBricks, Symantec and Veritas. Office 365 is one of the distributor's anchor products, and a new relationship announced last month with BitTitan centering on the MigrationWiz technology and MSPComplete deepened Pax8's focus on Microsoft Cloud Solution Providers (CSPs).

Pax8's moves Monday included naming John Walters to the new position of vice president of Service Operations, with responsibilities for directing service delivery and technical support. Walters' resume includes positions at Wipro, Level 3 Communications, AT&T, Bell Labs, Lucent Technologies and Avaya.

The company is implementing a companywide project management tool to help with departmental interaction to free up resources for partner enablement and creating a new entry-level, marketing position, called Cadets, dedicated to partner recruitment.

In a statement, Ryan Walsh, senior vice president of Partner Solutions, said, "The addition of John and the new processes we have put into place will help us further enable our partners to gain new leads, add monthly recurring revenue and ensure they are getting the highest level of support."

Posted by Scott Bekker on March 27, 2017 at 9:26 AM0 comments


LinkedIn Integration Continues with Hoffman Named to Microsoft Board

While the technical integration of Microsoft and LinkedIn awaits significant movement, the cultural integration took another step forward with the naming of LinkedIn Co-Founder Reid Hoffman to the board of Microsoft this week.

A member of the "PayPal Mafia" alongside Elon Musk and Peter Thiel, the 49-year-old Hoffman brings a Silicon Valley insider's perspective to the Microsoft boardroom. He is currently a partner with Greylock Partners, and his other board positions include Edmodo, Convoy, Blockstream, Wrapp and Kiva.org.

"We continually evaluate opportunities to bring fresh thinking and new perspectives to our board, and Reid's appointment reflects that," said Microsoft Chairman John W. Thompson in a statement. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella called himself a longtime admirer of Hoffman's.

Hoffman had been rumored to be headed to the board since the $26 billion merger was announced last June, but the move took effect on Tuesday. One sticking point had reportedly been his membership on the board of Mozilla Corp., which has been engaged in a long-running war over browser market share and sometimes philosophy with Internet Explorer, Edge and Microsoft generally. He left the Mozilla seat after 11 years on Jan. 31.

The board placement is the third major mixing of high-level LinkedIn personalities into the Microsoft corporate stew.

The first move was to keep Jeff Weiner as CEO of a LinkedIn business unit, with the idea being that he would continue running LinkedIn's existing business to drive revenue and profit.

A longer-range move, with an eye toward the eventual, promised integrations of Microsoft and LinkedIn technologies, was to name LinkedIn Senior Vice President of Engineering Kevin Scott the chief technology officer for all of Microsoft in late January. Nadella's first task for Scott is to integrate the Microsoft Graph with the LinkedIn Graph.

The Microsoft Graph is Microsoft's single API for accessing data from all of Microsoft's professional cloud services and also for applying machine learning to data in those services. The initial rollout in late 2015 covered users, files, messages, groups, events, personal contacts, mail, calendar, devices and other directory objects and documents. Microsoft has gradually been rolling other services and targets into the Microsoft Graph.

The vision for the LinkedIn Graph is to create a virtual representation within the LinkedIn platform of nearly the entire global business community -- with listings for 3 billion members of the global workforce, 60 to 70 million companies, all job availabilities and all skills requirements.

Even quick-hit technical integrations have been relatively slow in coming, though, perhaps due to Nadella's publicly stated view that the problems that have dogged some of Microsoft's earlier merger integrations emerged from moving too quickly.

For more on where partners are hoping to find opportunity in the LinkedIn merger, check out the cover story in the latest issue of Redmond Channel Partner here.

Posted by Scott Bekker on March 15, 2017 at 12:19 PM0 comments


Survey: Managing Office 365 Can Nearly Double the TCO for Smaller Organizations

A new survey by one of Microsoft's largest cloud solution providers (CSPs) takes a crack at quantifying the total cost of ownership (TCO) of Office 365 for organizations of different sizes.

In a report posted Monday, Champion Solutions Group of Boca Raton, Fla., detailed the results of a survey of 101 Office 365 administrators from organizations ranging in size from 1-50 users to more than 500 users.

The survey found that for small organizations, the costs of managing Office 365 can nearly double the per-seat cost of Office 365. Mileage varies dramatically in Office 365 deployments, but for a 50-seat deployment at an average cost per seat of $10 for a $500 per month bill from Microsoft, Champion found management costs would tack on an average of $469 more. The cost for a hypothetical large organization with 501 seats is proportionally much lower -- a $1,235 management cost on top of $5,010 in Office 365 subscription costs -- but still substantial.

[Click on image for larger view.] Source: Champion Solutions Group. (Click here for the full version of this infographic.)

"The end-user community is spending a good amount of time on managing this endeavor, which is probably not the most strategic thing for an end user," said Chris Pyle, Champion's CEO, in an interview. "Small businesses are spending more time on it than large businesses because they don't have knowledgeable staff."

Champion, and its MessageOps business unit that specifically handles Microsoft cloud products, asked survey respondents to estimate how much time they spent on 10 administrative tasks. Those tasks were reconciling billing and invoices, as well as managing users and subscriptions, Active Directory and Active Directory Groups, compliance, mail flow, mobile platforms, permissions, protection, public folders and recipients. Management costs were calculated by multiplying hours spent against a $36/hour average salary for an Exchange administrator.

Pyle said he was most surprised by the amount of time smaller businesses spent on billing and invoice reconciliation. "I would think that people with larger implementations would be the ones most critical of the invoice, but it's the opposite," he said.

Even with all the management costs quantified, Pyle believes Office 365 is still a much better buy than on-premises Exchange Server, as it eliminates a lot of other questions. "How much time do you spend backing up your mailboxes? How much time do you spend retrieving a mailbox that's been deleted? How much time do you spend on failover testing a quarter? How much time do you spend on server performance? How much time does accounting spend, worrying about the depreciation cycle of the hardware?"

For Pyle, and Champion/MessageOps, the survey is an end-user selling tool, helping the company make the case to end users that they should outsource management of Office 365 to a partner who can do it more efficiently at less expense. But by releasing the survey, and its accompanying charts and data, Champion is giving end users and other partners some tools.

The sample size is too small to provide reliable data about size segments or vertical segments, but the report does give end users some broad benchmarks to start thinking critically about the whole cost of managing Office 365 and to compare their own cost estimates against peers.

Microsoft partners will also be able to use those numbers for benchmarking of their internal operations and for determining pricing on Office 365 management services. At the same time, the report gives partners some data points for marketing collateral as they build out their Office 365 practices and make the argument to customers for saving money by going with a partner as opposed to going it alone.

Posted by Scott Bekker on March 13, 2017 at 11:39 AM0 comments


WikiLeaks Details Parts of CIA Playbook Against Windows

The massive WikiLeaks dump on Tuesday of alleged U.S. Central Intelligence Agency documents purports to reveal elements of the CIA's tactics and tools for exploiting Windows-based computers.

The flashiest revelations in the 8,761 documents, dubbed "Vault 7" by WikiLeaks, had to do with non-Windows operating systems: platform exploits against Apple's iOS that could theoretically make application-level encryption and secure communications tools like Signal and WhatsApp moot on iPhones, a catalog of two dozen Android zero-day exploits, and details of how the agency could turn Samsung smart TVs into listening devices.

CIA officials declined to confirm the veracity of the documents, which WikiLeaks said were dated between 2013 and 2016. Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency whistleblower currently living in exile in Moscow who has a complicated relationship with WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange, tweeted that he found the documents credible:

Microsoft officials had little to say about the revelations immediately. "We are aware of the report and are looking into it," the company said in a statement released to news organizations.

There was much in the document dump to concern Windows administrators, partners and end users, especially given WikiLeaks' assertion that the CIA has "lost control" of the tools catalogued in the document dump. The organization did not release all of the CIA materials that it claims to have, most notably any of the code for carrying out attacks. However, WikiLeaks said it would publish more from the archive in the future.

"This extraordinary collection, which amounts to more than several hundred million lines of code, gives its possessor the entire hacking capacity of the CIA," WikiLeaks said in a statement. The assertion that WikiLeaks, in fact, has the CIA's entire hacking capacity drew healthy skepticism from security observers, although the organization does claim to have more to release.

Whether the tools are already in the wild or if WikiLeaks subsequently releases them, any organization, not just likely CIA targets, could be attacked with the now widely public tools and techniques.

Describing tools affecting Windows PCs, servers and networks, a WikiLeaks analysis statement said:

"The CIA also runs a very substantial effort to infect and control Microsoft Windows users with its malware. This includes multiple local and remote weaponized 'zero days', air gap jumping viruses such as 'Hammer Drill' which infects software distributed on CD/DVDs, infectors for removable media such as USBs, systems to hide data in images or in covert disk areas ('Brutal Kangaroo') and to keep its malware infestations going."

Links to materials in the WikiLeaks dump are uneven, with some entries completely blank and others describing introductory-level, how-to information about performing basic tasks in Windows, Visual Studio and other Microsoft tools. Many of the vulnerabilities described involve older versions of software, with most references for the Windows desktop client being to Windows 8 or earlier iterations.

But other sections describe security problems with Microsoft software or provide overviews of sophisticated tools, such as automated multi-platform malware attack and control systems. Some of those systems or components go by the names Fine Dining, HIVE, Cutthroat, Swindle, RickyBobby and Bartender.

The documents also catalogue tools and techniques for evading anti-virus and other personal security products.

The dump has started a fire drill of security checks throughout the Windows tools ecosystem that could lead to a flurry of security patches and updates over the next few months.

Posted by Scott Bekker on March 08, 2017 at 11:40 AM0 comments


Microsoft's Reported HPE Order Cut a Sign of Tectonic Changes in Server Sales

Intrepid reporters at Bloomberg look like they've solved a big mystery of the last week: Which giant HPE client cut server orders so dramatically that President and CEO Meg Whitman was compelled to bring up the setback in an investor call?

Citing anonymous sources, Bloomberg reported that the client was Microsoft, one of the biggest server buyers on the market as it continues its global buildout of Azure, Office 365, Dynamics 365 and other public cloud infrastructure and services. Microsoft and HPE did not offer on-the-record comments to the report.

The question emerged last Thursday on an HPE earnings call. "We saw a significantly lower demand from one customer and major tier 1 service provider facing a very competitive environment," Whitman said in her opening remarks. Following up with detail in explaining HPE's overall 11 percent drop in server revenue for the quarter, EVP and CFO Tim Stonesifer confirmed that the loss in demand involved "our largest tier 1 customer."

Stock analysts were intrigued enough by that revelation that it came up five times in the Q&A session, according to the Seeking Alpha transcript of the call. During that portion, it emerged from Whitman that the drop in sales was significant enough that it could "throw [HPE] into slightly negative growth for 2017" on revenues and that the tier 1 deals, with their lack of attached services, weren't a particularly profitable area for the company.

The huge shift in compute capacity from business and government datacenters and server closets to public cloud datacenters was guaranteed to impact the way servers were sold.

Early on, it was clear that SMB-focused servers would be the first category to suffer, with major server providers shifting engineering and sales talent toward landing huge contracts with Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, Google, Facebook and larger hosting companies as those megavendors sopped up a greater share of the world's back-end computing. Releases of SMB-focused servers have slowed to a trickle and lack any marketing fanfare as those customers are steered relentlessly to cloud services.

As mid-market and enterprise customers adopt the cloud, the emphasis on even rack-based infrastructure servers is sure to become a compressed part of the market, as well. Yet Whitman's comments suggest that the biggest server players of today may not be nimble enough, or hungry enough, to compete to provide the infrastructure for the growing public cloud server business.

Public cloud vendors like Microsoft have very different priorities from traditional server providers like HPE. For HPE, high-touch, services-attached engagements are the best. For public cloud providers, low-cost designs that plug easily into their established and efficient datacenter management processes are ideal.

Asked specifically on the call whether the client was looking for less capacity or had turned to another provider, Whitman said she didn't know. For what it's worth, IDC this week indicated that the overall server market declined in Q4 in part due to a slowdown in hyperscale datacenter growth.

"Some public cloud datacenter deployments are being delayed and there are indications that overall levels of deployment and refresh may slow down even through the long term as hyperscalers continue to evaluate their hardware provisioning criteria," said Kuba Stolarski of IDC in a statement.

Microsoft isn't confirming that it cut its order with HPE, let alone offering a reason why. Yet it's hard to imagine that hyperscale datacenter growth won't resume, if it's actually slowed, with the rate of revenue growth that those hyperscale vendors are seeing in public cloud infrastructure.

What is clear from Whitman's comments is that current server market leaders may not be completely sold on chasing that business.

Posted by Scott Bekker on March 02, 2017 at 12:17 PM0 comments


Detachables Still a Little Hype-y, But Gaining in the PC Market

Detachables may be slightly heavy on hype at the moment, according to a PC market researcher, but there's no denying that the sector that's drawing in a steady stream of new entries, such as one from HP over the weekend, has potential.

"Regardless of what marketers are saying, detachable tablets are simply not putting pressure on notebooks yet," said IDC analyst Jitesh Ubrani in a statement about the market research firm's latest PC market projections.

IDC's emphasis seems to be on the "yet." Detachable tablets -- a category largely created by the Microsoft Surface about four years ago and since joined by several vendors, most notably Apple -- are growing sales faster than the overall PC market.

Well, they are gaining in annual terms. Poor performance in the just-finished fourth quarter is part of the reason it's too soon to say detachables are living up to marketers' words. The detachable tablet market saw what IDC called a "dramatic decline" in Q4 -- dropping 26 percent. IDC attributed the decline to the segment's dependence on product launch cycles from Microsoft and Apple.

Ubrani argued that right now, the allure of detachables may actually be slightly helping other categories of PCs.

"Consumers are just starting to graduate from old, consumption-based, slate tablets to a more productive detachable tablet. At the same time, the benefits of having a thin, touch-sensitive, productivity-based machine is shining light on the traditional PC category, causing vendors and consumers to focus on more premium devices in the Convertible and Ultraslim space," Ubrani said.

Over the next five years, IDC contends detachable tablets will make up  a greater and greater share of overall PC sales. In 2016, detachable tablet shipments amounted to 21 million units, compared to 103 million desktops and workstations and 157 million notebooks and mobile workstations. But current trends point to a downward trajectory for the desktop category over five years, and a flat trajectory for the notebook/mobile workstation category. IDC assigns a 21 percent compound annual growth rate over the five years for detachable tablets -- projecting the category to amount to 56 million units in 2021.

That's a prediction HP is banking on, based on comments by Michael Park, vice president and general manager for mobility and personal systems at HP Inc., surrounding the launch at Mobile World Conference 2017 of the HP Pro x2 612 G2. The G2 is HP's second-generation detachable tablet, with a much more direct line of descent from the Microsoft Surface Pro than was apparent in HP's first-generation version. Telltale signs of the G2's heritage are a bar-like kickstand, a pen and an angled, magnetically-attached keyboard.

The HP Pro x2 612 G2

"Today, more than 60 percent of Millennials work from more than one location and by 2020 they will be a majority of the workforce," Park said Sunday of the G2. "They want sexy mobile devices that meet their on-the-go work styles and IT needs these devices to be manageable, serviceable and secure."

Posted by Scott Bekker on February 27, 2017 at 1:33 PM0 comments


Tech Data-Avnet Close Blockbuster Distribution Acquisition

Tech Data Corp.'s acquisition of the Technology Business Solutions business of Avnet Inc. is complete, the distributor said on Monday.

The cost to Tech Data is $2.6 billion, which was the amount that Tech Data said it expected to pay when the companies originally announced the deal in September. Funding included $1 billion from Tech Data's recent public debt offering, $1 billion from bank term loans, $400 million from drawings under other credit facilities and cash on hand and nearly 2.8 million shares of Tech Data stock.

Tech Data expects the transaction to add to earnings per share in the first full year, with annual cost savings of about $100 million coming within 24 months and one-time costs of about $150 million to achieve those savings.

In a statement, Tech Data CEO Bob Dutkowsky called it "a momentous day" in Tech Data's history.

"Our combined company is perfectly positioned at the epicenter of the IT ecosystem -- with the scale and scope to serve dynamic markets throughout the world -- giving our customers access to an end-to-end portfolio of IT solutions and efficiently bringing our vendors' products to new customers in more markets," he said. "Together, we will be an even stronger company, capable of doing more for our channel partners than ever before."

In the pitch for the deal, Tech Data said Avnet's Technology Business would add substantial datacenter capability to its portfolio and broaden its international reach.

Posted by Scott Bekker on February 27, 2017 at 9:05 AM0 comments


Microsoft To Shut Out P-Seller Partners from Corporate Network

Microsoft's exclusive P-Seller partner community in the United States on Monday received 28 days' notice that they would be shut out of the Microsoft corporate network and moved to a new area of the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) portal, leading some partners to fear that many of the resources they regularly use to sell Microsoft solutions and escalate customer issues will be unavailable.

Partner Sellers, or P-Sellers, are among Microsoft's closest partners, and they help Microsoft drive significant revenue through co-selling engagements. In the United States, the invitation-only program includes 1,139 individuals from 289 managed partner organizations. Those individuals carry the P-SSP (Partner Solution Sales Professional) or P-TSP (Partner Technology Solutions Professional) designations.

In a PowerPoint deck sent to P-Sellers on Feb. 20 and obtained by RCP, Microsoft emphasized that the partners would be invited to a new P-Seller Resource Portal on the MPN in order to make it simpler for partners to find resources and make the program more scalable for Microsoft globally. Microsoft was detailing the changes to P-Sellers in Q&A sessions Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

"We will no longer provide P-Sellers with access to Microsoft's corporate network. Our goal is to provide assets to our P-Sellers [in] a timely manner, in conjunction with our methods for deploying assets to our Microsoft Sales Teams," read a slide in the partner deck. "The MPN P-Seller Resource Portal will act as the 'one-stop shop' for Microsoft P-Sellers, and will drive simplicity and convenience for P-Sellers to help them quickly locate assets, training, learning paths via Partner University, enablement, sales & marketing, entitlements, support, level branding and competency attainment and other benefits. All information is through a single source and will have content specifically geared for P-Sellers. We've built a designated readiness portal that will be exclusive to P-Sellers and populated with Microsoft field facing content."

Ending P-Seller access to Microsoft's corporate network, eliminating their @microsoft.com e-mail addresses, removing the access chips from their purple badges and the short notice of the change were the steps that seemed most concerning to partners, according to a Microsoft partner on one of the calls.

Issues associated with being shut out of the corporate network for these partners means losing access to the Microsoft Global Address List, which helped partners properly escalate customer and technical issues; the Microsoft Calendar; distribution lists internal to Microsoft; NDA content such as battle cards, decks and positioning statements; the internal Azure Calculator; Microsoft's dogfood site for accessing pre-release software; the Microsoft Glossary; and the ability to schedule sessions at Microsoft Technology Centers.

Another partner on the call said Microsoft's desire to lock down its own information was understandable but called the changes "super problematic" for partners. "Having the ability to go in and pull everyone's calendar to set up meetings, to go find content out in their network that may help move a deal along or get you connected to what's actually happening is a big deal for all partners. It was literally a game-changer," the partner said. Of the new curated site, the partner added, "The moving stuff over, it always takes longer when there's another step. Some of the selling tools that are for Microsoft employees, they would open up access for P-Sellers. Now there will have to be a decision."

Microsoft did note in a slide that P-Sellers will be able to request to have assets added to the new P-Seller Resource Portal.

Through a spokesperson, Microsoft declined several requests for telephone and e-mail interviews, providing only a short e-mailed statement. "We're making changes and investments to optimize the Microsoft P-Seller Program, including a new one-stop resource portal, to help ensure these partners have everything needed to realize stronger mutual customer relationships and sales goals," the spokesperson said.

In the slide deck, Microsoft emphasized other positives in the changes, including reduction of password resets, a streamlined operations process and a new Partner Seller Microsoft logo for participants. Also, an onboarding freeze in the United States has been lifted as of Feb. 20.

Many other key benefits of the P-Seller program will remain, including deep engagement with Microsoft teams and access -- now through the MPN -- to some resources that are normally available only to Microsoft employees. P-Sellers will also continue to have access to the Microsoft Social Selling Program, which includes use of the premium LinkedIn Sales Navigator service, along with coaching and marketing content for use in social selling. However, it emerged on the call that details on how P-Sellers will access the social selling tools without their Microsoft credentials have yet to be worked out.

While Microsoft's deck doesn't disclose how many P-Sellers there are worldwide (the U.S.-only numbers cited above did come from the slides), other text in the deck suggests Microsoft is clamping down on the network access in anticipation of P-Seller program growth.

"In order to scale this program globally, we must shift to digital experience that is curated specifically for P-Sellers on MPN. Building on top of MPN as our partner enablement resource we are driving parity across P-Seller roles and subs to have the same experience," the deck said.

It's understandable for security, administrative and program management reasons that Microsoft would want to limit the number of outsiders galloping freely through its network, especially if P-Seller numbers are, in fact, about to increase. However, P-Sellers who had that special access were made to feel like valued partners and insiders, and they used that access creatively to improve both their and Microsoft's business. Getting bounced out of the network and into a walled garden has to sting.

Posted by Scott Bekker on February 22, 2017 at 9:32 AM0 comments


LabTech Founder Takes Strategy Role at eFolder

Managed services entrepreneur Matt Nachtrab says he's getting the same feeling of disruptive possibility about eFolder's backup technology that he had about remote monitoring and management (RMM) back when he started LabTech Software.

The LabTech founder, who sold that company to ConnectWise and stayed at the professional services automation (PSA) giant until the LabTech integration was completed early last year, is officially joining eFolder this week as chief strategy officer.

"When I look around at the different parts of the MSP space, after RMM and PSA the third most important thing is backup," Nachtrab said in an interview. "I look at the technology that eFolder has brought together, [and for which] they own the IP from the ground up, and it's a pretty amazing place with a lot of potential to disrupt the backup and management protection space."

The technologies Nachtrab is referring to include eFolder's original cloud backup technology, along with business continuity, backup and disaster recovery (BDR) software, services and appliances, and file sync services. Nachtrab seems most excited about the Replibit business continuity software platform, which eFolder acquired in June and which the company says grew 200 percent year-over-year for all of 2016.

Just as Nachtrab started out running a working MSP (Nemsys), eFolder has a similar corporate DNA, having started as a local VAR in the Atlanta area. As he was considering the job, Nachtrab says he hit it off with Kevin Hoffman and often found himself engaged in long, backyard phone conversations with the eFolder CEO.

"Kevin Hoffman is a brilliant technologist. I love having those conversations, going in deep and learning about that," said Nachtrab, who calls himself technical but believes his bigger strength is on the business side.

In his strategy position, his role will follow his enthusiasm for listening to customers and bringing their feedback to product development. He says that will mesh well with Hoffman's strengths and those of Francois Daumard, a veteran of Microsoft and Apple channel programs who joined the 100 percent channel-focused eFolder in October as senior vice president of sales.

"With my slant toward sales, marketing and business, Francois' ability to execute on sales and account management, and Kevin's leadership and technology strengths, I think that we're going to be really effective," Nachtrab said.

Posted by Scott Bekker on February 21, 2017 at 9:55 AM0 comments