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Three Months After Support Deadline, Windows XP Still No. 2

A full three months after Microsoft cut support for Windows XP, the operating system remains the second most popular operating system throughout most of the world.

If current trendlines continue, Windows XP will hold the No. 2 position for a few more months and could remain a major presence on the Internet for years, according to Internet browsing data kept by the two leading OS share tracking outfits, StatCounter and Net Applications.

The Windows XP overhang looms largest in Net Applications' data, which has more than a quarter of all browsing done in June from the OS (Figure 1). Windows XP had been shedding a point of share or more per month since February, but plateaued from May to June. Net Applications puts Windows 7 share at 50.55 percent and Windows 8 share at 12.54 percent. (Windows 8 figures in this post combine Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, which both StatCounter and Net Applications track separately.)

Figure 1.

Data generated by StatCounter puts XP's global share much lower at 16 percent in June (Figure 2), but it's still good for second place. Windows 8 accounts for more than 14 percent share and could edge Windows XP for the No. 2 spot in the next few months.

[Click on image for larger view.] Figure 2.

In the United States, Windows 8 already surpassed Windows XP back in April and held that lead through June, when XP share was 14.13 percent and Windows 8 share stood at 14.94 percent, according to StatCounter. However, second place in the United States goes to Mac OS X, which accounts for nearly 16 percent of browsing traffic.

Globally, Mac OS X is much lower, with 8.5 percent of StatCounter share and 6.5 percent of Net Applications share. StatCounter tracks pageviews while Net Applications uses unique visitors, among other differences in their approaches.

Posted by Scott Bekker on July 07, 2014 at 11:07 AM0 comments

Okta Overhauls Partner Program

One year after launching a partner program, cloud-based identity and access management specialist Okta on Thursday is rolling out a more mature program for systems integrators and resellers.

Okta, founded by a former Salesforce.com executive in 2011 and backed by Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock Partners, Khosla Ventures and Sequoia Capital, initially developed the Okta Solution Providers (OSP) Program to separate systems integrators and resellers from ISVs.

Those ISVs are a key pillar of Okta's single-sign-on platform and the related Okta Technology Alliances Program provided a programmatic spot for the thousands of applications supported by Okta.

In the interim, channel partners like Slalom Consulting, Trace3, Agosto and SoftChoice were looking for more resources and a better-defined structure within the Solution Providers Program, according to Okta.

The updated OSP goes live Thursday with four tiers:

  • An entry-level Bronze tier requires a $100,000 annual revenue commitment and certifications for one consultant and one sales representative. Benefits include resale and referral margins, discounted product pricing for internal production use and escalated technical support via e-mail.

  • The Silver tier carries a $250,000 revenue commitment and requires certification of two consultants on implementations and a second sales rep. In addition to better margins, which increase with each tier, Silver partners also get a dedicated regional partner manager, access to beta programs and both phone and e-mail escalated technical support. Marketing development funds begin to kick in at this tier.

  • A Gold tier comes with $1 million in yearly revenue commitments and training for four sales reps, two technical consultants and two implementation consultants.

  • The highest tier, Platinum, has a $2 million revenue commitment and substantially higher employee certification requirements, with 10 sales reps, five technical consultants and four implementation consultants. Program benefits include a dedicated global partner manager.

All tiers include basic benefits such as access to the Okta Partner Community, sales and marketing tools, sales webinars, demo calls and a dedicated Okta "sandbox" for testing and proof of concept.

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 26, 2014 at 9:17 AM0 comments

OneDrive Boosts Make Microsoft the Deal To Beat in Cloud

This is more of a consumer play than a business one, but these days the two are intimately related. Microsoft on Monday unveiled plans to double the free storage in the OneDrive cloud storage platform, to ratchet the OneDrive storage for consumer versions of Office 365 by 50x, and to drastically cut the price for purchasing additional storage for those who might need it.

By the numbers, OneDrive will come with 15GB of storage, more than double the previous limit of 7GB. The thinking behind the new limit has to do with Microsoft's consumer research. The new limit for Office 365 Home and Office 365 Personal subscriptions, meanwhile, bounces way up to 1TB, from a previous limit of 20GB. Buying additional storage will cost $1.99 for 100GB, a 73 percent price cut, and $3.99 for 200GB, a 65 percent price drop.

Omar Shahine, group program manager for OneDrive.com at Microsoft, shared the thinking on the base OneDrive increase in a blog post announcing the changes.

"Our data tells us that 3 out of 4 people have less than 15 GB of files stored on their PC. Factoring in what they may also have stored on other devices, we believe providing 15 GB for free right out of the gate -- with no hoops to jump through -- will make it much easier for people to have their documents, videos, and photos available in one place," Shahine wrote, suggesting the size increase is neither random nor determined by Microsoft's current datacenter infrastructure configuration.

On the Office 365 side, the massive storage increase to 1TB greatly improves the cost profile of the consumer subscriptions. The Personal edition at $6.99 a month (that's the subscription made famous by its Office for iPad linkage) becomes a better deal. Meanwhile, the 1TB limit on the $9.99 a month Home edition is per user. With up to five users allowed on a Home subscription, that's up to 5TB of storage -- a nearly insane amount.

None of these pertain exactly to partner's businesses. The Home and Personal versions of Office 365 aren't supposed to be used for work. Instead, the business-focused news came back in April when Microsoft bumped the storage limits for Office 365 ProPlus to 1TB. Nonetheless, Microsoft is establishing itself as the gold standard in cloud storage.

Being able to land 1TB of cloud storage that's portable to many device types (not just Windows-based ones) and the Office suite makes Microsoft's an easy deal to choose over the competition for personal devices. The more the Microsoft platform is top of mind, the better for Microsoft partners.

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 23, 2014 at 12:13 PM0 comments

Anatomy of the Microsoft-L.A. County Office 365 Deal

Microsoft unveiled a mega-deal with the county of Los Angeles this week that covers Office 365 seats for 100,000 employees of the most populous county in the United States. Here are some key channel takeaways from this five-year deal worth $72 million.

MCS Out Front: Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS) is a source of controversy for the channel. Partners who represent Microsoft products in the enterprise often come up against MCS in deals and sometimes complain that Microsoft swoops in on projects that its partners could credibly deliver. While there is a partner on this deal, the partner is on the licensing side. MCS will do the deployment.

It's not surprising that MCS is out front on this deal, and it doesn't mean by itself that MCS is going through one of its more aggressive phases. Over the years, Microsoft has frequently talked about the framework it uses when deciding whether MCS should be involved in a project. This deal seems to fit two major criteria, either one of which would be enough for Microsoft to justify putting its own people in the deal. One is if a project is what Microsoft calls a "lighthouse" project. This clearly is, first for its size but also for its sensitive security and privacy requirements for law enforcement departments and for health-related departments.

The other criterion is whether the customer wants "skin in the game" from Microsoft. Given the considerable public relations problems that attended the rollout of Google Apps in the city of Los Angeles, there is every reason for county officials to want only Microsoft throats around if someone needs to be choked for quicker progress.

An LSP Win for En Pointe Technologies: The named partner in this deal is En Pointe Technologies. Although En Pointe does systems integration work, Microsoft's news release on the deal is clear that it's the licensing solution provider (LSP) side that will be involved here. "Microsoft Consulting Services will begin the migration to Office 365 in July, and Microsoft partner En Pointe Technologies will manage the agreement," the release stated.

Even absent systems integration work, it's a big win for En Pointe. The company was previously managing Microsoft Enterprise Agreements (EAs) for several L.A. County departments. Now En Pointe manages a consolidated EA for all 15 departments. It's not clear what LSPs may have gotten boxed out in the consolidation.

"Our relationship and credibility with both Los Angeles County and Microsoft is cited as the reason such a large deal was placed in our hands," En Pointe President Michael Rapp said in a statement. (En Pointe did not immediately respond to a series of specific questions about the deal.)

A Blow for Google Apps: When Google won a contract in 2009 to move 30,000 employees of the city of Los Angeles from on-premises e-mail to its cloud services, it was a clear shot across Microsoft's bow (even though most of the e-mail servers involved were GroupWise). There was another big player in the cloud space with the ability to sell major customers on its service. That deal ran into trouble when Google was unable to comply with FBI requirements for police department e-mail that meant the L.A. Police Department (LAPD) couldn't move to Google Apps.

To be clear, the Google deal was the city, the Microsoft deal is the county, so we're looking at different entities. Nonetheless, Microsoft's win relates to Google's in three ways.

First, Microsoft makes a point of noting in the first sentence of its release that the Office 365 for Government deal includes "roughly 20,000 law enforcement personnel." Without mentioning Google by name, Microsoft is going out of its way to highlight its ability to comply with the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) standard that posed a problem for Google and the LAPD.

Second, part of the Google contract involved incentives if Google and its partner Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC) could get L.A. County departments onto the system, as well. Microsoft's ability to wrap up a deal for all county departments suggests that crossover never occurred.

Third, Microsoft's deal with the county is much bigger than Google's deal with the city -- covering 100,000 employees rather than the originally announced 30,000. The deal literally surrounds and dwarfs Google's foothold in the city of Los Angeles.

Reasons for the Win: Most of the reasons Microsoft won the deal involve money, with the cloud driving expenses out of IT. En Pointe's news release says the deal will save the county $2.5 million annually after the first year. According to Microsoft, cost savings will come from consolidating EAs, decreased collaboration costs across departments due to a unified platform, the ability to pay only for services used by existing employees and the avoidance of upfront capital expenditures.

The county's CIO Richard Sanchez also says the move to Office 365 will help the county's employees become more mobile. Microsoft also cited the CJIS and HIPAA compliance as factors.

It was not clear whether Google or anyone else was competing for the contract, and clearly Microsoft's deep presence due to the existing 15 EAs played a role.

Crazy Q4 Office 365 Deals: Microsoft always pushes hard to close business in its fourth quarter, which ends this month. Partners are seeing a lot of extra incentives on Office 365 right now. Some sort of extreme discounting, beyond the usual deal size discounts, was probably a factor here. In any case, it's a good time for partners to be closing Office 365 deals across the board.

Don't Mess It Up! This week the L.A. County deal counts as a victory for Microsoft. One or two missteps and it will be an embarrassment (see Google and the city of Los Angeles). You can bet there will be Google and CSC reps eagerly waiting to pounce on any delays or problems. There will also be officials who got into trouble over the Google problems and politicians looking to score points keeping a close eye on Microsoft's progress. The stakes are very high in a politically-fraught environment. Yet another reason for Microsoft to keep this deal in house with MCS (see above).


Posted by Scott Bekker on June 19, 2014 at 11:36 AM0 comments

Asigra's Next Attempt To Upend Backup and Recovery Pricing

Asigra Inc. is seeking to cut expensive, proprietary secondary storage arrays from the backup-and-recovery equation.

At the backup and recovery specialist's partner conference this week, the company introduced Asigra Software-Defined Data Protection, defined as an architecture to turn commodity infrastructure into scalable cloud backup storage.

Asigra compiled its code onto FreeBSD and provides it for free to service provider partners as an ISO image. "It's the first Software-Defined Data Protection platform," said Eran Farajun, executive vice president at Asigra. "It's the entire stack. It's not just the backup software, it's also the file system and the monitoring. We disintermediated the software that comes with these expensive storage arrays from HP, EMC and NetApp."

Asigra will support the stack, but doesn't plan to make money from it directly. "Our strategy is to help our partners free up dollars to generate more demand and win in the marketplace," Farajun said.

It's not the first time Toronto-based Asigra has tried to rock the boat in order to build market share. A year ago, Asigra decoupled backup pricing from recovery pricing -- offering very low prices for backing up data and charging considerably more for recovery. The company's bet was that the current pricing models are unsustainable given the exponential growth in data storage.

Farajun admits that Asigra expected to take a revenue hit at first from effectively lowering prices by 40 percent or more, but he said the company was pleasantly surprised: "Our revenues grew out of volume. We picked up new customers and our existing customers [increased] their existing licenses."

According to Farajun, some partners are turning that pricing model into additional business. "This is performance-based backup because the less recovery you do, the cheaper it is. The analytics about the recoveries is given to the customer and the partner can then help the customer improve their IT infrastructure," Farajun said.

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 18, 2014 at 12:07 PM0 comments

Q&A with ConnectWise CEO Arnie Bellini

Days after its professional services automation rival Autotask announced its acquisition by a private equity firm, ConnectWise came out swinging with a statement to the market that it intends to remain a significant player.

The big question is whether privately held ConnectWise will be able to keep up. The investment by Vista Equity Partners in Autotask is aimed, according to Autotask CEO Mark Cattini, at investing in innovation and growth. Serious money has also recently been flowing into the adjacent remote monitoring and management market -- with new owners promising or demonstrating investments in product development at Kaseya, Continuum, N-Able Technologies and Level Platforms Inc.

ConnectWise had been picking up the pace already, with an investment in December in BizDox, a tool for documenting business IT systems, and a quicker release cycle announced in March. Last week, however, ConnectWise seemed to feel the need to respond more directly.

In a statement with the headline, "ConnectWise Reaches 90,000 Users, Continues Innovation," CEO Arnie Bellini of Tampa, Fla.-based ConnectWise declared, "While many other companies are exiting the market, ConnectWise is more committed to the technology solution provider space than ever before."

We caught up with Bellini by e-mail with some follow-up questions.

Arnie Bellini

Is ConnectWise looking for investors of its own? 
ConnectWise is debt-free and has no venture capital. Because we remain focused on the technology provider space, we have grown organically, consistently and significantly over the past several years. We are extremely profitable and want to control our own destiny, focus on the market we love: technology and IT solution providers. In fact we continue looking for investment opportunities, such as our recent investment in BizDox.

Many of the longtime vendors in the MSP industry have taken infusions of cash via private equity investments or through acquisitions by larger tech companies. They say they are using it to invest in their platforms. Will ConnectWise be able to keep up as the industry's R&D pockets get deeper? 
As I stated above, we have enough capital to continue to be the investor [emphasis Bellini's] in the channel, building or acquiring solutions that benefit our partners. We are consistent in that. We like to say we continue on a 20-mile march (see Great by Choice by Jim Collins), which means keep your head down and continue on the path you have established, be aware of what's happening but don't get distracted, either. In other words, we don't want to continuously pivot or change our plan -- that's not a path to long-term success. We invest, we innovate and we always focus on our partners' success -- and that's the big difference in our business philosophy.

Does ConnectWise see any downsides for the competition, especially Autotask, as they take on private equity?
If I were the Autotask CEO, I would be concerned about losing control and losing focus on my customers, all while trying to hold on to my key employees. At ConnectWise we enable technology providers to make the most of their investment through peer networking, education, consulting and a ton of other best-practice tools, including our events, which bring together more than 5,000 business owners annually. Our model of bringing partners together is atypical of what you learn in business school which is really where private equity comes from. That would be my concern.

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 16, 2014 at 9:47 AM0 comments

Broader Channel Availability for Cloud-to-Cloud Backup

Cloud-to-cloud backup of major SaaS services will soon be available to a broader base of MSPs due to the acquisition this week of Swedish startup Cloudfinder by Atlanta-based eFolder.

Founded in 2012, Cloudfinder identifies itself among only a handful of companies working on the problem of backing up data from online SaaS platforms like Google Apps, making it possible for customers to restore their data if something happens to it, either at the provider level or through inadvertent problems like users accidentally deleting e-mail. Beyond backup and restoration, Cloudfinder allows full-text search and includes reporting functionality.

The product now joins eFolder's business continuity products and the business-grade cloud file synch services eFolder got nine months ago with the acquisition of Anchor Box LLC. Terms of the Cloudfinder deal weren't disclosed, but the entire seven-person Cloudfinder team, including CEO Marcus Nyman, is joining eFolder, which now has about 120 employees.

Marcus Nyman

Nyman said in an interview that his company's technology stands out due to its platform-agnostic approach. The company launched in 2012 with a beta product focused on Google Apps, then added support for Salesforce.com and most recently Office 365.

His team suspected going platform-agnostic was a good approach, but even they were taken aback by how quickly the decision proved out. "Microsoft is really biting into that market faster than we had expected. In certain segments, already last year, we saw how Google Apps resellers started looking really pained. We were super happy that we had built Cloudfinder as a SaaS-agnostic platform rather than specifically for Google Apps or 365," Nyman said.

Nor does Nyman believe the market is stabilizing. "When the third and fourth service may enter into the battle, we'll be there, as well. It's hugely important to us and for customers and partners to avoid vendor lock-in," he said.

With that in mind, eFolder's Cloudfinder unit has a roadmap to start backing up other SaaS solutions. "We're coming for Dropbox, Box and Evernote before the end of the year, plus an additional number of services that we haven't disclosed yet," Nyman said.

While Cloudfinder brings new capabilities to eFolder, the company gets a lot of benefits from joining the eFolder organization.

On the technical side, the plan is to move Cloudfinder's backup from an Amazon Web Services back end into eFolder's petabyte-scale cloud. On the business side, Cloudfinder, which has been focused on technology rather than sales and marketing, will plug into eFolder's much more mature channel-focused sales engine.

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 12, 2014 at 10:03 AM0 comments

Vista Equity Partners Acquires Autotask

Autotask Corp., one of the most significant vendors for managed services providers, is being acquired by a private equity firm.

Vista Equity Partners is buying Autotask for an undisclosed sum. Vista's $11.5-billion portfolio includes Aptean, Websense and at least 20 vertically focused technology companies. The announcement came Monday during Autotask's Community Live! show in Miami.

Mark Cattini, president and CEO of Autotask, says the investment will allow the company to more aggressively improve Autotask's solutions for customers. "We are devoted to our clients' ongoing success and are confident that our partnership with Vista will drive innovation and growth and delivery dynamic solutions as the traditional IT landscape evolves," Cattini said in a statement.

The statement seems to leave room for Autotask to branch out from its origins in professional services automation (PSA) to a potentially broader mission as management of IT solutions increasingly moves to the cloud and other boundary lines blur.

At the same time, the firm's new private equity ownership indicated that Autotask's focus on IT service providers as core customers would continue. Alan Cline, principal at Vista Equity Partners, vowed in a statement to "work with the Autotask team to expand and enhance the company's solutions to help IT service providers more efficiently and effectively meet their clients' changing needs."

The private equity move on the PSA side comes after a wave of investment and consolidation in the adjacent market space of remote monitoring and management (RMM). Changes on that side got rolling with a growth equity firm backing the 2011 spinoff of what eventually became Continuum from Zenith Infotech, followed by 2013's private equity-funded acquisition and internal development spree at Kaseya, along with new owners for N-Able Technologies (SolarWinds) and Level Platforms Inc. (AVG Technologies).

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 09, 2014 at 9:48 AM0 comments

Kaseya Goes for Speed in 7.0

Kaseya launched the 7.0 version of its IT management software portfolio this week, with an emphasis on faster and more reliable remote control.

The version 7.0 products -- Virtual System Administrator, Traverse, Enterprise Mobility Management and 365 Command -- became available May 31, although Kaseya formally announced them on Tuesday. The end-of-May availability met Kaseya's previous release promise and fits with the company's newly predictable cadence of releases every four months.

In a telephone interview, Tom Hayes, vice president of product marketing at Kaseya, said a key design goal of the new release was to improve the core capabilities, particularly speed. The company's MSP customers require quick connections to clients via the Remote Control module. "We use a persistent connection between the Kaseya server and the client, and we parallel process a lot of the activities in setting up the connection," Hayes said.

Kaseya's Remote Control was completely redesigned under the codename "Project Palantir" in a nod to the seeing stones of The Lord of the Rings. Design goals for the 7.0 release included connections in under six seconds, 99 percent reliability, performance over high-latency connections and support for copy and paste between admin and remote sessions, among other features.

Other features of the 7.0 suite release are the addition of SharePoint Online management and administration via 365 Command, the cloud application management solution Kaseya acquired last summer; improvements in enterprise mobile device management; and tighter integration with the most recent release of Intuit QuickBooks.

Kaseya's roadmap for the September 2014 and January 2015 releases are available here.

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 05, 2014 at 12:42 PM0 comments

Salesforce Deal: Is Microsoft Turning the Tide on the 'Tactical Tax'?

Earlier in Microsoft's history, a well-known internal issue was the "strategy tax." The idea, as I understand it as an outside observer, was that if a product or idea didn't advance the Windows-first, Windows-everywhere agenda, forces inside Microsoft would kill it.

The phenomenon is sometimes credited with Microsoft's failure to innovate in the 2000s as it missed first the smartphone boom and then the tablet boom.

Recently, I think Microsoft has also hobbled itself with what I'll call a "tactical tax." What I mean is that Microsoft would fail to acknowledge or adequately support competitors' products, not because they directly competed with Windows-everywhere. Instead, the opposition came because Microsoft had a minor product or was even thinking of possibly launching a product in the competitor's space someday.

Examples include the iPhone, which Microsoft pooh-poohed and then mostly ignored as it prepared the release of Windows Phone. Another example is the iPad, whose customers would have benefited years ago from a version of Office (see the monstrous recent sales of Office on iPad within days of its release). Microsoft presumably dithered in order to see if it could launch its own tablet ecosystem, and its own device, that could challenge the iPad for tablet platform dominance. So far, the "pretend it doesn't exist then launch your own" strategy hasn't worked for either tablets or phones.

Both of those cases, though, have elements of "strategy tax" involved. Putting Office on iPad and iPhone and developing other software for the devices presumably could have solidified Apple's lead and ended the game before Microsoft had a Windows-based product on the field.

The clearest example of a "tactical tax" is Dynamics CRM Online. Despite improvement after improvement with each version, and a loyal partner base, the product failed to make notable progress against Salesforce.com's cloud CRM platform. Meanwhile, it's always been an open question as to how the Dynamics business of ERP and CRM products fit into Microsoft's overall strategy. Trying to protect Dynamics CRM Online by failing to acknowledge other opportunities to make revenues from a Salesforce.com partnership involving Office and Windows was a clear case of protecting a tactical product at the expense of strategic ones.

Now, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff have put the years of their companies trading insults behind them and declared a deep technical partnership.

Nadella and other Microsoft executives in no way closed the door on Microsoft's continued efforts in the CRM cloud space. But the tactical product will have to earn its way in the future against a market leader that also will benefit from partnership-enhanced integration with Microsoft's strategic productivity tools.

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 30, 2014 at 12:49 PM0 comments

Microsoft Names 2014 Partner of the Year Winners

Microsoft acknowledged hundreds of its highest-performing partners Tuesday with the announcement of the Microsoft Partner of the Year Awards. Winners included Alliance Partners Accenture/Avanade for systems integration and Sitecore on the ISV side.

The two categories for individuals went to Geno Cenci of ePlus Technology Inc. for Sales Specialist Partner of the Year, and to Graham Quinn of Auxilion for Pre-Sales Technical Specialist Partner of the Year.

The winners and finalists in 46 categories and the 93 country winners will receive their awards at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), which runs July 13-17 in Washington, D.C. In a statement, Phil Sorgen, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group, said the winners and finalists "represent the best technology professionals our partner ecosystem has to offer" and are "top partners that solve complex business challenges by providing innovative solutions to our mutual customers."

Country award winners in some of the Microsoft Partner Network's most partner-dense geographies included New Signature in the United States, Dot Net Solutions in the United Kingdom, EXAKIS in France, proMX GmbH in Germany, Sonata Information Technology Ltd. in India, Fujitsu Ltd. in Japan, Wortell in the Netherlands, Softjam spa in Italy, Cloud-IT in Canada, TOPS Consulting in Russia, Allen in Brazil, Ensyst in Australia and ODM in Spain.

Of the 46 category awards, several were lumped into larger groupings. Partners winning in the cloud grouping were Caase.com, Ensyst, Cloudamour Ltd. and Object Consulting. For application developers, Dell won in the Windows 8 app category and DocuSign claimed the Office and SharePoint app category. A public sector grouping recognized ITWORX, HP Enterprise Services UK Ltd., Winvision, AvePoint and ICONICS as winners. Top honors for Dynamics went to Edgewater Fullscope for the industry category and Zero2Ten for cloud.

Twenty-six partners won in their Microsoft Competency categories: Infusion, Breeze, nFocus Software Testing, OSIsoft, Webzavod, Orange Business Services, Hitachi Solutions America Ltd., CSK WinTechnology Corp., Wortell, Advance Digital, Tech Data Europe, HSO Group, Triple C Cloud Computing Ltd./Team Netcom Ltd., Oxford Computer Group, CGI IT UK Ltd., Algebra, Convergent Computing, Binary Tree Inc., CompING, Accenture/Avanade, COMPAX, Sensei Project Solutions Inc., CommVault, Bitscape Infotech, Softcat Ltd., Brasoftware.

Citizenship categories included humanitarian response, won by SELA Canada; innovative technology for good citizenship, won by NV Interactive; and YouthSpark, won by Teleios Systems.

Winners and finalists were selected from among 2,800 entries from 117 countries. Click here for the full list of category winners and finalists and country winners.

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 27, 2014 at 4:22 PM0 comments

Schuster Taking on Major Role in Microsoft Partner Program

Gavriella Schuster, an 18-year Microsoft veteran, will join the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group (WPG) on June 1 in a new position that combines the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) role of Julie Bennani and the partner marketing duties of Karl Noakes, a company spokesperson confirmed Friday.

Phil Sorgen, corporate vice president for the WPG, selected Schuster for the new role in May. Bennani and Noakes continue to report to Sorgen in unspecified roles, including ensuring a smooth transition of their former responsibilities to Schuster, the spokesperson said. The move is designed to gain efficiencies by bringing the MPN and partner marketing teams together, he said.

Schuster's LinkedIn profile describes her as general manager of Worldwide Partner Programs, a new title in the WPG. Her profile describes the role as "Global management of Microsoft's partner recruitment, enablement, marketing and engagement. Responsibilities include Microsoft Partner Network Programs, WPC, Marketing and recruitment programs for ISVs, IP Partners, SIs, and Reselling partners of all types across all Commercial products and customers."

According to her LinkedIn profile, Schuster has been a general manager at Microsoft since 2006 in both the U.S. Server and Tools Business and in the Windows Product Management Group. Her career at Microsoft started in 1995 and has spanned licensing, enterprise services and training. Previous employers included Adobe Systems and Aldus Corp.

Bennani joined Microsoft in 2007 from Accenture, where Microsoft had been one of her major client responsibilities. She started as general manager of the Microsoft Partner Program and was a major architect of the overhaul that resulted in the MPN. Bennani was hired by WPG Corporate Vice President Allison Watson and kept the role through Jon Roskill's tenure as channel chief.

Noakes joined Microsoft in 2006 and held various partner-focused roles in the United Kingdom and at the headquarters in Redmond, Wash., since 2003. Watson promoted him to her be one of her direct reports in July 2009.

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 23, 2014 at 1:51 PM0 comments