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Nadella, Other Major Tech Execs, Meeting with Trump

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella numbered among the tech titans trooping to Trump Tower on Wednesday for a roundtable meeting with the president-elect.

The attendee list, reported by The New York Times on Tuesday, included Elon Musk, Tesla; Larry Page and Eric E. Schmidt, Alphabet; Tim Cook, Apple; Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com; Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook; Safra Catz, Oracle; Brian Krzanich, Intel; Chuck Robbins, Cisco; Ginni Rometty, IBM; and Nadella.

While Donald Trump's transition team declined to discuss the agenda, likely topics include jobs, H-1B visas, corporate profits held offshore and data privacy.

The potential exists for the meeting to be uncomfortable, as the Silicon Valley community, with the high-profile exception of Trump technology adviser Peter Thiel, often loudly opposed Trump's candidacy, with Bezos and Cook's Apple, in particular, drawing Twitter and campaign-rally fire from Trump during the campaign.

Whatever Nadella might advocate for privately in the meeting, Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith laid out Microsoft's public positions in a Nov. 9 open letter. Smith called on the president-elect and Congress to collaborate with the tech industry on worker retraining to reduce inequality, investment in U.S. infrastructure, and finding a balance between privacy and public safety.

Nadella is not the only one with deep Microsoft ties to have a chance to bend Trump's ear. The tech roundtable comes a few days after Microsoft Co-Founder Bill Gates began publicly describing an eight-minute telephone call he had with Trump two weeks ago.

Given the length of the call, it is unlikely Gates pressed much Microsoft business. Gates indicated that he focused instead on the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and his new fund for fighting climate change through investments in promising technologies, called Breakthrough Energy Ventures.

"The key point I was pushing there was the opportunity for innovation in not only energy but also medicine and education and encouraging the idea that that's a great deal and a great thing for American leadership," Gates told Bloomberg.

Posted by Scott Bekker on December 14, 2016 at 10:31 AM0 comments

Koenigsbauer: E3 Is the 'Hero SKU' but E5 Is the Future of Office 365

E3 is the "hero SKU" for Office 365, Microsoft's top Office marketing executive told financial analysts this month, but the company's long-term vision focuses on the newer and more comprehensive E5 SKU.

In a Barclays Global Technology Conference call, Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president of Office Marketing, described Microsoft's Office 365 business strategy as being about two things -- expanding "sockets," Microsoft parlance for seats of Office 365 that give the company a beachhead at a customer site, and increasing "ARPU," the abbreviation for average revenue per user that company executives regularly use as shorthand for upselling Office 365 seats with higher-end cloud services.

Koenigsbauer described the socket-expansion part of the business as moving from a phase one, focused on moving existing on-premises Exchange and Office client customers to the cloud, into a phase two aimed at broadening Office 365's customer base.

"With Office 365, of course there is more on-prem to cloud that we feel like we have to go through, but we also feel like...opportunities in emerging markets, opportunities in small business, opportunities serving customers we've not served before, [such as] the deskless-oriented workers. We think there is a big opportunity for us to expand our socket base," Koenigsbauer said according to a Seeking Alpha transcript of the Dec. 7 call.

But the E3 SKU, which adds the Office client rights in a per-user model along with more collaboration value than the baseline E1 package, helped drive the current mix of premium Office 365 SKUs to about 60 percent, Koenigsbauer said.

"Right now, let's say E3 is our hero SKU. It's the one we lead with the most," he said, crediting E3 for much of the ARPU increase for Microsoft over the last two years.

ARPU efforts over the next few years center on "selling the long-term vision around E5" and the year-old SKU's three core components of security, analytics and voice services, Koenigsbauer told the analysts.

"The one that's...getting the most amount of attention from customers right now, not surprisingly, is security," he said.

Posted by Scott Bekker on December 14, 2016 at 10:41 AM0 comments

Microsoft: 20,000 Partners Transacting in CSP

The relatively new Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program has officially become the primary way that partners sell Microsoft cloud products, a Microsoft executive said.

"Today we have more than 20,000 partners transacting through CSP," said Gavriella Schuster, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group, on Tuesday in a year-end update for media and analysts.

"Our cloud solution provider program, or CSP, which puts our partners at the center of the customer relationship, is our strongest go-to-market offering yet," Schuster said, and also described CSP as "our primary mode of transaction with our customers at this time, and it continues to grow month over month."

The remarks echo similar statements in July during the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), when Schuster said more than 17,000 partners were transacting in CSP. At the time, she also hinted at the strength of CSP versus the other through-partner cloud sales channels -- saying that during the month of May, partners had sold more services through CSP than through Open, Advisor and Syndication.

After years of partners asking Microsoft for permission to bill customers directly for Office 365 and other Microsoft cloud services, Microsoft began rolling out its CSP program in stages beginning in early 2015. The CSP model allows partners to offer a full stack of services, both Microsoft and non-Microsoft, with one contract, one bill and one point of contact for support.

A key to making CSP a volume play was the introduction of the indirect, or two-tier, model, whereby distributors and global hosting partners act as the point of contact on Microsoft services for a broader set of CSP reseller partners. The introduction of that part of the program in late 2015 set the stage for a major scaling up of CSP. Schuster said the 20,000 partners currently represent 470 percent growth from the 3,500 transacting partners of a year ago.

While the partner numbers selling through CSP represent a channel scale that few in the industry can match, Microsoft has thrown around bigger numbers in the past, and it's unclear what some of those other partners are doing now. For example, at the 2015 WPC, then-COO Kevin Turner said there were 75,000 partners transacting in the Microsoft cloud.

During this week's call, Schuster also pointed to evidence that partners were becoming more engaged with the Microsoft cloud by enrolling in competencies, the partner designations of specialization that require enrollment fees, training, testing, case studies and other steps. Without providing raw numbers, Schuster said that the number of partners with a gold or silver cloud competency had increased 86 percent year over year and that there was a 53 percent increase in the number of partners with three or more cloud competencies.

Posted by Scott Bekker on December 07, 2016 at 9:57 AM0 comments

Microsoft Expands Azure Training with Free Courses, Testing Discounts

Hoping to help narrow a skills gap around its public cloud services for partners and customers, Microsoft on Tuesday rolled out six new and free massively open online courses (MOOCs) for Azure, along with discounts for related certification testing.

"These courses are designed to help partners respond to the surging demand, realize positive returns and grow their market opportunity. Partners can also take this training to their customers, which helps them grow the technical literacy in their customer environment as well," said Gavriella Schuster, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group, in a conference call with media and analysts.

The initial slate of course titles are Azure Fundamentals, Microsoft Azure for AWS Experts, Microsoft Azure Virtual Machines, Microsoft Azure Virtual Networks, Microsoft Azure Identity and Microsoft Azure Storage. Schuster said another six courses will follow in the next few weeks, with more education investments following throughout 2017.

She positioned the Azure MOOC training as being in line with other recent technical training moves from Microsoft, such as the Microsoft Virtual Academy, the Cloud + Enterprise University boot camps and the Microsoft Professional Program.

The new Azure courses typically take anywhere from four to 16 hours to complete, Schuster said. "These courses are so much more than online video learning. They really focus on the way learners learn today. They incorporate videos, hands-on labs, graded assessments, office hours and much more," she said.

Completion of any of the courses comes with a digital certificate of completion that can be shared on a LinkedIn profile.

The testing offers are $99 for a single Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) exam, practice test and retake for any of the courses, or $279 for three MCP exams, practice tests and retakes. Those packages would ordinarily cost $429 and $1,287, respectively, according to a Microsoft chart on a related blog post.

Posted by Scott Bekker on December 06, 2016 at 2:50 PM0 comments

Top 10 Most Important Products for Microsoft Partners

Windows is still a common denominator in most partners' practices, even in this cloud-first, mobile-first era, a recent RCP reader survey shows.

In a survey this fall, RCP asked readers, "What Microsoft products do you commonly include in customer solutions?" Readers were asked to choose from a list of 17 core business products and they could select as many products as they used.

10. Skype for Business
The Skype for Business communication suite edged out a lot of other products for the 10th spot on the list. In all, 41 percent of respondents said they commonly included Skype for Business in their solutions. That put Skype ahead of management tools like System Center and Intune, and ahead of the Dynamics products, which are represented, at least for now, by a relatively small but committed core of partners. (That may change with the recent release of Dynamics 365.)

8 (tie). Azure & Hyper-V
Eighth-place was a tie between Microsoft's strategic Azure public cloud platform and the Hyper-V virtualization technology. Both checked in at 42 percent.

7. SharePoint Server
SharePoint, with its customization options and broad use cases, has a vibrant community of partners around it, and finds its way into the solutions of 44 percent of the partners in this survey.

6. Exchange Server
Office 365 is surging in the market (see below) and gets most of the attention from Microsoft's top brass, but there's still a place for on-premises Exchange in the partner community. Nearly half of respondents (48 percent), commonly include Exchange in their solutions.

5. SQL Server
Microsoft's flagship database technology is also key for Microsoft partners. Some 56 percent regularly include SQL Server in their solutions.

4. Office 365
Office 365 is way up the list of products that readers commonly include in solutions. With 64 percent putting Office 365 in solutions offered to customers, the cloud productivity suite is a clear staple of the modern Microsoft partner business model.

3. Office
Tradition dominates the top three in this list. The Office suite itself is a hair ahead of Office 365 at 65 percent.

2. Windows Client
When it comes to Microsoft-based solutions, the product that made Microsoft a household name is still critically important. The client version of Windows is a component of customer solutions for about 68 percent of respondents.

1. Windows Server
Azure and Azure Stack are getting heavy investment and Microsoft's enterprise servers are starting to support Linux as their OS, but when it comes to partner solutions, the on-premise Windows Server remains the most widely used product at 69 percent. Whether it's powering SQL databases, Exchange servers, SharePoint solutions and custom applications or simply running a domain or serving up files, Windows server still forms the base of the partner solution stack.


Posted by Scott Bekker on December 01, 2016 at 11:34 AM0 comments

Windows 10, PCaaS Offer Faint Hope for Stability in PC Market

International Data Corp. updated its worldwide PC shipment forecast for 2016 on Wednesday with a projection that's slightly less red than it was in August.

With most of the sales booked for the year, the headline number is a projected decline of 6.4 percent to about 258.2 million units shipped. That's better than the 7.2 percent decline that IDC projected when it last ran the numbers three months ago.

One reason things have improved has little to do with demand. Anticipation of component shortages in display panels and storage drove a channel build-up in the third quarter, IDC said. That channel-led boost is expected to peter out during the first quarter of 2017.

As the market matures for the smartphones and tablets that dramatically disrupted PC sales over the last decade, those segments are exerting less downward pressure on PCs and allowing the PC market to stabilize. While consumer sales are expected to remain weak, IDC foresees some low single-digit growth in the commercial market over the next few years.

IDC analyst Neha Mahajan offered a few reasons for optimism in the U.S. market. "Backed by early Windows 10 transitions that are expected to boost commercial PC shipments in the next couple of years, and steady growth of PCaaS (PC as a Service) which should help shorten refresh cycles of commercial systems in the long-term, the overall U.S. PC market sentiment certainly seems to be improving," Mahajan said in a statement.

Overall, the trend is away from desktops toward notebooks, and within notebooks to ultra-slim and convertible designs, which IDC expects to account for more than 60 percent of notebook shipments by 2020.

As for next year, IDC is still calling for a 2.1 percent year-over-year decline in shipments for all of 2017.

Posted by Scott Bekker on November 30, 2016 at 8:19 AM0 comments

Career Development, Containers and Azure: What To Watch for at Live! 360

Live! 360, one of the biggest Microsoft technology-focused events of the year that is not put on by Microsoft itself, kicks off next week in Orlando, Fla.

While the prime audiences for the show are IT professionals and developers, there's a lot of deep content for Microsoft partners. The conference, which is organized by RCP's parent company 1105 Media, combines the long-running Visual Studio Live! and TechMentor conferences with SQL Server Live!, Office and SharePoint Live!, ModernApps Live! and AppDev Trends.

Here are some sessions across that six-in-one conference that we're tracking at RCP.

Careers Keynote
DevOps, cloud and artificial intelligence are just a few of the trends that are shaking up the IT landscape.

New to the conference this year is a general session by David Foote, co-founder, chief analyst and chief research officer at Foote Partners, an analyst firm focused on IT skills, certification and salary benchmarking. In the Monday evening session kicking off the main conference "Businesses Look to Become More Agile?" Foote plans to reveal important trends and pay data around IT skills.

Containers, Containers, Containers
Containers are already a big deal in the open source world. Microsoft nodded toward containers by making Docker technology and Linux containers available in Azure recently, but that served largely to draw existing container users to the Azure platform. Microsoft's biggest bet yet on containers arrived with Windows Server 2016, when the technology was integrated directly into Windows, making containers available to the general Windows Server user base.

Several sessions at Live! 360 drill down into containers' potential -- and given where the audience is in their container journey, the sessions are aimed at introducing the concepts and taking attendees through the basics. Adam Tuliper is running a session called "The Ultimate Intro to Docker for Developers." For IT professionals, Neil Peterson's two related sessions are "Container Technology and its Impact on Datacenter and Cloud Management" and "In-Depth Introduction to Docker."

A Deep Dive into Windows Server 2016
Windows author and speaker Mark Minasi will give the main keynote for the TechMentor conference on Tuesday morning covering Windows Server 2016. Minasi promises lots of insider tips about key storage features, critical details around containers and the potentially costly licensing traps of the eagerly anticipated Nano Server option. Later in the day, Minasi will also take a crack at explaining how the client-side Windows as a Service licensing works along with key advice for managing the constant updates.

SQL Server 2016 Encryption
Another member of Microsoft's 2016 release class, SQL Server 2016, includes new encryption capabilities, a timely feature set given ongoing concerns about data security, privacy and compliance. Thomas Larock is digging into the new encryption options affecting row-level security, data masking and Always Encrypted.

Getting Up to Speed on Azure
Building Azure expertise is a big theme of the conference. One session with implications for Microsoft partners is the "Migrating Customers to Azure: Lessons Learned from the Field" session by Ido Flatow, a Microsoft MVP and trainer with Sela Group. Flatow is covering common questions customers ask when migrating workloads to Azure, as well as how to overcome frequent obstacles and challenges that arise during the projects.

Among the other Azure-focused sessions are "Linux on Azure for the Microsoft Specialist," "Implementing Azure AD for Hybrid Identity" and "Fully Integrated Azure Resource Manager Deployments."

Next Big Things
Aside from dozens of sessions on traditional Microsoft technologies, many Live! 360 sessions are focused on next-generation technologies. Although some partners are building businesses on them, many are still evaluating where they will fit with Microsoft's and the industry's direction. One of those emerging technologies is the Microsoft Graph, featured in the "Introduction to Microsoft Office Graph" and "How It Works: Office 365 and the Microsoft Graph."

Another emerging technology is PowerApps, which just became more significant this month with the release of Dynamics 365 and is covered in "Get Started with Microsoft PowerApps."

The show also features sessions on the Internet of Things, virtual reality and mixed reality and chat bots.

Posted by Scott Bekker on November 28, 2016 at 1:13 PM0 comments

Microsoft FastTrack Footprint Gets Bigger

Microsoft offered a rare glimpse into the scale of its FastTrack operations this week.

FastTrack is Microsoft's initiative for accelerating uptake of its cloud products. The program started with Office 365 mail migration projects in 2014 and has expanded to encompass other cloud products over time. At a high level, the FastTrack brand can include three things. The main one is a customer offer, sometimes referred to as a benefit, to bring Microsoft cloud customers up to what Microsoft executives have called a "run state." The idea being that if you buy a Microsoft subscription to the cloud, where operations are supposed to be simpler, the least Microsoft can do is get you up and running in that product at no cost beyond the service subscription.

The term also covers the FastTrack Center, a Microsoft-run operation with employees who reach out to Microsoft cloud customers and then use various tools to perform migrations, which are heavily automated and require relatively simple source environments. The FastTrack term also sometimes refers to the partner incentives programs related to FastTrack, although those are usually referred to as Adoption Offers.

In a blog post this week, Cyril Belikoff, senior director of Office Marketing at Microsoft, revealed how quickly Microsoft is onboarding customers through FastTrack right now.

"To date, Microsoft FastTrack has enabled more than 22,000 customers, migrated 2.45 PB of data and is currently taking on more than 4,000 new customers every month," Belikoff wrote. He also provided some guidance on the rate of growth of FastTrack migrations. "As the FastTrack team works with customers, we learn from those experiences and use all of that learning to continually improve the service. With more customers discovering the benefits of Office 365 and FastTrack, migrations are now increasing at an average rate of 10 percent per month."

Based on Belikoff's numbers and the growth rate he shared, Microsoft should double the total number of customers it has moved to the cloud through FastTrack in less than five months. While that growth rate is substantial, it's also still tiny compared to Microsoft's overall Office 365 business. When the company released its first quarter earnings last month, it claimed 85 million commercial active users of Office 365 and 24 million consumer subscriptions.

Belikoff's blog also marks the first time Microsoft has shared the number of employees working within the FastTrack Center operation, previously known as the Onboarding Center. "We have over 800 FastTrack engineers worldwide, available to assist you and your partner in 12 languages, providing best practices, insight and guidance," he said.

That figure is at the high end of earlier estimates for how much staffing Microsoft would be providing through FastTrack to help customers move to the cloud. There was no indication in the post whether Microsoft would need to add FastTrack employees to handle the increasing volume.

In the same post, Microsoft unveiled another way that FastTrack is expanding on the product side. Migration services covered through the FastTrack benefit have steadily increased since the launch of the program in September 2014. From first covering only e-mail migrations to Office 365 for organizations with more than 150 seats, FastTrack's free migrations have expanded to include e-mail data, enterprise voice, as well as Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS) and its components Azure Active Directory Premium, Microsoft Intune and Azure Rights Management. Microsoft also shifted the program from being a one-time benefit to an ongoing benefit that customers could continue to use as they add more users and services, as well as reducing the minimum seat requirement to 50 seats. Additionally, Microsoft bundled in "envisioning" services prior to onboarding and "driving business value" services afterward, both available without minimum seat requirements.

The newest addition to the program's free migrations involves a limited-time offer of migration services from on-premises SharePoint 2013 to Office 365. FastTrack employees will work with customers to move from SharePoint 2013 on-premises to SharePoint Online and from MySites to OneDrive for Business.

Two elements of the new program suggest that adding SharePoint services to FastTrack is a trial balloon -- the offer only extends until March 31, 2017, and unlike other FastTrack migration services, it uses the old limit of requiring at least 150 licenses.

It's probably safe to expect that any changes in the future will be in the form of expanding the offer in terms of types of SharePoint migrations covered, making it permanent and possibly reducing the seat requirement.

Without saying so outright, Belikoff's post all but guaranteed that FastTrack capabilities will continue to expand aggressively. "Over the past 12 months, we've continuously evolved FastTrack to help meet your needs by enhancing the FastTrack digital experience at fasttrack.microsoft.com and expanding the scope of services delivered by our engineering team," Belikoff wrote in a section of the customer-focused blog with the sub-headline, "FastTrack is continuously evolving."

Posted by Scott Bekker on November 17, 2016 at 11:29 AM0 comments

Infrascale Doubles Down on Ransomware Focus

Infrascale, a cloud backup and disaster recovery solution provider that recently relaunched its partner program with a strong emphasis on ransomware, on Thursday unveiled a new ransomware program intended to help partners educate and protect their clients.

"Partners need to be equipped with the knowledge to educate their clients about the pervasiveness of the threat and the characteristics that make one company more vulnerable than the next. Just as important, they must also be equipped with the right technology to detect, combat and mitigate against ransomware to quickly restore encrypted data and systems," said Infrascale's new channel chief Chris Sterbenc in a statement.

El Segundo, Calif.-based Infrascale calls its new effort the Ransomware Antidote Program. Educational tools include an online quiz, e-books, presentations and guidance documentation. Technological tools include a feature called Anomaly Detection, which notifies partners and their clients when the count of new or changed files passes a user-defined benchmark -- such as happens when encrypting ransomware infects a system and starts resaving all the files as encrypted documents that the user would have to pay a cryptocurrency ransom to decrypt.

Other parts of Infrascale's suggested ransomware approach, similar to that taken by many other cloud backup and disaster recovery vendors, involve having solid cloud backup tools available. In Infrascale's case, its products include Infrascale Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) and Infrascale Cloud Backup. The DRaaS offering allows partners to boot virtual machines from a local appliance or a public/private cloud to recover ransomware encrypted files right away. Infrascale positions the cloud backup offering as helping protect endpoints like laptops, desktops and mobile devices that are likely to be the first systems affected in a ransomware attack.

The ransomware program comes a little over a month after Infrascale rebooted its partner program around a three-legged market focus of protecting organizations from downtime, ransomware and data loss.

Infrascale has a substantial base of about 900 partners, but it had a flat partner program, which was strained by the company's acquisition in 2014 of Eversync Solutions Inc., which focused on customers with higher-volume data requirements than the SMB customers served by most of Infrascale's partners.

The October partner program relaunch created a three-tier structure with Registered, Preferred and Elite partners.

"With the introduction of the disaster recovery product and the growth that the ransomware is driving, it made some sense to stratify it out," Sterbenc said in an interview.

The ransomware program is also emblematic of Infrascale's current inclination to spend money on channel partners through market development funds (MDF), spiffs, referral rewards, deal support and other means. "We've got a really simple process for these guys. It's not one of those super-convoluted programs with point accruals. Unless it's something really stupid, we'll approve it," Sterbenc said. "Our ROI on MDF is crazy good. We literally can't spend enough of it."

Posted by Scott Bekker on November 17, 2016 at 1:20 PM0 comments

Study: Office 365 Expands Lead Over Google G Suite

A new study of cloud productivity application usage suggests Microsoft's Office 365 suite is pulling away from Google's G Suite, even as the overall market expands.

The data comes from proprietary research done by Bitglass Inc., a cloud access security broker based in Campbell, Calif. Bitglass used internally developed technologies to scan more than 120,000 companies to determine what products each organization is using.

It's the third annual release of the Bitglass "Cloud Adoption Report." In 2014, Google had nearly a two-to-one advantage of a much smaller pie, with 16 percent of organizations running the then-Google Apps for Work while just under 8 percent of organizations were running Office 365.

A year ago, Microsoft edged past Google at 25 percent to 23 percent in the study. According to the latest results, Office 365 is in use at 35 percent of organizations, while the G Suite by Google Cloud is in use at 24 percent.

Salim Hafid, product marketing manager at Bitglass, said Microsoft's incumbency advantage appears to be kicking in. "We're seeing large organizations of over 1,000 employees going for Microsoft in droves -- two to one -- over G Suite," he said in an interview. "Microsoft has created a migration path for those customers to move over to Office 365."

Hafid said Bitglass considers usage of the two leading productivity application a good indicator for cloud adoption overall. By that measure, cloud adoption has grown from use by about 24 percent of companies in 2014 to 59 percent in 2016.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the large organization skew of Office 365's gains in the study, Bitglass also found that companies running Office 365 are far more likely to be using single sign-on (SSO) -- 26 percent of Office 365 companies have SSO compared to 5.5 percent of G Suite companies. "Organizations deploying Office 365 are much more aware of the risks of deploying a cloud app and are actively taking steps to mitigate those risks," Hafid said.

Meanwhile, Bitglass' findings around Slack usage help explain Microsoft's move to match the collaboration app with its own recent release of Microsoft Teams. Bitglass reported that Slack is in use at 33 percent of organizations, although many of those implementations are in the free tier, suggesting they are not necessarily sanctioned by IT yet.

The 9-page, graphics-heavy report is available here (registration required).

Posted by Scott Bekker on November 16, 2016 at 9:53 AM0 comments

SkyKick and ConnectWise Working on Integration

ConnectWise and SkyKick are working together to integrate SkyKick's cloud partner enablement capabilities into the ConnectWise managed services provider (MSP) tool suite.

Craig Fulton, vice president of product for ConnectWise, demonstrated the integration from the ConnectWise IT Nation stage last week in Orlando, Fla. The demo involved using SkyKick Cloud Backup from within the ConnectWise CloudConsole.

Chris Rayner, vice president of product management for SkyKick, said the two companies' engineers are leveraging one another's APIs for a seamless integration that will involve using SkyKick Cloud Backup and SkyKick Cloud Migration Suite as part of the ConnectWise CloudConsole. "It's not like a click and punch-out integration," he said in an interview.

Rayner wouldn't give a release timeframe for the integrations other than "really soon." He did say to expect both the backup and migration integrations to be available simultaneously.

Being included in ConnectWise's product could be a boost for the younger company, which will get access to ConnectWise's large user base built over many years in the professional services automation (PSA) market.

The integration should also help ConnectWise position its partner customers to accelerate their own Office 365 practices, something ConnectWise CEO Arnie Bellini has been urging them to do for several years. As Bellini told RCP for a feature story in April, "Microsoft is making it compelling for all small businesses, as well as enterprise businesses, to migrate from on-premises to in the cloud Office 365. They're doing it with their pricing strategy. If you look at the pricing strategy, it's very difficult for any company to justify not going to Office 365."

CloudConsole is separate from ConnectWise's flagship PSA product. Designed to help MSPs manage customers in the cloud and become cloud service providers (CSPs), CloudConsole previously included the ability to monitor and manage Office 365 and Azure accounts, as well as bill customers and manage help-desk activities, among other tasks. The SkyKick integrations will extend the capabilities of CloudConsole to customer migration automation and cloud backup.

Also last week at IT Nation, ConnectWise announced the completion of its promised user interface integration for its other top products, as well as new names for four of them. The flagship ConnectWise product is now ConnectWise Manage, Quosal is now ConnectWise Sell, LabTech is now ConnectWise Automate, and ScreenConnect is now ConnectWise Control.

Posted by Scott Bekker on November 16, 2016 at 8:57 AM0 comments

Benioff Joins in Ringing the Microsoft Alarm

Is the Satya Nadella honeymoon showing signs of coming to an end? Since not long after taking the CEO job at Microsoft in early 2014, Nadella has enjoyed praise from the media, many longtime critics and old Microsoft competitors.

Two events in the last week recall old battles, patterns and rhetoric.

Kaspersky Lab chairman and CEO Eugene Kaspersky.

As we noted earlier this week, Eugene Kaspersky recently launched a broadside against Microsoft with new allegations of anti-competitive behavior. The company of which he is chairman and CEO, Kaspersky Lab, filed an application with the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) of Russia and is preparing a similar application for the European Commission. The company alleges that Microsoft is misusing its dominant position with Windows to give its Windows Defender an advantage over third-party anti-virus (AV) products from Kaspersky and others.

In a blog post explaining his company's position, Kaspersky said other AV vendors have said privately that they're unhappy with Microsoft's behavior, although no one else has taken action. He also sought to broaden his complaints beyond the security field.

"The trend is clear: Microsoft is gradually squeezing independent developers out of the Windows ecosystem if it has its own application for this or that purpose," Kaspersky wrote. "In doing so, Microsoft is acting against the interests of users since a lot of its products are of inferior quality. Browsers, gaming hubs, image viewing, processing of multimedia files and PDF documents, cybersecurity and many others are already suffering from this and, as a consequence, so are users. And it looks like this is only the beginning. What'll be next in the firing line? Virtual machines? Cloud services?"

Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff.

Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff shared an anecdote at the Code Conference on Monday intended to show why his attitude toward Microsoft lately has changed toward distrust by default. Benioff and Nadella had announced a joint partnership and had reportedly gotten friendly, but that soured when Microsoft outbid Salesforce.com for LinkedIn. Salesforce.com has since raised concerns about the LinkedIn deal with European regulators.

Benioff's anecdote, reported by Business Insider, involved Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of the Microsoft Cloud and Enterprise Group: "The message was, 'Why don't you meet with Scott Guthrie? He runs Azure and would really like to walk you through the details of your business because maybe we could get Salesforce to run on Azure' ... and I'm like OK, and it was clear also that he was someone not in our business, he was running Azure."

But Benioff said he learned through media reports a few weeks later that Guthrie had been promoted to run Microsoft's CRM business, making him directly responsible for competing with Salesforce.com.

"I just came to the conclusion at that point that the new Microsoft is actually the old Microsoft ... And little things like this started stacking up and we put it all together, I don't feel like this is exactly the new Microsoft that we were looking for," BI reported Benioff as saying.

Two incidents don't make a trend. It'll be interesting to see if more vendors start speaking out against Microsoft or if these complaints fade away.

Posted by Scott Bekker on November 16, 2016 at 11:46 AM0 comments