Laying out the P2P Opportunities

Vendors launch new products, programs for partners for the forthcoming year.

Some of the best opportunities for Microsoft solution provider partners emerge during the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC). A good way to figure out who might be launching interesting programs and products is to check out the list of major sponsors at WPC.

There was a boatload of companies trying to make a splash in the Microsoft channel this year. Fujitsu Siemens Computers and Hewlett-Packard Co. both spent the big bucks for platinum sponsorships. The Gold sponsor list consisted of Administaff, CA, Citrix Systems Inc., ExactShip LLC, Intel Corp., Kaseya, LG-Nortel, Micro Focus Ltd., OSIsoft Inc., Sitecore and Zenith Infotech Ltd. There were also about 50 silver and bronze sponsors among the hundreds of exhibitors on the Houston show floor.

Here are some of the highest profile opportunities that third-party vendors laid out before the 7,500 partner attendees in early July:

Teneros Puts E-Mail Appliance on HP Servers
Teneros teamed with HP to open its -email high availability (HA) and disaster recovery (DR) appliances to HP's massive network of resellers.

The companies announced that Teneros' Application Continuity Appliance will be available on HP ProLiant GL380 G5 servers. The Teneros appliances were supposed to be available on HP servers by press time.

The Teneros Application Continuity Appliance is designed to deliver HA and DR for Microsoft Exchange. Teneros calls its failover technology Instant-On and promises between four and five nines of availability through the use of the appliance. According to Teneros, its appliances can be deployed in about 20 minutes and are remotely managed from the Teneros Network Operations Center.

Teneros also joined the HP Developer and Solution Partner Program. A major draw of the close partnership for Teneros is that HP will market and make available the appliances to 15,000 HP resellers worldwide.

Citrix Gives XenServer a Push Toward Partners
Citrix expanded a partner influence program to cover its virtualization product, Citrix XenServer.

Starting over the summer, Citrix began paying channel partners on sales of Citrix XenServer when the virtualization product is an embedded feature of servers from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

The decision builds on an influence program introduced in 2004. That program paid Citrix Solution Advisors for designing and delivering solutions based on Citrix products even when other channel partners fulfilled the orders.

According to a Citrix statement, "Extending the program to include embedded versions of XenServer eliminates any potential channel conflict with OEM partners and ensures strong incentives across the board by compensating partners that influence embedded XenServer deals as well as those who fulfill them."

The most recent such OEM agreement was a deal Citrix inked in March with HP. Under that deal, Citrix and HP made available two integrated server virtualization solutions called Citrix XenServer HP Enterprise and HP Select editions. Both integrated with HP Insight Control management software for HP ProLiant and BladeSystem servers.

Micro Focus Marries COBOL to .NET
Partners with customers whose systems use COBOL have some new options for application development in Visual Studio and the .NET Framework. Micro Focus, of Newbury, England, launched Net Express with .NET, and upgraded its Net Express and Server Express products to version level 5.1.

Net Express with .NET yokes the recently released Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 integrated development environment to COBOL applications. According to Micro Focus, COBOL remains the most widely used enterprise class language. By some estimates, the language processes three quarters of the world's data, and consequently runs major corporate systems around the world.

Net Express with .NET makes the Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 IDE easier for COBOL developers to leverage. The product brings COBOL compatibility to the suite and extends COBOL's capabilities by enhancing the language to support more modern programming paradigms.

The most significant advances to COBOL in Net Express with .NET are the ability to give COBOL applications a modern user interface through the Windows Presentation Framework, the ability to hook COBOL applications into distributed systems through the Windows Communication Foundation and the ability to expose COBOL business processes as Web services using a service-oriented architecture.

The upgrade to Net Express 5.1 brings support for Windows Server 2008, while the upgrade of Server Express 5.1 adds support for Linux and Unix.

"Major upgrades to our COBOL tools mean that COBOL not only remains a contemporary language, but will continue to be seen as essential for enterprise solutions developers the world over. The software [we] released runs on 57 different enterprise class platforms," Stuart McGill, CTO of Micro Focus, said in a statement.

Skelta Unveils BPM.NET 2008
Skelta demonstrated to partners a preview version of its upcoming business process management product.

The upcoming version, called BPM.NET 2008, is an upgrade to the company's flagship BPM.NET product, which is workflow software designed for a deep Microsoft stack. The purpose of the software is to allow business users and developers to set up BPM workflow applications. Skelta's product is built on Microsoft .NET, XML and Web service technologies. It relies on several Microsoft technologies in the customer infrastructure, including InfoPath, BizTalk Server and SharePoint.

Skelta executives were on hand in Houston to demonstrate the next version of the product and to discuss partnership opportunities. Features of the upcoming version will include "capabilities that enhance the SaaS [Software as a Service] model offerings," the company says.

The company is based in Bangalore, India, with U.S. headquarters in Alpharetta, Ga.

ISHIR Looks to Expand Throughout United States
ISHIR Infotech, an offshore IT services firm with headquarters in Dallas, is looking to expand its base of Microsoft partner contacts beyond Texas and bring attention to some new capabilities.

The 8-year-old company has its offshore development center in New Delhi, India. The Gold Certified Partner defines its expertise as setting up dedicated offshore development teams with local project management for outsourced product development, game development, application maintenance and independent software testing.

The company recently expanded its Microsoft .NET-based custom application capability to several new or updated Microsoft products, including Office Performance Point, SharePoint Server, BizTalk Server, SQL Server, SQL Reporting and Dynamics CRM.

According to Gautam Kapur, business manager at ISHIR, "We believe in partner-to-partner business success. We are very excited about being able to meet new partners and take our relationship with Microsoft to the next level."

AltiGen launches UC/VoIP Package
AltiGen Communications Inc. launched MAX Communications Server 6.0, a voice over IP (VoIP) softswitch with native Microsoft Exchange 2007 Unified Messaging integration.

The new version lifts the scalability of the product to support up to 5,000 users. In addition to the native Exchange 2007 support, the product adds support for 1,000 users on a single server, a .NET-based desktop telephony client, integration with Microsoft Office Communicator and conference bridging for up to 120 participants.

The 6.0 release acts as the Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 IP PBX plug-in. The resulting native integration helps the new AltiGen product offer speech recognition and control, text-to-speech playback of e-mails and appointments through the phone, a single point of communication management for IT and new options for archiving and regulatory compliance.

In addition to software features, the product makes a big step for AltiGen toward industry-standard platforms. The new product runs on Intel-based servers that are certified by Fremont, Calif.-based AltiGen. At the same time, the small to midsize business-focused product will support up to 1,000 users per server.

By launching the product at the WPC, AltiGen hoped to generate buzz among Microsoft resellers, a key driver for the company, which has done nearly $14 million in revenue for the first nine months of its fiscal year.

According to Mike Plumer, AltiGen's vice president of sales, the Microsoft partnership is key to AltiGen's mission: "AltiGen and Microsoft unified communications applications are complementary: Microsoft offers IM, presence and video/voice conferencing; AltiGen offers voice, call center technologies, audio conferencing and VoIP telephones. We continue to expand our offerings and [that's why we introduced] our new Max Communications Server at the [Worldwide Partner] conference."

Lieberman Software Plugs Vista Tools
One of Microsoft's biggest themes at the WPC was that Windows Vista is ready for primetime and that Microsoft was going to start hitting back when industry competitors throw sucker punches at the OS.

Part of that campaign included a press conference featuring a panel of software executives, called "Windows Vista: A View from Partners." One of the participants on the panel was Philip Lieberman, president of Lieberman Software Corp.

Lieberman's role on the panel was to describe the value of the Vista certification program for an ISV, such as Lieberman Software, a Gold Certified Partner. For Lieberman, it was a chance to highlight for a partner audience the toolset his Los Angeles-based company developed and certified even before Vista shipped. With Vista SP1 in the market, and Microsoft preparing major ad campaigns, even Vista-based tools that are nearly two years old may become new again for both Microsoft customers and partners.

Lieberman Software's Vista certified tools include Random Password Manager, User Manager Pro, Service Account Manager, Account Reset Console and COM+ Manager.

SmartPay Gets a Revision
Microsoft Financing customers have no payments for six months.

Microsoft Financing, the arm of Microsoft that pays partners up front and puts customers on monthly payment plans, refreshed the SmartPay promotion that makes initial payments even more attractive to bean counters.

Microsoft Financing is designed to spur sales of Microsoft products by allowing customers to finance software, hardware and partner services for solutions amounting to $3,000 or more. In fiscal 2008, according to published reports, Microsoft Financing backed more than $1 billion worth of deals in 15 countries.

A year ago, Microsoft introduced variable payments for customers for the first 12 months, followed by fixed payments over the life of the loan. That program modified a 2006 program that offered customers six months of $50 payments. But starting this July, Microsoft changed the program to zero payments for customers for the first six months, followed by predictable monthly payments for the rest of the loan, which is usually 24 to 36 months. Partners are still paid up-front by Microsoft for the full price of the solution, which now means partners get their money months before Microsoft even sees the first payment from the customer.

"Having zero payments was easier to administer," says Bill Lidell, North American managing director for Microsoft Financing. "We're just modifying the same program based on feedback from customers and partners."

Lidell says the six months without a payment is especially helpful in two scenarios. One is in complex Microsoft Dynamics installations, where it's often several months before the customers' systems are up and running and showing any return on investment. Another scenario is when a customer can use the delay to push any spending into the next fiscal year.

The SmartPay program with zero payments for six months will run until June 30, 2009, when Microsoft's current fiscal year ends.

In other financing news, Microsoft is doing the following: Q Offering Extended Payment Terms to Enterprise Agreement customers. Under the terms, enterprise customers can choose a payment structure among monthly, quarterly or semi-annual options or can design a custom payment plan with Microsoft Financing.

  • Investing in new tools for selling, marketing and using Microsoft Financing in order to encourage Microsoft partners to integrate financing into their sales processes.
  • Launching Select Plus with Microsoft Licensing in October, which will include a line of credit financing solution.

Microsoft Financing has been offered since 2004, although the program has taken on added urgency for some partners in recent months as economic conditions have soured.

In addition to major partner benefits that include making some deals happen, guaranteeing maximum cash flow and minimizing billing hassles, the program has also been shown to increase deal sizes. According to a worldwide survey by Ovum, a research and consulting firm owned by London-based Datamonitor plc, in fiscal year 2007, partners using the financing option saw deal sizes increase by 38 percent to 87 percent. Some reasons for the increased deal sizes include the ability to buy a fuller solution independent of budget cycles, the ability to roll out the full-featured solution immediately rather than piecemeal and potential tax benefits.


More Money for Managed Services
An industry association offers new financing options for MSPs.

The MSPAlliance, an international trade group for managed services providers (MSPs), has rolled out a leasing program for its members and their customers.

"The MSPAlliance Managed Services Leasing Program will allow MSPs to deliver both hardware and services-based solutions to their clients while keeping costs at a relatively static level," the Chico, Calif.-based organization said in a press release announcing the program's launch.

Brokering the program is Varilease Corp., a Walled Lake, Mich.-based equipment-leasing financier that says it's financed more than $2 billion in assets worldwide since 1987. A Varilease spokesman said the program should help MSPs boost sales by making flexible, convenient financing options available to their customers.

The program is available only to MSPAlliance members, with additional benefits available for companies that have passed the 6,000-member organization's Managed Services Accreditation Program exam.

For more information, visit

A Paragon of a Partner Program
Security-solution specialist reaches out to VARs.

Gold Certified Partner Paragon Software Group, a developer of security and data-management solutions, has launched a new channel program for value-added resellers (VARs).

The multilevel program, which offers a variety of tools and services, is targeted to VARs that focus on markets ranging from small businesses up through the mid-enterprise level. "The Paragon Partner Program is ideally suited to those VARs providing managed services to customers [or] offering infrastructure design and implementation services, as well as VARs focused on data-critical verticals such as finance, health care, government and education," the Irvine, Calif.-based company said in a press release.

Paragon's full line of system- and data-protection solutions will be available to the channel, but the company says its VAR program is focusing on the company's Drive Backup and Partition Manager products.

The program features two tiers, each with two partner levels:

  • The Standard Program tier includes the introductory Registered level and the step-up Standard level.
  • The Alliance Program tier includes the enhanced Premium level and the top Elite level.