Watson Webcast Woos Microsoft Partners to the Cloud

A week after Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer proclaimed the software giant is transforming its business around cloud computing, the company made its pitch to its vast network of partners.

In a recorded webcast called "We're All In" that borrows from Ballmer's new push, Allison Watson, the corporate vice president of Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Group, spent much of the nearly 10-minute presentation recapping the five general principles or "key dimensions" of the cloud that Ballmer laid out on March 4. Watson at that time had indicated she would reach out to partners this week.

However, Watson did not unveil new cloud-based promotions or programs for partners. Instead, she went into detail on some customer examples, such a Microsoft-based cloud implementation by the McDonald's fast-food restaurant chain, and she pointed to some online resources in a talk that seemed designed to urge partners to get moving with cloud initiatives.

"I would highly encourage you to actively integrate these offerings within your own larger stack today so you don't miss out on this cloud opportunity now," Watson said.

Watson provided some figures to demonstrate some momentum already among partners and customers.

"There are over 7,000 partners signed up with us for Microsoft BPOS," Watson said of the Business Productivity Online Suite, which is Microsoft’s cloud-based bundle of e-mail and collaboration services that is resold by partners and priced per user per month. She said that about 100 new partners are joining the program each week. "We've got partners who are adding 30-40 customers a month to small and midmarket and corporate-size accounts."

On the Windows Azure cloud platform, which became available last month, Watson said Microsoft is adding more than 200 customers a day.

Watson sought to persuade the partner audience that Microsoft was the right company to follow into the cloud based on scale and business model. On the scale side, she listed the datacenter capacity Microsoft is building out -- with a 700,000-square-foot facility in Chicago, a 300,000-square-foot-facility in Dublin and other data centers built or planned for Texas, Massachusetts, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore.

She also said the combined public cloud/private cloud emphasis that Ballmer mentioned in his speech was also a "key differentiator" for Microsoft partners, both because it offers installation and integration opportunities and allows partners to build applications once that can run either on Microsoft’s public cloud or on customers' Windows-based private clouds.

Of the cloud opportunity, Watson closed with the money: "In many ways, it's still a greenfield with an upside in the trillions of dollars."

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.