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WPC 2014: Microsoft Plans Cloud-Focused MPN Changes, Announces Dynamics CRM on Open

Microsoft unveiled a number of changes intended to drive partner investment in its cloud services during Monday's opening keynote of the Worldwide Partner Conference, taking place this week in Washington, D.C.

John Case, corporate vice president of Microsoft Office, announced at the keynote that Dynamics CRM Online will be available through the Microsoft Open Licensing program sometime "this fiscal year."

Open Licensing lets partners take control of the billing of Microsoft services they sell to customers. Under the program, partners are able to purchase licenses for Microsoft products on behalf of their customers, and then bill those customers directly. It also enables partners to bundle Microsoft services with their own offerings while providing customers with just one invoice.

Microsoft already provides Open Licensing as an option for Office 365, Windows Intune and Power BI. Starting on Aug. 1, Microsoft Azure will also be available via Open Licensing.

Case also announced the launch of the new Microsoft Cloud Solutions Provider program. "This is a true cloud reseller program," Case said. "Partners in the program will be able to directly provision customer subscriptions and provide one monthly bill for partner services and Microsoft services together. You can also directly manage these customers with things like the Partner Admin Center, and you will own the tech support relationship."

Microsoft plans to roll out the program over the next 12 months starting with Office 365 and Intune, and later Azure and Dynamics CRM Online. It will be available in 48 countries to select partners, according to Case.

"For us, this capability is a major step forward in working with you on taking our businesses to the cloud to customers," he said.

In addition, Microsoft also plans to launch three new competencies focused on its cloud services. The competencies, according to a Monday blog post by Phil Sorgen, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group, are:

  • Small and Midmarket Cloud Solutions
  • Cloud Productivity
  • Cloud Platform

The Cloud Platform competency is focused on Azure. The Cloud Productivity competency is aimed partners selling Office 365 to enterprises, while Small and Midmarket Cloud Solutions is for partners selling Office 365 to SMBs. The new competencies will replace the Cloud Accelerate, Cloud Deployment and Azure Circle programs, which Microsoft is retiring, Sorgen said.

Gavriella Schuster, general manager of worldwide partner marketing and programs at Microsoft, gave more details about the competencies and other upcoming changes to the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) during Monday's keynote. The three new competencies will be launched on Sept. 29, she said. Unlike with other competencies, achievement of the new competencies will depend mainly on the level of Office 365 and Azure sales that partners drive, rather than on their certification level.

"It's based on your ability to drive Azure consumption and active usage of Office 365," Schuster said. "While we'll still provide you with training and assessments to help you skill up your people, the primary eligibility into the Silver and Gold levels will be your success with your customers."

Additionally, Schuster listed four upcoming changes to MPN competency fees and benefits. First, Microsoft is waiving the first-year fee for silver cloud competencies. Second, organizations will see an increase in their internal use rights (IURs) for Office 365 and Azure. The increase level will be anywhere between 25 percent and 200 percent, Schuster said, depending on a partner's cloud competency level.

Third, partners will have access to Microsoft's Signature Cloud Support program, which offers unlimited support for Office 365, Azure and Windows Intune. The program will eventually be expanded to include Dynamics CRM Online. Fourth, Microsoft will lower the price of all on-premises competencies by up to 10 percent.

Schuster did not say when these four changes would take effect.

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About the Author

Gladys Rama is the senior site producer for RCPmag.com and senior editor of AWSInsider.net.