Channel Watch

Which Public Cloud Will Win the Microsoft Channel?

In the two-horse race between AWS and Microsoft Azure in the public cloud, only one can be considered to have a robust ecosystem of platform partners. And it's not Microsoft.

As an entity several-hundred-thousand-partners strong, it's fair to say the Microsoft channel has barely dipped a toe in the water of the public cloud infrastructure business.

In this issue, Gladys Rama talked to a few partners who are already juggling both Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure practices. Those partners are still outliers, part of a small number of Microsoft partners doing substantial public cloud infrastructure (non-Office 365) business to date.

Last month, Gartner Inc. analysts released a magic quadrant for "Cloud Infrastructure as a Service," placing AWS as the clear leader, trailed in the coveted "Leaders" quadrant by Microsoft, with Google as the sole occupant of the "Visionaries" quadrant. The other seven players Gartner covered occupied the "Niche Players" square.

Those placements match market share, which AWS has utterly dominated since creating the category in 2006. What was more interesting from a channel perspective was Gartner's commentary about the three top vendors' channel/ecosystem strengths and weaknesses.

Of the three, AWS is the only vendor whose channel Gartner discusses as a strength. Its dominant share, Gartner notes, "has enabled it to attract an ecosystem of open source tools, along with more than a thousand technology partners that have licensed and packaged their software to run on AWS, have integrated their software with AWS capabilities, or deliver add-on services. It also has a tiered and competency-badged network of partners that provide application development expertise, managed services and professional services such as datacenter migration. That ecosystem, along with the AWS training and certification programs, makes it easier to adopt and operate AWS in a best-practice fashion."

Google's channel efforts thus far are dismissed as being in the "rudimentary stages." The Azure ecosystem build-out gets labeled a work in progress: "[Microsoft] has been aggressively recruiting managed services and professional services partners, but many of these partners lack extensive experience with the Azure platform, which can compromise the quality of the solutions they deliver to customers."

It's not all down to partners' inexperience, Gartner contends, calling out API reliability and secure authentication among Azure platform shortcomings that hamper partner efforts.

Short version: The AWS channel is strong, the Microsoft channel is weak and the Google channel is nowhere. Given how few channel players there are so far, and how much growth is expected of this market, the real question is: When and where will a broad channel emerge?

The aggregate direction that the Microsoft channel chooses with cloud will be a huge determinant of how this critical market develops. Which way are you leaning? Let me know at sbekker@rcpmag.com or leave a comment below.

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About the Author

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