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WPC 2016: A few takeaways from Microsoft's channel event

With Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference  in the books, here are a few takeaways and observations on WPC 2016.

• Partners appear to like Microsoft’s Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program

Microsoft officials cited 17,000 partner transactions since the launch of CSP last year, noting that CSP in May 2016 surpassed other licensing models that let partners sell Microsoft’s cloud services.

“What we are seeing over the last year is Microsoft’s CSP program seems to fit the market perfectly,” said Jason Bystrak, executive director of Ingram Micro Cloud. Ingram Micro debuted the latest release of its Odin Service Automation platform at WPC 2016.

Bystrak said partners have gone from dipping their toes in the water to “really to starting to scale the business” of selling cloud offerings. As for Microsoft, the CSP program has become a key catalyst for Microsoft’s cloud strategy, he added.

• Partners also like geographic reach in a cloud

Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of the Microsoft Cloud and Enterprise Group, said the number of Azure cloud regions has grown to 34 worldwide, which he said enables partners to run applications closer to customers and compete in more geographic markets.

Azure’s coverage helped convince Schneider Electric to work with Microsoft on an internet of things (IoT) project in Nigeria. The company has deployed a system using solar panels and intelligent inverters linked to Microsoft Azure IoT technology. The system provides electricity to Nigerian schools and healthcare clinics.

Cyril Perducat, executive vice president of digital services and IoT at Schneider Electric, said the company’s goal is to make the solar project a global offering. He said Azure’s global presence was an important consideration in its choice of a cloud partner.

“Being able to scale is key,” he said.

• Partners can offer more Microsoft technology as a subscription

In other  WPC 2016 news, Microsoft’s CSP partners will be able this fall to offer Windows 10 Enterprise E3 on a subscription basis for $7 a seat per month. In addition, partners are now able to sell Microsoft’s Surface as a managed offering on a leased basis. Microsoft has dubbed the latter initiative “Surface as a Service.” CSPs that are also Surface Authorized Distributors may participate in the as-a-service program.

In another Surface-related move, Microsoft has added partnerships with IBM and Booz Allen Hamilton to its Surface Enterprise Initiative. The initiative launched last year with Dell as the first participant.

• Partners are starting to work with HoloLens

Microsoft’s HoloLens technology, built around an augmented reality headset, is showing up in demos. Taqtile, which develops mobile strategies for enterprise customers using virtual and augmented reality, used Microsoft’s HoloLens holographic computer on a project with the PGA Tour. Working with HoloLens required Taqtile to reach out for some additional skills, however. Kelly Malone, vice president of product management and business development at Taqtile, said the company is well versed in Visual Studio and C#, but needs to bring in personnel with expertise in the Unity game engine.

Unity and Microsoft have been collaborating on tools for creating mixed reality apps for HoloLens.

• Microsoft likes ISVs

Microsoft’s interest in working with independent software vendors (ISVs) came through loud and clear at WPC 2016. The company hopes to get more of them signed up for the Microsoft Partner Network. To that end, ISVs that have a new application certified for the Azure Marketplace will be prompted to consider signing up for the Microsoft Partner Network. Interested ISVs will be taken to Partner Center and asked if they want to enter the program at the Silver level. If so, ISV partners will be able to participate free of charge for one year.

“We are enabling new paths for ISVs in Partner Center,” said Niamh Coleman, director of Microsoft Partner Network programs for the Worldwide Partner Group.

• Microsoft wants to help with partner marketing

Microsoft also made a point of offering marketing assistance to partners.

“Some partners may not have a big marketing practice,” said Coleman, noting that the company has invested in its Smart Partner Marketing website and materials.

She said Smart Partner Marketing lets partners see where they are in terms of marketing maturity and offers templates and other resource to “create the marketing muscle” within a partner organization.

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