Microsoft partner ecosystem revved up, riled by 2022 event

A contact center product launch, a space industry community and an upcoming partner program revamp topped the list of Microsoft Inspire developments; more IT channel news.

Microsoft's annual partner conference elicited a range of responses from industry executives, feedback that's perhaps in keeping with the broad-brush nature of the event.

Microsoft Inspire, which ran July 19-20, updated a number of years-old channel initiatives and shed some light on the company's industry cloud strategy, which seeks to make its horizonal cloud offerings more relevant for vertical market customers.

The Microsoft partner ecosystem, meanwhile, is gearing up for the October 2022 launch of the technology company's revised partner initiative. The Microsoft Cloud Partner Program shrinks 36 Gold and Silver partner competencies into six solutions partner designations. The company has rolled out a partner capability score through which companies can qualify as solutions partners.

Partners cite contact center tech, cloud value

SoftwareOne, a software and cloud technology solutions provider based in Switzerland, is among the Microsoft partners looking to boost their proficiencies in Microsoft's upcoming partner designations. Against that backdrop, Jared Cheney, vice president of services at SoftwareOne, cited Microsoft's contact center product release and an updated Independent Software Vendor (ISV) Success Program as among the most compelling developments at Microsoft Inspire.

In the contract center market, Microsoft's Digital Contact Center Platform brings together Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Customer Service with Teams, Power Platform and a partnership with Nuance AI, Cheney noted. The ISV Success Program, for its part, will enable SoftwareONE to help customers take advantage of Microsoft's commercial marketplaces via Microsoft's Azure cloud, he added.

In addition, Cheney said the Azure Space Partner Community caught his eye. The program encompasses manufacturers, systems integrators, data providers and ISVs among other partners focusing on the space industry.

"The industry has unique challenges and requires specific models and high-capacity computing capabilities to succeed," Cheney said, noting the program provides such resources. "It'll be interesting to see how this continues to develop long-term," he added.

Satya NadellaSatya Nadella

Tony Guidi, senior vice president of strategic partnerships at Core BTS, an IT consultancy with headquarters in Indianapolis, cited the importance of Satya Nadella's keynote theme, which highlighted the cloud's role in helping businesses weather economic cycles. Nadella, Microsoft's CEO, pointed to the cloud's ability to help customers "do more with less" during times of economic uncertainty. The cloud, however, also has a role in preparing customers for an upturn in business.

"Microsoft Inspire emphasized how the value of the Microsoft Cloud will set its customers up to be more agile so that when the economy recovers, customers will be ready," Guidi noted.

Pruning partners?

The Microsoft Cloud Partner Program has left some partners questioning revised requirements such as the partner capability scoring system. Some partners have registered their dissatisfaction through online petitions. Mike Garland, a consultant who specializes in federal government procurement, suggested the upcoming partner program could reduce the number of providers in the Microsoft partner ecosystem.

 "Microsoft's push to prune partners could have the effect of pushing out smaller, less well-resourced resellers, possibly diminishing the ability for the government to get the healthy competition it seeks for Microsoft products and services," Garland said. "[It's] too early to know for sure, but a possible concern," he noted.

These next few months are all about your readiness and ability to plan on what the coming year could look like.
Dan RippeyDirector of cloud partner programs, Microsoft

Dan Rippey, director of cloud partner programs at Microsoft, said the company will help partners work toward a solutions partner designation. "These next few months are all about your readiness and ability to plan on what the coming year could look like," he said, speaking at Microsoft Inspire.

Microsoft will leave partners' existing Silver and Gold benefits in place as they pursue capability score requirements, Rippey said. But as for partner branding, Microsoft will remove public references to "legacy competencies" from its marketing assets on Oct. 3, he noted. Partners should remove such references from their marketing collateral as well, he added.

Other news

  • Accenture agreed to acquire Eclipse Automation, a customized manufacturing automation and robotics solutions provider. Eclipse Automation, based in Cambridge, , employs about 800 professionals, who will join Accenture's Industry X digital engineering and manufacturing service. Accenture said the purchase will let Accenture offer automated production lines, using cloud, data and AI. Manufacturers deploy a combination of emerging technologies to meet their digital transformation goals, according to partners active in the industrial vertical.
  • Industry association CompTIA and top-tier MSP software provider ConnectWise have kicked off an initiative to expand the U.S. cybersecurity and technology workforce through paid apprenticeships. The effort will pair CompTIA-certified IT professionals with IT businesses in the ConnectWise partner community. IT apprenticeship programs have gained ground in recent years amid the tight labor market.
  • Pax8, a cloud distributer based in Denver, added Nord Security to its cybersecurity portfolio. The agreement marks Nord Security's first foray into the distribution segment of the IT channel market. Pax8 will offer its partners Nord Security's NordLayer and NordPass products.
  • Moveworks, an AI platform company in Mountain View, Calif., is teaming up with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) in the service desk area. Under the partnership, TCS identifies opportunities for improvement within support and IT organizations, while Moveworks provides automation through its AI offering. Moveworks' customers use its platform for a number of use cases including IT support, where the technology is used to unlock accounts or provision software, noted Manoj Gupta, vice president of partnerships at Moveworks.
  • Itron, a Liberty Lake, Wash., company that provides products and service to energy and water utilities, has launched a channel partner program in the Asia Pacific region. The program offers tools, training and support for Itron's offerings.
  • Simon Data, a customer data platform company in New York, launched a partner program. The Simon Data Partner Program encompasses agency partners and technology partners. The program includes training, support and co-marketing opportunities.

Executive appointments

  • TBI, a technology distributor based in Chicago, has appointed Andrew Marshall as solution engineer. Marshall joins the company from vCom Solutions, where he was technical solutions executive.
  • DataStream, cyber insurance broker in Sunnyvale, Calif., appointed Larry Meador as channel chief. He joined DataStream in December 2021 and was previously channel manager at GreenLink Networks.

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