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Azure partners cite platform's maturity at WPC 16

Channel partners at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference suggested Azure is moving into a more mature phase in which it is seeing more interest among customers.

TORONTO -- Microsoft channel partners cited Azure as an increasingly mature platform, which they said customers are adopting more aggressively amid the company's push to move more enterprise applications to the cloud.

Those sentiments among cloud and Azure partners surfaced at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference, which had much to say about the direction of cloud technology. From Satya Nadella's opening day keynote address to various panel discussions, the cloud -- and, importantly, how partners and their customers can harness it effectively -- was a recurring theme.

"I can truly make a cloud experience inside of Azure, where you couldn't before," said Stephen Simmons, president and CEO of TNG Networks Inc., a cloud services provider based in Toronto that provides Microsoft's Office 365, among other cloud applications. "It was too early."

Greg Pierce, chief cloud officer at Concerto Cloud Services, a company based in Tampa, Fla., that focuses on Azure and Dynamics clouds, as well as private and hybrid clouds, also suggested Azure has moved into a more mature phase. While Azure was very much in evidence during the 2015 Worldwide Partner Conference, the message has evolved this year, he noted.

"The message is much more pragmatic," he said. "Microsoft is starting to speak about some of the things important to customers about uptime, cost and the production environments being put in."

He also said Microsoft is discussing cloud governance and the security risks people have been concerned about. Lack of cloud governance among many organizations has been an issue in cloud adoption.

Full circle

Another sign of maturity is Azure's expanding role in Microsoft's enterprise applications. Simmons suggested Azure is becoming a rallying point for Microsoft's enterprise applications, citing the company's plans for Dynamics 365, which will be integrated with Office 365. In a July 6 blog post, Microsoft said Dynamics 365 will create one cloud service out of its current customer relationship management and ERP offerings, while connecting with Office 365 and the unstructured data associated with collaboration and productivity software.

I'm definitely seeing an increase in interest, both in inquiries and use cases around Azure.
David Luckydirector of product management at Datapipe

"All of that data is now in a completed circle," Simmons said. "Microsoft seems to be leading the way with that. You can see how the whole thing is going to come together on Azure."

Nadella, during his keynote, cited business data housed in the cloud as an important opportunity. As a range of data -- information on leads, shipping, inventory, orders and field services, for instance -- becomes represented and exposed in the cloud, partners and their customers can expand on that data, building new information products, Nadella said.

"Perhaps the most salient point of this cloud transformation is the transformation around data."

Nadella also noted AppSource, a recently debuted marketplace for Dynamics, Office 365 and Azure-based applications that will be able to share data.

More deals for Azure partners

The growth of Azure as a platform translates into greater interest among customers and more business for Azure partners.

David Lucky, director of product management at Datapipe Inc., a managed IT services company based in Jersey City, N.J., said he didn't see a lot of Azure activity 18 months ago, but that has now changed.

"I'm definitely seeing an increase in interest, both in inquiries and use cases around Azure," he said.

Lucky cited the example of Gateway Ticketing Systems, which went from using dedicated hardware to the Azure cloud. Datapipe helped the company with Azure scoping, as well as Azure infrastructure management, according to the company.

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