Microsoft Partners Brace for Cloud and Services Future

By Doug Barney

Microsoft has always relied largely on its hundreds of thousands of partners, and for most of its history this channel sold packaged software that was installed on-premises.

Now the Redmond-based company is reading the tea leaves and is, as Microsoft itself says, “all in the cloud.”

At the company’s Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), which started yesterday, that message is made all the more clear. While much of the software is the same in terms of features and even look and feel, where it’s all hosted is what’s different – in the cloud and no longer on local PCs and servers.

Image via Shutterstock

And while these partners must adjust to Azure and Office 365, they must also reckon with a radically new and locally run OS in the form of Windows 8, or 8.1 as it is now.

To what extent, then, should partners push on-premises Office, SharePoint and SQL Server, and should these partners themselves be “all in the cloud”?

The services push bodes well for managed service providers (MSP) who can sell higher level services to an increasingly willing IT community.

While Microsoft has its Tech-Ed event for IT, it often makes more news at WPC because it wants to prepare the channel to push what Redmond considers strategic and in its best interest.

Three years ago, in fact, is when Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer announced that the company was 100 percent committed to a cloud future. Now in 2013, Microsoft and its partners are still struggling with that notion as some customers gobble up cloud services while others hold back.

And while the cloud is Redmond’s future, so apparently also is hardware in the form of Xbox, Surface and perhaps someday Microsoft-built phones.

So what exactly does “all in the cloud” mean? Curious partners are dying to know.

At this show Ballmer continued that cloud push, and had what he called five cloud dimensions that his company cares about. The cloud creates totally new opportunities and points to the often-copied Apple App Store as example.

The cloud brings people together through social services, fosters cool new smart devices (Android and iPhone deserve the real kudos here), lets people get at the information they really want (a little Bing anyone?), and finally the cloud pushes server architectures to new heights.

You know, this all sounds pretty spot on. And the cool thing about Ballmer is he always gets it. There are plenty of critics, but Mr. Ballmer has been there since the beginning and took smart advantage of nearly every technology wave in the last three decades.

Edited by Alisen Downey

MSPToday Editor at Large

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