For its partner network
, Microsoft has its eye on the clouds. The Worldwide Partner Conference is currently taking place in Washington, D.C.
During the opening keynote -- delivered Monday by Phil Sorgen, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Group -- the company announced that it is integrating the cloud into the Partner Network, with three "new cloud-focused competencies" for Office 365 and Azure.
A new Cloud Solutions Provider reseller program will offer competencies for small- and mid-market cloud solutions, cloud productivity and cloud platform.
'One Monthly Bill'
The SMB solutions are designed for partners selling Office 365 to that market, while Cloud Productivity is intended for those selling 365 to enterprises. The platform offering is for partners specializing in delivering infrastructure , PaaS and SaaS solutions on Azure. The company also said that Cloud Accelerate, Cloud Deployment and Azure Circle programs are being discontinued.
Four changes are designed to make the solutions easier for partners. The first-year fee will be waived for Silver cloud competencies, there will be enhanced Internal Use Rights for 365 and Azure, and Signature Cloud Support will be launched in September to provide partners with direct contact with what the company called "a high-quality support team." Additionally, fees for on-premises competencies will be reduced by up to 10 percent.
Gold level will be offered at a reduced price, and partners with the qualifying competencies for 365 and Azure will receive benefits that include cloud support, development and test environments, and channel incentives and access to special offers.
Partners in the Cloud Solutions Provider program, according to Corporate Vice President John Case, "will be able to directly provision customer subscriptions and provide one monthly bill for partner services and Microsoft services together." Additionally, cloud partners can manage customers using the Partner Admin Center.
'100 Percent of Customer Lifecycle'
Sorgen said that the Cloud Solutions Provider program "allows partners to own 100 percent of the customer lifecycle, with partners serving as the only contact for all customer needs, [including] billing, provisioning, support, and, most importantly, the ability to sell their own tools, products and services."
The company is also launching Azure Machine Learning University, an online portfolio of self-service learning assets designed specifically for partners. Subjects will include the data science life cycle, ranging from importing data to building predictive models and deployment.
Microsoft also announced that Dynamics CRM Online will be released through the company's Open Licensing program later this fiscal year.
Under Open Licensing, partners can buy Microsoft licenses for their customers and then bill the customers, as well as wrap their own services into an offered package. Azure will be offered through Open Licensing starting next month, as Office 365, Windows Intune and Power BI already are.
Other announcements include the Azure Certified program, a new logo certification that will allow partners to promote and sell their applications on Azure. There is also a new marketing initiative called ModernBiz, which is intended to help partners sell more easily to small- and mid-size businesses.