Simply put, it's time for Microsoft's partner base to sort out their cloud strategies. In Microsoft's case, that means partners need to master Office 365 and Windows Intune. Yes, on-premises offerings like Windows Small Business Server are part of the new competency.
But Bennani is banging the drum -- loudly -- for Office 365 and Microsoft's cloud strategy. She wrote:
"In order to build a capable cloud partner ecosystem that drives awareness and adoption of Microsoft cloud solutions in the marketplace, the Small Business Competency will be launched in June 2012. The competency will lead with the Cloud and be a key differentiator for partners focused on the small business segment. We believe this competency will be one of the biggest levers to accelerate cloud partner activation in the small business segment and anticipate it will grow into the largest competency within the Microsoft Partner Network."
Gold and Silver LevelsThe Microsoft Small Business Competency will include Gold- and Silver-level partner designations. Bennani described the Gold and Silver levels in these ways:
- Gold partners will earn a Gold competency logo, eligibility for a named Microsoft contact, internal use rights for up to 30 licenses of on-premises products, cloud license rights for internal usage (IUR), unlimited pre-sales advisory hours for deals valued at more than US$3,000 (50 hours if not deal related or post-sales oriented), bill-on-behalf capability for Office 365, and premier exposure on the Microsoft PinPoint and Office 365 marketplaces.
- Silver Small Business Competency partners will gain internal use rights for up to 15 licenses of on premise products, additional cloud offering license rights for internal usage (IUR), usage of the Silver competency logo, access to Microsoft, 20 hours of pre- or post-sale technical advisory support, and prioritized exposure to customers on the Microsoft PinPoint and Office 365 marketplaces.
NOTE: Re-read that paragraph about gold partners closely. It mentions a "bill-on-behalf" capability for Office 365. The VAR Guy is checking to see if that means gold partners can bill Office 365 customers on behalf of Microsoft. If so, that's very intriguing -- but let's not jump to conclusions. Instead, The VAR Guy awaits Microsoft's perspective on that point.