Microsoft Channel Chief Allison Watson: Cloud Moves for VARs

Microsoft Channel Chief Allison WatsonMicrosoft Channel Chief Allison Watson, in a FastChat Video with The VAR Guy, explains how VARs and managed services providers can potentially profit from Microsoft's cloud offerings. But that's not all...

...The video conversation with Watson covers a range of topics -- including competition with Google, potential opportunities involving Windows Azure, Business Productivity Online Suite and Office 2010, and potential SaaS pricing concerns among VARs.

Understanding the Basics

In part I, Watson provides a general overview of cloud opportunities for channel partners, plus the competitive landscape vs. Google and other SaaS players:

The video above includes:
  • 0:00: Introduction
  • 0:15: Microsoft's transformation from Software+Services to Cloud and On-premises
  • 0:59: What are the cloud opportunities for Microsoft's partners?
  • 1:05: Early BPOS and Azure momentum
  • 1:30: An example of partner success - how a partner blended on premises and cloud solutions
  • 2:15: Customer testing and momentum on BPOS
  • 2:30: Competing against Google and others on SaaS
  • 3:20: A rundown of Microsoft's cloud moves
  • 3:53: Where to find more information
  • 4:19: Conclusion

Getting Started -- And Pricing Considerations

In part II, Watson zeroes in on how VARs can get started with Microsoft's cloud platforms. Plus, Watson answers questions about SaaS pricing, and the potential implications for channel partners:

The video above includes:
  • 0:00: Introduction
  • 0:05: How VARs should plan their first cloud moves
  • 0:27: Where BPOS fits in
  • 0:40: Where Office 2010 fits in
  • 0:55: First steps with Windows Azure
  • 1:30: Aggressive SaaS pricing: Can VARs profit?
  • 3:37: Where to find more information
  • 4:03: Conclusion

Remaining Questions

Watson's cloud statements, and her webcast to partners earlier today, arrive less than a week after Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said the company had an "all in" cloud strategy.

The VAR Guy sees multiple opportunities -- and challenges -- for Microsoft and its partners in the cloud.

On the upside, Windows Azure seems like a natural platform for existing Windows Server ISVs. Already, scores of closed source and open source partners have ported their applications over to Azure. And The VAR Guy will be watching for more news about live customer deployments.

The story with Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) is somewhat different. No doubt, enterprise customers are interested in BPOS. But are channel partners really interested in BPOS? That depends on whom you ask. Microsoft says more than 7,000 partners have signed on to resell BPOS. Some, like Dyntek, see opportunities ahead. But The VAR Guy hears from plenty of partners who are concerned about...
  1. BPOS Pricing: Is there really enough margin for VARs and MSPs, especially amid Microsoft's own BPOS price cuts from November 2009.
  2. Invoicing and Branding: Some VARs don't want to hand over customer invoicing responsibilities to Microsoft's BPOS team.
  3. Timeliness: Ironically, some of Microsoft's hosting partners continue to beat Microsoft to market with key products. A key example: Intermedia introduced hosted Exchange 2010 in November 2009, around the time that Microsoft introduced on-premises Exchange 2010. As of this writing, The VAR Guy believes Microsoft is still working to introduce Exchange 2010 as part of the company's own BPOS platform.
The VAR Guy will be attending Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in July 2010, seeking more views on the issues above.

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Discuss this Video 4

on Mar 11, 2010
Frankie: Yes, SaaS profitability for partners remains a work in progress on some fronts. Particularly in the BPOS area, The VAR Guy believes. -TVG
Frankie Says (not verified)
on Mar 10, 2010
Var Guy, I'm not one of those "gloom and doom" types when it comes to Microsoft. I think they actually have a pretty bright future in the cloud especially when it comes to direct engagements with mid market customers. But (there's always a but) the question about partner profitability is a good one and I'm glad you took the time to ask Microsoft about partner concerns on SAAS pricing. It seems to me that if you don't "own" the code that's in the cloud, then you're merely an agent reselling somebody else's code for a very small fee. I'm not blaming Microsoft. This is a software industry issue rather than a profit issue. Allison Watson's reply to your question about cloud pricing suggests that partner profitability on cloud computing is still a work in progress. Frankie
on Mar 15, 2010
Matt: The VAR Guy has not heard if MSFT is planning any White Label BPOS changes. But our resident blogger will keep investigating. And surely, more answers will surface at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (July 11-15, 2010, Washington DC). -TVG
Matt Landis (not verified)
on Mar 13, 2010
At the moment we are evaluating BPOS along with some other vendors. We have interest in it for OCS but also sharepoint, exchange amp; livemeeting. BPOS has some pretty compelling features but I am very reluctant to promote something we are a simple "partner of record" change away from loosing our efforts. In all reality if we are providing value that shouldn't matter but the customer is tenously ours at the very best. Let's say we provide a sharepoint site catered to CPA's. If the client changes Partner-of-record--boom, there went our effort.. With intermedia we own the sharepoint. No simple POR change looses them. We can add $xx a month or something for our CPA IP. Intermedia's whitelabel model looks much more safe to me. Does anyone know if BPOS is considering any change in relation to whitelabel? Matt
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