Jon Roskill has only been VP of Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group for thirteen days, which means that this week’s partner conference was really his first chance to talk to the IT channel directly. His message? Microsoft is committed to providing tools designed help their partners take advantage of cloud opportunities. Here’s the scoop.

Roskill previewed the contents of his Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2010 (WPC10) keynote in a blog entry, and he pointed at a bevy of new cloud tools for partners, including:
  • Microsoft Cloud Essentials, a pack coming later in 2010 which includes a year’s worth of Internal Use Rights for 250 Microsoft BPOS and CRM Online licenses, Microsoft partner marketplace listing, marketing resources, pre-sales and technical support, and enhanced training tools. That first year’s subscription will be free for members of the Microsoft Partner Network.
  • Microsoft Cloud Accelerate, a certification program for “the most cloud-committed partners” who meet “ a premium level of requirements” will get priority marketplace listing, a Cloud Accelerate Badge for their website, and other benefits to be announced later. Cloud Accelerate officially launches in November, but Roskill’s keynote indicated that current partners may be able to get the badge sooner.
  • Business Builder for Cloud Services and the Cloud Profitability Modeler, designed to help partners make better decisions about how to deploy cloud services to different market segments, from small business all the way up to large enterprise, are available now to Microsoft partners.
“I hope that at the end of this week every one of our partners is as excited as we are about the huge potential in the cloud, and the opportunity it offers to leapfrog computing innovation forward, and serve customers even better than we have before,” Roskill wrote in the blog post.

Indeed, 250 BPOS licenses alone aren’t cheap -- it’s clear that Roskill really wants Microsoft VARs to give BPOS a spin and get moving on getting to the cloud. Roskill himself says that he sees partners driving Microsoft's growth into the cloud, using language like "hand-in-hand."

The VAR Guy has criticized Microsoft a bit before for being all talk when it comes to the cloud, but it looks like they’re finally putting their money where their mouth is.

Still, some questions remain. Some VARs still worry about thin BPOS margins. Others worry about Microsoft directly billing customers without VARs involved. But overall, Roskill and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer delivered strong messages at this year's conference -- though Microsoft's own consumer product previews stole some of Roskill's cloud thunder.

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