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Microsoft Lifts Cloud Channel Bar

Microsoft this week previewed a managed Azure cloud service addition to its cloud channel program that will formally be unfurled next week at the Microsoft Inspire 2018 conference along with a range of new partner certifications.

Gavriella Schuster

Cloud computing services continue to be the primary area of focus for Microsoft in the channel, which Gavriella Schuster, corporate vice president for the One Commercial Partner at Microsoft, describes as now being the equivalent of a “modern-day gold rush” for channel partners.

Microsoft is now seeing a 234 percent growth in the amount of revenue being generated by partners participating in its cloud service provider (CSP) program that currently consists of over 72,000 partners. Overall, Microsoft reports it says a 93 percent gain in Azure-related revenue in its most recent third quarter.

The new Azure Expert MSPs program is intended to recognize partners that have invested in developing services that are specific to the Microsoft cloud platform. Partners that attain this certification must complete a rigorous audit by an independent third party, and also provide multiple customer references for Azure managed services projects delivered over the last 12 months. To retain that badge, channel partners will need to continue to meet pre-requisites annually and complete an annual audit.

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Microsoft cloud services are the primary catalyst for a significant expansion of the overall Microsoft channel, says Schuster. Microsoft is now signing up new channel partners at a rate of 7,000 per month, says Schuster.

Next week will mark the first time Microsoft channel partners and the Microsoft sales teams will be attending annual meetings in the same location, which Schuster says is part of an ongoing Microsoft effort to better align its direct and indirect sales teams. For the first time, Schuster notes that the Microsoft sales team is now selling as much third-party products and services as Microsoft product and services in the wake a move last year to alter how Microsoft salespeople could attain their annual sales quotas.

In the last year, Microsoft and partners have also generated over $5 billion in revenue via that co-selling model, and have generated more than one million sales leads on behalf of partners, says Schuster. Microsoft is generating 100,000 leads per month across 28,000 applications and services through its app store alone, says Schuster. All told, Microsoft now has over 17 million direct and indirect sales people working collaboratively together to one degree or another, notes Schuster.

Schuster is encouraging partners to invest in artificial intelligence (AI) technologies that she says will ultimately provide the intellectual property (IP) required to differentiate themselves long term. Those technologies will drive digital business transformation opportunities that within the next five years will create a total addressable market valued at more than $4.5 trillion, says Schuster.

“The cloud opens that door,” says Schuster.

Naturally, the individual success partners will have tapping into those opportunities will vary widely. But the good news is that a flood of that magnitude will almost certainly lift all channel boats.

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