This month 16,000 people descended on Washington DC for Microsoft’s annual Worldwide Partner Conference (Microsoft WPC). This is my 8th WPC and it is always interesting to see how the company repositions itself and its partners for their new fiscal year.
I attended numerous keynotes, meetings, and networking events onsite and even reviewed the 250+ slide decks. Their overarching objective was to align partners with Microsoft’s “cloud first, mobile first” world view. This is a slight shift from the “services and devices” theme from last year and gets more specific about Microsoft priorities: Office 365 and Azure cloud consumption and Windows 8 device deployment.
Office 365 has had a truly amazing run (Microsoft’s fastest growing product and $1B+ in revenue), especially considering the desktop suite was considered to be reaching maturity just a few years ago. Microsoft has activated an army of partners that sell Office 365 and extend it with deployment, project services, managed services, and packaged IP. Microsoft and IDC assert that having a smoother, more predictable revenue flow based on Office 365 recurring revenue results in higher company valuations (relative to the unpredictability of project-based consulting). One of the key WPC messages was to manage renewals (leveraging Microsoft notification tools) to keep that recurring revenue stream flowing.
Azure has been Microsoft’s cloud platform play for the past 6 years (initially announced at PDC 2008) and driving consumption is a top priority for Microsoft. This includes expanding Azure into new customer scenarios and encouraging corporate customers to utilize Azure subscriptions attached to their Enterprise Agreements.
New cloud innovations were showcased at WPC for predictive modeling (Azure ML) and tapping into the Internet of Things (IoT) momentum (Azure ISS). By 2020, IoT is forecasted to encompass 26B devices, creating large quantities of data & generating >$300B in revenue for IoT suppliers. There is clear alignment with Microsoft’s goal of providing the world’s IT infrastructure.
Microsoft’s key cloud differentiation for corporate IT includes having a common management UI, identity management, and virtualization model across private, public, and hybrid cloud implementations. Windows Server 2003 End-of-Support represents a catalyst for partners to move customers to private and hybrid cloud implementations on Hyper-V. VMware and Amazon better watch out because Microsoft’s all-encompassing, “better together” strategy has proven to work many times before.
The partner program is evolving to encourage and recognize Microsoft partners skilled with cloud solutions. A new Cloud Platform “competency” was defined to acknowledge partners with Azure platform skills. Server Platform and Management & Virtualization competencies merge to become the Datacenter competency. In addition, cloud licensing has been extended to the midmarket channel by offering it as part of the Open (SMB) licensing offerings.
There wasn’t the same level of demo sizzle this year partly because many innovations are under in the form of cloud infrastructure and Cortana isn’t ready for broad exposure. The crowd favorite was a live demo featuring Skype language translation: an English and German speaker were having a conversation in their native languages while Skype provided the real-time audio conversion. Big Data, Enterprise Social, and Mobility & Devices were the other key themes represented at this year’s WPC. There was also plenty of Dynamics sessions.
All in all, it was an efficient networking event and a great platform for Microsoft to consolidate its FY15 messaging and activate their partner ecosystem. If you work in the Microsoft partner ecosystem, it is important to review WPC messaging so your marketing, sales, and development efforts are aligned. See “Microsoft Partnership” in the ISV Strategy Blog tag cloud for more tips on working with Microsoft.
Congratulations to ICONICS (a Competegy client) for winning a Microsoft Partner of the Year award at WPC this year. Microsoft WPC will be in Orlando, FL next year and they’ve already opened registration. Perhaps I’ll see you there!