Microsoft Talks Cloud, Office 365, But Not Billing

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print

Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) day two was all about the cloud, the amazing advances it promises, and the products to get us there, but not so much about issue of Microsoft's direct billing.

While keynote addresses on Microsoft’s second day of its Worldwide Partner Conference were all about cloud and mobility, no mention was made about the issue that’s been at the crux of why many partners have been slow to adopt Microsoft BPOS and Microsoft Office 365. Who owns the billing?

VARs and MSPs want to bundle Office 365 into the services they sell to customers and present those customers with a single bill. But so far Microsoft has only named a handful of large service providers and telcos who will handle their own Office 365 billing. Microsoft will offer commissions to other channel partners, but will bill directly.

Microsoft channel chief Jon Roskill told channel partners that more than 200,000 customers had participated in the beta of Office 365 and since the formal launch of the service two weeks ago another 50,000 had signed up. Kurt DelBene, president of the Microsoft Office Division urged partners to get onboard with the cloud-based productivity solution, promising improved commissions.

"We really believe Office 365 is a conversation you should be having with your customers," he told partners. Why? For one, Office 365 does not work with Office 2003.

Another reason, according to Kirill Tatarinov, president of Microsoft Business Solutions, is that the update to Microsoft Dynamics that is coming in Q4 will include integration with Office 365 making Dynamics a part of the Office 365 interface and providing customers with a single bill.

Microsoft also announced Dynamics ERP RapidStart Services designed to help partners quickly configure and set up consistent and repeatable steps common across the life cycle of an ERP deployment. Built on the Azure platform, the service will be available in September for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, Microsoft said.

Microsoft executives described a world of devices connecting to cloud-based applications, allowing users to access their information in a familiar format regardless of their location or device.

"Today’s user is smart, connected, and expects everything she needs on every device she touches," Roskill said.

On the infrastructure side Microsoft executives pointed to the momentum of Hyper-V, their server virtualization technology which ships free with Windows Server. HyperV has doubled its market share in the past year and moved into the Gartner leadership quadrant, said Satya Nadella, president of the Server and Tools business at Microsoft.

He also announced the availability of a community technology preview of the new Microsoft SQL Server codenamed Denali, which includes Project "Crescent" for visual data exploration and SQL Server Developer Tools codename "Juneau." An on stage presentation of Denali drew robust applause from channel partners at the Staples Center stadium during Tuesday’s keynote.

Nadella noted that Microsoft and partner designs over the last year have won 12,000 SQL Server deals. In addition, he said, 30,000 partners have been trained on Windows Azure.

Nadella said that one of the next products set for release is Systems Center 2012 which will have the capability to configure, monitor, move applications around, spanning both public and private.

"We will continue to push the envelope," he said. "It’s about the application and the application management."

Microsoft’s server lineup will soon feature Windows Server 8, which includes Hyper-V Replica enabling asynchronous secure replication of virtual machines to a backup site. The function can be performed over the network, it can be scheduled or it can be done to attached media.

"Cloud computing is as big a transformation as we have ever seen and, together with our partners, Microsoft will help customers through the shift," Nadella said.


Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com