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Microsoft opens up more services to Gold partners

Microsoft is making more of its services, deliverables and even personnel, available to its top-tier partners.

Microsoft is making more of its services experience, deliverables and even personnel, available to its top-tier Gold partners.

This week, the company unveiled the Services Ready program for select Gold VARs. The program will provide these partners with pre-sale and delivery tools, templates and best practices that can be applied in prospective accounts.

That means that a qualified Gold partner trying to close a hot virtualization deal can use Microsoft's own intellectual property -- and even bring in a Microsoft consultant -- to get the deed done.

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It's not free. Invited VARs have to pay $20,000 to qualify three employees for the program. That fee, to recover Microsoft's costs, "gets the partners into a classroom environment with a consultant to spend time on best practices -- [it's] the best way to roll out the technology and the best way to get the customer up to speed fast," said Wayne Prentiss, director of services partners for Microsoft Services.

Only a handful of Microsoft's 16,000 Gold partners worldwide will be asked to participate. And Microsoft is concentrating on the hottest, biggest-opportunity technology areas, including virtualization. Microsoft is making a huge server virtualization push with HyperV, App-V application virtualization and related technologies, and is also eyeing VMware.

Participating partners include Hewlett-Packard Services, Navantis, Sogeti and Virteva, Microsoft said.

Microsoft Gold partners -- there are roughly 6,000 in North America -- have long complained that the company hasn't helped them differentiate themselves or bolster their margins. In theory, this effort could lead to faster installations which would lead to referrals and more business.

John Kvasnic, CEO of Toronto-based Navantis Inc. said this effort won't necessarily help a parter distinguish itself from rival VARs, "but it does help you to to your customers with a full solution, and as systems integrators, we go in and sell that capability."

Navantis does a lot of work in virtualization, unified communications and Microsoft Systems Center systems management, and focuses on healthcare, energy and government verticals.

VARs that have tight relationships with Microsoft often already go into customer accounts with Microsoft consultants and architects, but Services Ready institutionalizes a program. "Until now, these were all one-off arrangements," Kvasnic said.

Last year at the company's Worldwide Partner Conference, Microsoft Services chief Maria Martinez discussed the company's plan to make more internally developed best practices and training available to its partners.

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