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Microsoft zeroed in on a handful of areas where it can help Microsoft channel partners drive profitability and growth during the company's 2020 fiscal year, which began July 1.
Gavriella Schuster, corporate vice president, One Commercial Partner at Microsoft, outlined the opportunities at Microsoft Inspire, the company's annual partner meeting, which will run through July 18 in Las Vegas. The event followed a week of controversy in which partners objected to Microsoft's plans to restrict internal use rights (IUR), a move which would have caused some channel firms to incur licensing fees. The objections prompted Microsoft to rescind the unpopular policy.
Schuster addressed the partner feedback during Microsoft Inspire's opening session. She told the audience she listened to what partners had to say and read all the blogs, tweets and articles emanating from the IUR policy: "In my mind, there was really no choice but for us to walk back on that change."
Microsoft's partner initiative may stumble, Schuster added, but she said the company will continue to listen to partners and "celebrate our wins together."
Microsoft Inspire cites security, Azure opportunities
With the latter in mind, Schuster cited security as one area of focus for FY 2020 partner growth. "It all starts and ends with security," she said.
Schuster cited Rackspace's Office 365 security-as-a-service offering as an example of how partners can create a platform on which it can provide additional services. Rackspace has built a security assessment service around Microsoft 365 that it deploys remotely to identify gaps in customers' environments. Rackspace can then offer remediation services to address security vulnerabilities.
The recent ending of support for SQL Server 2008 and the coming end of life for Windows Server 2008 will make Microsoft Azure a channel partner opportunity during FY 2020. "This is the year of Azure cloud migrations," Schuster said.
She said Microsoft estimated 60% of its server installed base continues to run Windows Server 2018 and SQL Server 2018, describing the migration from those platforms as a $50 billion market opportunity partners "should be going after right now."
Customers remaining on those sunsetting platforms are "vulnerable and exposed," encouraging partners to migrate clients' virtual machines into Azure.
Schuster described an Accenture-Avanade go-to-market strategy as a pattern for other partners to consider. Accenture and Avanade, an Accenture and Microsoft joint venture company, identify a server workload, perform a cloud assessment and immediately start migrating it to the cloud, Schuster explained. That initial workload lets the partner build a business case that can justify additional workload migrations.
Gavriella SchusterCorporate vice president, One Commercial Partner, Microsoft
This approach can start with Windows Server but also extend to other workloads, such as SAP. Windows Server migrations to Azure can become a catalyst for a "whole new set of services" for Microsoft channel partners.
Microsoft is providing tools to help partners take on the anticipated bevy of Azure projects. The company earlier this month unveiled Azure Lighthouse, a multi-tenant offering for managing Azure deployments.
Partner work does not end with shifting customer workloads to Azure. Cloud migrations unleash customer data, which, in turn, creates additional partner openings in AI and analytics, according to Schuster.
Teams, PowerApps on the 2020 agenda
Microsoft also pointed to its Teams collaboration software as a FY 2020 opportunity that Schuster said is on a faster growth trajectory than SharePoint's climb a decade ago. Other growth drivers the company listed included PowerApps, a low-code development product for professional and citizen developers. Partners can use PowerApps to create applications on Dynamics 365, for example.
Judson Althoff, executive vice president of Microsoft's Worldwide Commercial Business, mentioned PowerApps in the context of his "democratizing digital" concept, which aims to enable more people to participate in the digital economy. At Microsoft Inspire, Althoff cited the need to "empower … elite developers around the world to enable the citizen developers" as one aspect of the democratization process. He identified the GitHub collaboration platform for software developers and Microsoft's Power Platform, which includes PowerApps, as tools to execute on that vision.