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November 16, 2020 |

Microsoft Sees Untapped Revenue for Partners in the Cloud

Though adoption of cloud solutions has skyrocketed this year due to the coronavirus, channel chief Gavriella Schuster (pictured) encourages partners to pursue additional opportunities in managed services, office reopening solutions, and virtual desktops too.

2020 has been a year defined by COVID and the cloud for everyone in IT, and especially for Microsoft

Indeed, fueled by the global stampede to work-from-home computing spurred by the coronavirus pandemic, Microsoft has seen sales of both its Azure platform and SaaS applications skyrocket. Microsoft Teams, for example, had 115 million daily active users as of last month, up from 20 million a year earlier. Revenue in the industry giant’s “Intelligent Cloud” segment, meanwhile, rose 20% year over year to $13 billion in the first quarter of the fiscal year that began July 1st, and Azure revenue spiked 48%.

Partners have cashed in on surging cloud adoption too, but Microsoft sees additional openings for partners beyond simply reselling cloud products. Change management and managed services for Teams users are good examples, along with security, according to Gavriella Schuster, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s One Commercial Partner organization.

“With the continuing need for remote work, it’s important that companies feel safe and secure with their IT environment, whether it’s on-prem, in the cloud, or in a hybrid state,” she observes. Microsoft recently introduced an advanced specialization in threat protection, Schuster adds, to help partners validate their capabilities in securing Microsoft 365, Azure Defender, Microsoft Cloud App Security, and Azure Sentinel workloads.

Though COVID-19 infection rates are higher than ever, meanwhile, businesses will eventually need help reopening shuttered offices safely. To streamline that process, Microsoft introduced a return to the workplace solution based on its Power Platform business intelligence toolset in July.

“There is no handbook for how organizations reopen during a pandemic, but when they are ready to do so, this solution provides location readiness and safety tools for facility managers, self-service health and safety tools for employees, and case management tools for health and safety leaders,” Schuster says, noting that partners will be needed to deploy, customize, and support that system.

“For some partners this will likely be more of a focus in 2021 and 2022, but [it’s] something we encourage cloud partners to begin thinking about now,” Schuster says.

There’s plenty of upside in selling newer members of Microsoft’s cloud solution family too, she continues, pointing to Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) in particular. Businesses with remote workers increasingly view cloud-based desktops as a secure way to provide anywhere access to data while collecting additional advantages.

“It serves as a gateway for new customers who have not yet moved to the cloud, and simplifies licensing, and minimizes costs since it’s already included with licenses that many customers with Microsoft 365 products already own,” Schuster says of WVD.

IDC expected spending on desktop-as-a-service solutions to reach $2.99 billion in 2021 even before the coronavirus outbreak made DaaS more relevant. Microsoft is already seeing accelerated momentum for WVD.

“The growth trajectory for Windows Virtual Desktop was already steep before the pandemic,” Schuster says. “As organizations around the world switched to working remotely, demand started growing exponentially across industries.”

The abrupt switch to remote work also imposed big new demands on Microsoft partners, Schuster notes. 

“For Microsoft partners, the challenges brought by the pandemic meant they had to not only navigate modifications to their own businesses, but also support a meteoric rise in demand for cloud migration from customers,” she says. “Thankfully, our partners were ready for that surge. They stepped up. It has been incredible to see how agile and innovative our partners have been and how many businesses they’ve been able to support.”

To help them scale cloud practices rapidly, Schuster says, Microsoft rolled out a variety of enablement resources and best practices advice. “We also made some program adjustments to offer partners more flexibility to support business continuity,” she adds. Those included raising financial incentives, providing technical training sessions virtually, and lengthening qualification timelines for competencies and advanced specializations—partners with anniversary dates between July 1 and December 31 are now eligible to extend their existing competencies through their next anniversary date in 2021.

Microsoft will introduce new cloud-related competencies and specializations as well, like the Windows Virtual Desktop specialization it unveiled in September, Schuster adds.

The company has also been adding opportunities for members of its Cloud Solution Provider program to bundle Microsoft cloud products and third-party solutions from Microsoft’s cloud marketplace with their own solutions and services. A new management system named Microsoft 365 Lighthouse, which Microsoft announced in September, is designed to make supporting Microsoft 365 customers easier for SMB partners.

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