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As Microsoft Azure Evolves, Channel Opportunities Expand

Cloud Computing
PlumChoice's David Houser

David Hauser

By David Hauser, VP of Cloud Services at PlumChoice

Fueled by its Azure business, Microsoft is poised to be well positioned in the office productivity space for years to come, and channel partners are going to benefit as a result.

This was a clear theme that resonated during Microsoft Ignite, a four-day conference of about 25,000 Microsoft IT professionals in late September in Orlando.

It is evident from the flurry of product announcements throughout 2017 and at Ignite, that Microsoft is moving toward a vision of a single cloud platform. The direction under CEO Satya Nadella is to use Azure to increase the stickiness of Microsoft products, to make it more likely customers will get deeper into the ecosystem as their businesses grow.

Here are a few highlights I collected from Ignite and my take on how they impact channel partners:

  • Continued convergence: Experiences across the Microsoft product line are converging, with cloud, artificial intelligence and mixed reality permeating the ecosystem, preparing customers for the future of business. Examples of this include how Microsoft is moving administrative interfaces for its products into Azure, and how it’s integrating Skype into Microsoft Teams, which will become the new hub for collaboration through Office 365. It’s challenging for small businesses to stay informed of all these product shifts and determine the best way to maximize their investments in Microsoft products. Channel partners need to ensure they have the expertise to explain – and then execute – a clear road map, or partner with service providers able to help you help small-business customers not only migrate to the cloud but fully utilize all of the features available to run their businesses effectively.
  • Azure is vastly improved: Microsoft continues to add exciting new capabilities to Azure, including machine learning and modern database offerings. These give businesses the tools to be even more productive as their workloads move to the cloud. Yet there are still challenges with Azure for SMBs: They need to figure out how to move workloads into the cloud, and how to manage that activity. More SMBs are considering Azure for backup and disaster recovery, and their interest in other Azure capabilities will continue growing. Channel partners will need to offer a portfolio of services that leverage Azure and meet SMBs’ specific business requirements in a consultative fashion.
  • Security is emphasized: Given the large number of high-profile data breaches and cyber attacks over the past year, it’s no surprise that virtually every session our team attended at Microsoft Ignite emphasized security. Microsoft is making security a key design component for Office, Windows, Enterprise Mobility + Security, Azure — throughout its portfolio. Moving forward, channel partners need to build services or partner to include security as part of their overall service-design approach. Effective delivery of these services is critical to protecting customers’ information and assets by leveraging all of the security features of the Microsoft product portfolio.

The entire Microsoft ecosystem is becoming more complicated, which means …

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