by Ron Grattopp…..I’ll bet all of us have heard that phrase on a flight followed by the crew’s thanks for your business.  This post isn’t so much about thanking you for your loyalty – it should be a given that we appreciate your partnership – but rather pointing out a couple of key examples of some recent cases where some high-visibility System Integrators have chosen to “fly” on the Microsoft cloud platform.  But this isn’t just about highlighting a couple of wins, if you read ALL of this post you’ll see that I’m actually introducing you to some research that will help you identify some key considerations in your decision on the cloud platform vendor that you’ll be using.

http://www.thevarguy.com/2010/10/05/saas-former-google-partner-embraces-microsoft-bpos-migrations/
http://www.thevarguy.com/2010/10/07/systems-integrator-laurus-bets-on-microsoft-cloud/

I suspect most of you are familiar with The VAR Guy blog, if not you will be now.  The first case he highlights is Binary Tree, a former Google Enterprise Partner, who has chosen to fly, apparently exclusively on the Microsoft cloud platform.  One of the reasons Binary Tree gives for making the move is the “overwhelming global demand for BPOS migrations versus Google Apps.”  They cite the greater functionality of BPOS, as well as its more established enterprise security as main factors – these should be well-known differentiators to those of you who are using and selling Microsoft Online Services (MOS).  But the article goes on to point out one, more subtle, differentiator that I wanted to call out here.  If you’ve heard one of TS2’s MOS/BPOS presentations, then you’ve probably heard us tout the point that Microsoft provides a cloud “roadmap”, which means we lay out, as we do for all of our software, especially the enterprise stuff, a strategy and timeframe for updates we make to our software.  In this case, you should know that we plan quarterly updates to online apps and that those updates are published and can be opted out of if IT so chooses.  On the other hand, Google automatically slipstreams their feature updates, so as the Binary Tree person states: “customers feel like they’re never sure what exactly they buying with Google Apps deployment”.  In other words, it means (from an IT perspective) never being totally sure about what your cloud-based app suite will look like next week or next month.  Getting new stuff automatically works well for the consumer space where Google generally works, but is less effective, and potentially a negative, in corporate environments where support is required and control and standardization are key elements of keeping the IT wheels turning efficiently.

The second article highlights Laurus Technologies, who are not moving to MOS from other platforms but rather who are “starting a whole new Microsoft Solutions Practice” around our cloud technologies.  Laurus also states one of their motivations was the fact that they see “a demand for Microsoft-based solutions in the IT marketplace”, similar to Binary Tree, although there was no deeper discussion of their decision process.  But, as I stated above, this post isn’t really about the companies above, it’s about helping you with some thoughts around how to evaluate cloud vendors so that you’ll make the best decision for your company, but, of course, I’m also pretty confident that you’ll find our cloud platform to be the one you want to fly on like Binary Tree and Laurus did.

At this point I want to introduce an article on CRN, by Rauline Ochs, called Shopping For Cloud Vendors.  In her article she lays out the 4 main questions that IPED research showed are the key questions you should be considering as you make the choice of which airline, I mean cloud platform, you should fly with.  I’m hoping you’re already on the road to becoming the cloud-savvy, trusted advisor that your customers will need in the coming years, but if you haven’t gotten that far (and see my next post about that subject), then let me quickly do an overview of Rauline’s cloud vendor questions with a brief thought around each one on why you should choose Microsoft, as Binary Tree, Laurus, and literally thousands of other partners have:

1) the number one question is: What is the vendor's place within the cloud?  Well, she mentions the 3 cloud segments (IasS, PaaS, and SaaS) as well as public, private cloud and even hybrid with the idea that you should be looking for what fits best for you.  The good news here (for us) is that Microsoft is the only vendor I’m aware of that can help you provide solutions that span all three segments AND public-private cloud and even hybrid environments.  Wow, that’s flexibility and potential opportunity.  And, it means that you’ll have less integration work to do while providing high value which means more efficiency and ultimately more revenue for you.

2) What is the vendor's partner strategy?  She points out several important things here, but at the end of the day, you know Microsoft has a strong partner/channel orientation and history, and even though some don’t understand, or like, some of our current online services distribution models, we are fundamentally about partners and the channel, not search supported advertising, and that we are investing literally billions of $$$ to make sure that we’re still around for you in 2020 and beyond and constantly improving the platform to reach even higher value heights and thus more sales opportunities for you.

3)  Her 3rd question is: What is the vendor's remote monitoring and management strategy?  Her discussion centers mostly around managed services, and she points out the complexity of hybrid environments and how important it is to support monitoring and management and interoperability.  Well, I don’t believe any other vendor has the monitoring and management portfolio that Microsoft does, but the key aspect here is how all this integrates with MSP platforms and offerings, and again, I don’t know of another cloud vendor that has the management chops that Microsoft has in this area (check out DriveTime for Partners: Openness: Interoperability and the Cloud).  Oh, and stay tuned for Intune (a cloud-based client management offering coming next year), which has already garnered some very positive buzz from the SMB partners who have seen it.  And, lastly,

4) What is the vendor's value proposition? Her key point here is an important one for many of you: “Look for a clear view of its investment in transformational training to help you make changes to your sales, marketing, service delivery capabilities and operations. The best and brightest are investing in education to ensure you are profitable in this new era.”  I’ll be honest here, I haven’t done an exhaustive evaluation of other vendors’ training and aids but I’m really confident in saying that I’ve not heard of any other vendor who consistently puts out the amount of information and free training material that Microsoft does, through it public websites (e.g. TechNet, MSDN, microsoft.com product and solution sites, etc) and the partner portal (Partner Learning Center and Learning Plans).  And for business training check out my buddy Woody’s blog post (Business Model Transformation Series) which I’ll also discuss in my next post.

Cheers,

Ron

Microsoft on Cloud Computing