Cloud tools give Microsoft partners a jump-start

The move aims to help partners deploy and support cloud-based offerings

Microsoft is giving its partners tools that could help drive more business to its cloud-based services.

At the company's annual Worldwide Partner Conference, being held this week in Washington, the new Microsoft channel chief unveiled programs that give Microsoft business partners free access to its cloud software as well as training.

"We're going to provide a wide array of tools to help partners both drive the deals and once they get the deals, then manage the customers from the support and deployment aspect," said Jon Roskill, who assumed the role of corporate vice president of the worldwide partner group on July 1.

While earlier in the week, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer extolled the virtues of Microsoft's cloud services to partners, Roskill detailed how Microsoft would help partners get their own services started.

One package, called the Microsoft Cloud Essentials Pack, will offer partners free use of Microsoft cloud software, as well as access to an expanded online directory of business opportunities in 46 countries.

With this program, the company is offering 250 free internal-use seat licenses for two online Microsoft services, Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) and Microsoft Dynamics Online, which is the company's customer relationship management service. Free licenses would also be available for Microsoft's InTune and Azure services as well, though Roskill did not specify how many free seats would be available for these services.

Microsoft will also offer a range of courses for how to work with BPOS, as well as free pre-sales phone support for partners who register with the company's advanced cloud program, called Microsoft Cloud Accelerate.

"We believe this will allow partners to quickly and effectively position BPOS solutions and resolve any issues that come up while they are going through the trial and deployment phases," he said.

In his talk, Roskill offered the audience a list of traits that the "most successful partners" of Microsoft would possess. For one, such companies would run the "latest and greatest" Microsoft software. "I've seen partners who are still running on Windows XP and on Linux, and those are great folks, but they won't be Microsoft's best partners," he said.

Secondly, the partners would need to understand their places in the ecosystem. "You all figured out your niche in the world -- construction, [telecommunication], multimedia. The most successful partners have a clear understanding of where they are operating," he said.

In his new role, Roskill will report to Vahé Torossian, corporate vice president of the worldwide small and midmarket solutions and partners group. Allison Watson, the former channel chief, will assume Roskill's former role as the U.S. head of business and marketing.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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