Microsoft To Rally Partners to the Cloud

Microsoft's highest ranking partner executive on Wednesday plans to outline the company's cloud vision and what it means to Microsoft's partner ecosystem.

Allison Watson, corporate vice president of Microsoft's worldwide partner group, will hold a Webcast on March 10 on the topic at the Microsoft partner portal here. The talk will air at 11:00 a.m. Pacific Standard Time (2:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time) and will be available for replay.

Company officials aren't providing details about what Watson will discuss, although Watson gave a slight hint on Twitter last week.

"The Q&A at the end about the importance of public and private clouds is a key differentiator for MSFT partners," she wrote.

Watson was alluding to a speech by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer last week announcing that the software giant is betting its business on the cloud. Ballmer said that 70 percent of its software makers were currently working on cloud-based solutions and he expected it to jump to 90 percent in a year.

"We need to permit the private cloud," Ballmer said, speaking at the University of Washington on Thursday. "The kinds of things we're doing with Windows Azure is about making sure there's a public version and there's a customer version, and there can be a government version, all based on the same core technology."

One of Microsoft's cloud offerings is its Business Productivity Online Suite, a bundle of solutions powered by hosted versions of Microsoft Exchange, Office and SharePoint. The company also offers Windows Azure and SQL Azure cloud computing services, which were launched last month.

The cloud will touch on everything from end-user devices (ranging from Xbox to mobile devices) to private clouds based on next-generation datacenter technology, Ballmer said in the speech. He showcased the company's "cloud in a box" approach, which creates datacenters using shipping containers, each filled with about 10,000 servers.

The cloud will create challenges for customers and partners alike, said Tyson Hartman, CTO of Avanade, a solution provider that is a joint venture of Accenture and Microsoft.

"Certainly it will be good when enterprises can buy that much compute power in a container and have it hauled up to their building and plugged in, but we shouldn't trivialize some of the complexity there," Hartman said. "How will it be managed, how will it be operated, how do you get visibility to it? Are you managing it? Are third parties managing it? I think there are a lot of issues. Although it looks neat, and sounds really awesome, practically there are a lot of issues to work out."

Still, Microsoft's partners will be along for the ride, according to Bill Zack, an architect evangelist at Microsoft's developer and platform group.

"He [Ballmer] emphasized that we and our partners are committed to delivering a broad set of enterprise ready products and design services that build on what you already know," Zack said in a blog posting.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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