By Scott Bekker, Editor in Chief
REDMOND – December 4, 2012 – Microsoft on Tuesday launched Cloud Deployment, a program for systems integration (SI) partners that is designed to drive successful Office 365 implementations with large customers.
To qualify for the program, partners must belong to Microsoft’s Cloud Accelerate program and have a gold or silver competency in Messaging. To get in Cloud Accelerate, partners must have sold at least three deals totaling at least 150 seats among other requirements.
“We’re lining it up with our Enterprise Agreement motion,” Jon Roskill, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group, said in an interview. “We’ve got [large account resellers] in conjunction with our account teams out selling Enterprise Agreements that have Office 365 attached. We have a lot of traction on the selling side. We want to complement that with another partner motion.”
With larger customers, many Office 365 deals involve hybrid deployments with part in the cloud and part of the infrastructure remaining on-premise. Roskill said those deployments usually range from a mixed Exchange environment, with some on-premise and some in the cloud, to a mixed product environment, in which Exchange might be entirely cloud but it would integrate with on-premise Microsoft servers such as SharePoint or Lync.
Roskill said the new program will help Microsoft and LARs connect customers with partners who have the expertise required to make those implementations work. The program will also include deployment funding for the SI partner on a per-seat basis.
“We’ll be talking to the customer about a range of resources that can help them activate into the cloud. It could include Microsoft Consulting advising from an architecture perspective or it can include a couple different types of partners,” Roskill said.
Catapult Systems Inc., an Austin, Texas-based Microsoft National Systems Integrator, has been helping Microsoft test the program since this fall, said Sean McNeill, a managing consultant at Catapult and an Office 365 Technical Evangelist. Catapult, which boasts 21 competencies, including gold in Messaging, and also placed seventh on RCP‘s “Most Competent Partners” list in July, also joined the Cloud Accelerate program when it started a few years ago.
“We’ve been in [Cloud Deployment] a couple of months now, and it’s been very beneficial,” McNeill said.
The top benefit by far has been a new dedicated partner support team that allows partners to bypass the first and second tiers of Microsoft support, McNeill said. “When we run into any roadblocks or any issues in implementation, we can go directly to third-level engineering support within Microsoft,” he said.
McNeill also said that he’s seeing a second-order benefit of Cloud Deployment — it’s serving as a clearinghouse for best practices knowledge. “Microsoft learns about implementation from partners, as well. That information is shared through this program with all these partners. One example would be identity federation — ‘Here are some possible gotchas and here is the quick workaround,'” he said.
Other concrete benefits of Cloud Deployment cited by McNeill are intensive partner training opportunities, such as Ignite training sessions and solution alignment workshops, and a deployment readiness tool.
Roskill said more benefits are being developed for Cloud Deployment, which is serving as a model for other programs coming from the Microsoft Partner Network.
McNeill expects that the program, by leveraging the strength of the Microsoft ecosystem, will help that same ecosystem in the cloud market. “Google is out there. This shows the real strong partnership between the provider being Microsoft and the partners. Microsoft has the strong channel,” he said.