'Thumbs up' for Microsoft shift on SaaS

'Thumbs up' for Microsoft shift on SaaS

Local Microsoft partners have welcomed how the company laid out its strategy to transition from a traditional software vendor to a provider of software-plus-services.

At the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Denver this month, CEO Steve Ballmer for the first time set out in clear terms the company’s plans to respond to the growing software-as-a-service trend.

Microsoft is moving towards a software-plus-services model that will include a hybrid of traditional software and web-based services, hosted by Microsoft, its partners or both.

Although saying that the majority of Microsoft’s business with partners in the short-term will continue to be with traditional software, Ballmer acknowledged the time for hosted services has come.

“The era of software-plus-services is beginning – the time is now,” he said, inviting partners to get onto this bandwagon with Microsoft.

New Zealand partners attending the event welcomed this straight-up approach.

Microsoft’s response to software and services makes sense, says Jodi Mitchell general manager of global services at Simpl. “It is practical – the world has been like that for a while.

I was worried they would come out totally against software-as-a-service and try and fight it.”

This would have put partners in a difficult position, as sometimes a hybrid model is the best option for a customer, says Mitchell.

Jay Miley, managing director of Microsoft distributor Ingram Micro, says a software-plus-services model will help Microsoft and its partners serve customers better by giving them more choices in how software is delivered.

“It boils down to choice. Everyone has to do what’s right for the end customer. Microsoft has to provide customers with a variety of vehicles to procure and customers will make a choice as to which route they go.”

However, Miley is not concerned that distributors will be left out of the loop, saying Microsoft displayed a clear commitment to all its channel partners at the conference. “I walked away from the conference with the clear understanding that Microsoft recognises the value the channel provides them – all the way from distributors to resellers.”

Paul Plester, general manger of Express Data, agrees distributors will have a role to play in Microsoft’s software-plus-services plans. “It will be all about blended opportunities.”

Plester adds that managed services deliver great benefits to a country like New Zealand, especially in light of the current IT skills shortage.

“There are a lot of small to medium-sized businesses in New Zealand who want trusted partners to provide the resources they need.”

Axon northern regional manager Simon Goode meanwhile was encouraged Microsoft carefully included partners in its software-plus-services strategy, which the integrator will keep a close eye on.

“It is encouraging that they feel one of their five competitive advantages is their partner ecosystem.”

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