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Microsoft Azure- This Will Be Big

Microsoft Azure LogoTrust us, Microsoft Azure is worth understanding.  We’ve been in this business for a long time and certain technologies are essential to understand whether you sell them or services around them, use them or even if you use a competitive technology it’s good to know the field.

We’ll be creating many more blog posts about Microsoft Azure (formerly Windows Azure) over the coming months and we’re creating some training courses specifically for it.  For now though, read our blog post on how to buy Microsoft Azure and trust us.  Let’s examine some clues here:

  1. It’s no coincidence that Satya Nadella was the choice for replacing Steve Ballmer as Microsoft’s CEO; the fact he headed up the cloud and services division played a large part in that.
  2. Microsoft Azure keeps company with several other Microsoft divisions, including Windows, Xbox and Office, that bring in more than $1 billion of revenue per year
  3. Microsoft Azure revenue more than doubled (150% growth) between FY13 Q3 (Jan-Mar 2013) and FY14 Q3 (Jan-Mar 2014) according to Microsoft’s earning release
  4. Over 50% of Fortune 500 companies were on Azure as of July 2013
  5. Analysts such as Morgan Stanley are predicting enormous growth; exceeding that of Amazon Web Services (Morgan Stanley CIO Survey, 2013. “Percentage of Enterprise CIOs Greater than $1B/$10B expecting to use IaaS by YE2014”)
  6. Microsoft’s investment in its data centres provides the foundation for Azure; the new Azure Brazil South region, located in Sao Paulo state, is available for public preview and this is a huge step in cloud trust as it offers customers the ability to keep their data in-country.  Data sovereignty in Europe is sure to follow.

Microsoft SSA and PTS Accreditations

Microsoft likes the partner channel to speak the same language in terms of pre-sales activities.  To help achieve this, there are a number of accreditations that partners can take.  Some of these are mandatory in order to gain Microsoft competencies but they’re pretty useful anyway; for partners and customers alike.

The Specialist Sales Accreditation is ideal for the early stages of the sales cycle and covers product overviews, customer objections and competitive landscapes.  The Presales Technical Specialist is aimed at professionals who work in the later stages (demos, proof-of-concept, pilot) of the sales cycle.  Some staff will no doubt want to take both sets of accreditations.  They are all online exams, free to take and you can attempt them as many times as you need.  As I mentioned, these aren’t trying to be MCSA or MSCE certifications; they’re to keep partners up to date and prepared.

Imageframe delivers training for both of these accreditations and as part of our training we’ve produced summary cards to assist delegates when they take each exam.  We’d love for you to attend one of our sessions but because we like to be helpful, you can download a selection of these battlecards below.

PTS Small Business

PTS Communications

PTS Devices and Deployment

PTS Private Cloud, Virtualisation and Management

SSA Communications

SSA Devices and Deployment

SSA Private Cloud Virtualisation and Management

SSA Small Business


Building an Office 365 Practice

We’re proud to be working in conjunction with Ingram Micro to deliver a series of webinars aimed at small and medium business (SMB) partners who want to start or grow their Microsoft Cloud practice.  You can view each webinar live by registering through Ingram’s Learn smart website or you can view the recordings below.

Webinar 1: Office 365 from the ground to the cloud – the basics

Covering the initial information that every partner needs to start selling Office 365.

Webinar 2: Making money from selling Microsoft Cloud services

This webinar will detail the route to becoming a cloud partner, benefits to be aware of and ways to sell Office 365.

Webinar 3: Building your Office 365 practice

We look at targeting the most likely customers, objection handling and promotions.

Webinar 4: How to demonstrate Office 365 compellingly

This webinar will provide resources and demonstrations for partners to create effective pitches that sell Office.

Webinar 5: Cross-selling and upselling opportunities

Leverage Office 365 to increase the deal size whilst giving the customer value.

Webinar 6: Office 365 Fasttrack – how it can help you sell and deploy solutions

The Fasttrack program is a three-stage framework for rapidly piloting Office 365 and then moving that pilot into deployment.

Webinar 7: Broaden your cloud sale with Windows Azure and Windows Intune

The webinar will cover what Intune and Azure are and how partners can use them in their accounts.

Webinar 8: Preparing for exam 74-325 – Administering Office 365 for Small Business

The newest Office 365 is designed specifically for technical professionals within partners who sell Office 365 solutions to small and medium businesses. This webinar will provide details of resources and the content required to take the exam.


Cloud Essentials – Where Has It Gone?

Registered Microsoft partners who wanted to sell Office 365 and Windows Intune could join the Cloud Essentials program last year.  A large benefit of this was the internal use rights (IUR) for Office 365 and Dynamics CRM.  Cloud Essentials partners would receive 250 seats of E3 to run their company as well as 100 seats of Dynamics CRM.  It’s unlikely that a partner would use that many but the value of those seats alone totalled just under £96,000 per year.

Cloud Essentials no longer exists after February 2014 but what replaces it and how can you obtain IUR for cloud technologies?

I’m assuming you’re familiar with Cloud Essentials but if you’re not, feel free to email us and I’ll be happy to complete the picture.  Briefly, Cloud Essentials was the step required for small and medium business (SMB) partners to receive commission on cloud sales when a customer paid for those cloud services directly with Microsoft.  This step is no longer needed and every registered partner is now ready and enabled to sell cloud and earn fees.  So that’s a real positive.  There is a second tier called Cloud Accelerate which still exists until autumn and offers additional commission tiers for partners as they sell more cloud seats.  There is also Cloud Deployment which is specifically for partners selling cloud to larger enterprises and Azure Circle for partners with an Azure practice.  The following shows the roadmap for the Cloud programs and if you want to flourish as a Microsoft Cloud partner, you are encouraged to gain a competency.

Microsoft Advisor Programs

 

The internal use rights have become harder to obtain but this is a good thing.  Previously pretty much anyone could have obtained these IUR for free just be registering and taking a short multiple choice test.  That’s not what we need from a partner community; we want professional and dedicated partners in the industry; not thousands that just sign up for free software.  Partners must now gain a competency or subscribe to the Action Pack to enjoy IUR.

As a guide, Gold competency partners will receive 100 seats of Office 365 and Windows Intune and 60 seats of CRM Online.  Silver competency partners will receive 25 seats of Office 365 and Windows Intune and 15 seats of CRM Online.  Action Pack partners will receive 5 seats of Office 365 with the ability to earn 5 more seats once they complete an O365 sale of 25 seats.  They will also receive 5 seats of Windows Intune and can receive 5 seats of CRM Online once they sell a CRM Online subscription or 50 seats or Office 365.

All three levels will receive the added benefit of a $100 monthly Azure credit.

Partners will still have on-premises server licenses for development, testing, demonstration use and for internal training.  You can find out more by reading the Cloud IUR document and the MPN IUR page.


Handy Resources for Customers

I don’t know about you but my favourites list is longer than {insert your favourite tabloid celebrity here}’s list of ex-partners.  I’m trying to apply some minimalism and fit the most useful on this postcard which we’ll keep up to date.  Feel free to suggest any links you find useful and would like to share.

Update February 6th 2015 – handy list of Microsoft Azure Resources

Handy resource reference card

Office 365 Selector Tool for Partners

If you sell Microsoft Office 365, take a look at readytogo.microsoft.com where you’ll find a brand new Office 365 Plan Selector Tool.  The Excel-based tool recommends the appropriate Office 365 Plan based on your answers to your customer’s technology and productivity needs.

Partners new to the business will find this a bit limited and you’ll very quickly know the most appropriate plans for your customer after a few scenarios.  However this could be useful as a customer-facing tool in those initial sales discussions.  It does quote in US$ and link to the US Microsoft Office 365 pages – I’ve posted a comment to the developers to request an option to localise the tool.  This is the direct link to the tool.

My ulterior motive for this recommendation is to highlight Microsoft’s Ready To Go marketing site.  Half of Microsoft staff are sales and marketing and not enough partners utilise the resources that come out of this massive marketing machine.

Office 365 selector Screenshot

SQL Server 2014 Licensing Changes

When we talk to customers and partners about licensing, it’s lovely to see the light come on in people’s eye when they see that Microsoft licensing is not really that tricky.  Then we move onto SQL Server which always proves the exception to the rule.  To be fair SQL Server 2012 did simplify things somewhat and we’re glad to say now SQL Server 2014 has been released (1st April) the licensing stays unchanged for the most part.

Just two subtle changes.

One for high availability scenarios and the other for multiplexing with SQL Server Business Intelligence edition.

Passive Fail-Over

The rights to install and run a passive fail-over SQL Server have now moved to be a Software Assurance Benefit.  over servers terms will move to the Software Assurance (SA) Benefits section of the PUR and thus only applies to SQL Server licences covered with SA.

Before you grumble about reduced rights, let’s examine why Microsoft did this.  The passive server is considered ‘warm’ in that there’s no work offloaded from the primary server; it’s not clustered or load-balancing.  During a fail-over event the passive server becomes active and the licence is re-assigned.  If you don’t have Software Assurance (SA) on the SQL Server licence, the licence has to remain assigned to the newly active server for a period of at least 90 days.  This is a bit of an issue for customers; having the SQL workload remaining on the secondary server for so long before they could fail back to the primary active server.  Now the right to fail-over is granted through SA, customers can combine this with another SA benefit, Licence Mobility within a Server Farm, which allows customers to reassign licences between servers at will.  So moving the fail-over right to become an SA benefit just neatens up the flexibility to manage high availability SQL environments for both planned and unplanned downtime.

Batch Processing with Business Intelligence Edition

The second licensing update is just for SQL Server 2014 Business Intelligence Edition.  Microsoft are relaxing the multiplexing policy so it no longer requires a CAL for users or devices that access the BI server via a batch process.  It’s a common question: if you have a middle-tier application being accessed by lots of users and the middle-tier application is connecting to SQL for reporting for example, do all the users and devices need CALs? Typically, yes they did.  This is called multiplexing.

It caught many customers out so this licensing change goes some way to addressing the issue by enabling batch processing of data into SQL Server 2014 Business Intelligence edition without requiring CALs for the data sources supplying the data.  Batch Processing for this purpose is defined as an activity that allows a group of tasks occurring at different times to be processed all at the same time.

This only applies to SQL BI Edition.  All access to SQL 2014 Standard edition in the Server + CAL (Client Access Licence) model remain with all server access requiring a CAL.

SQL Server 2014 BI Multiplexing

Are there any other licensing changes in SQL Server 2014?

No.  There’s no impact to the Disaster Recovery SA benefit, which applies broadly across Server products that are covered with active SA.  Customers will still retain the benefit of installing and making available a cold SQL Server in a disaster recovery location.

The warm backup is the one we’ve described; active-passive.

And for active-active clusters there are no changes; full licensing applies to all server nodes in this type of configuration just like it has in the past.


How to utilise your SA Training Vouchers

If you have a volume licensing agreement with Microsoft you may have Software Assurance Training Vouchers as an included benefit.  Many customers let these lapse.  So here’s a brief guide on how to use them to fund training or demonstration days.

Verify Eligibility

Customers receive a number of training days based on the amount of their qualifying software licenses that are covered by Software Assurance.  Visit the Volume Licensing Service Centre (VLSC) or contact us to check your SA benefits.

Activate

Your benefits manager will go to the VLSC web site to activate the organisation’s SA training voucher benefit.  The benefit only has to be activated one time and the entire number of training days allotted to the organisation will be activated for use.

Create & Assign

In the SA Benefit Summary page, click Training Vouchers then click Create Training Voucher and assign the vouchers to employees by entering the employee name, corporate e-mail address and number of days the voucher is worth.  The training voucher will be electronically sent to the work e-mail address that you entered.

Schedule

Contact us to schedule your course and provide the code found in the voucher confirmation email.

Video on using SATV

Watch an informative Video demonstrating how to Activate, Create, Assign and Schedule Training.


Microsoft Presales Technical Accreditation for Small Business

We are running a series of evening events for Microsoft called Technights.  These are across the UK and offer a great chance to meet and discuss with Microsoft representatives as well as other partners.  We’ll cover Windows 8.1, Office 365, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Azure and Windows Intune in a format which encourages questions and discussion.  The event also prepares you to take the new Small Business Presales Technical Assessment.

See here for details of the schedule and how to register.

You can also download the content below.

PST Small Business v1