The imminent launch of the Azure Cloud platform dominated discussions at Microsoft Annual Partner Conference held on the Gold Coast last week, as the software vendor outlined its plan to help strengthen its partner eco-system profitability.
Microsoft's theme for the year was 'Create Incredible', based upon new global CEO, Satya Nadella's 'Cloud-first, mobile first' strategy. As such, Microsoft used the conference to show off its new Surface Pro 3 tablet, Nokia's new Lumia 930, and push the PR on Microsoft's infrastructure Cloud platform, Azure, which has seen two local datacentres set up, but no formal Australian release date.
Microsoft Australia's managing director, Pip Marlow, opened the event by celebrating 30 years of Microsoft in Australia, during which time it has grown from 15 staff members to 1000, and now boasts a Channel market "11,000 partners strong" she said.
Australia has regularly been used to pilot new products and Marlow said that, as a result, the local arm has "a special place" in the global Microsoft heirachy.
She went on to tell attendees that Azure was already in a private preview with 'select partners', which included education provider Janison, and eHealth company Ocean Informatics. She would not confirm the final launch date, telling attendees that it was only 'a matter of months', and that it would be before Christmas.
Already Azure is being used by 60 per cent of the Fortune 500, and triple the number of customers than the year before. She described the technology as a fundamental change to the market for local resellers, and challenged attendees to keep reinventing themselves.
"If we don't disrupt ourselves, someone else will," she said.
Microsoft's small and midmarket solutions and partner business director, David Gage, took to the stage and took up Marlow's messaging, that adapting to these new markets represents a huge opportunity for the Channel.
"Change is inevitable. But the one constant, as I look back over Microsoft's history, is a commitment to partners. Our business is partner first. Everything we do through our partners, and yes, we are transforming our business," he said.
Gage said that the company is transforming its business models to better take advantage of its partner eco-system, especially when focusing on services such as Office 365.
"In the past year we have introduced dozens of programmes, business models and licensing models designed to drive [partners] growth," he said.
"Partners are betting on you, and you're betting on us. This is a great place to be.
"Today an average of five people in our partner businesses move to Office 365 every hour of every day," he said.
According to Microsoft's own research, its partners generated 250,000 jobs in 2013, including 32,000 certified ICT professionals, and $19 billion dollars of "economic impact in Australia," said Gage.
"To put that in perspective, that's 1.3% of Australia's GDP," he said.