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Are Microsoft Partners 'All-In' the Cloud?

A week after trying to sell customers on its "we're all in" campaign to the cloud, Microsoft is now trying to bring its vast network of partners onboard.

Allison Watson, the corporate vice president of Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Group, made her pitch Wednesday in a prepared and edited video presented via a 10-minute webcast.

"The cloud is here, the cloud is now, and it is important that each of you embrace understanding what it is," Watson said, after reiterating CEO Steve Ballmer's five "dimensions" about how the cloud will embody all of Microsoft's computing efforts.

But if the number of views tallied on the video is any gauge (less than 100 nearly 24 hours after the webcast), it leads me to wonder whether partners are feeling the buzz about Microsoft's cloud campaign. As I was watching the video, available on-demand, I was wondering: where's the beef?

And without further adieu, Watson explained how 1.5 million McDonald's employees at 31,000 stores are using Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS). "They needed a cloud e-mail solution and Microsoft online services became their choice." (Yes, I know that "where's the beef" was a campaign by McDonald's rival Wendy's, but you get my point).

Watson used the McDonald's example to explain how BPOS can be integrated with customers' internal systems and partners' own offerings. "I would highly encourage you to actively integrate these offerings within your own larger stack today so you don't miss out on this cloud opportunity now," Watson said.

Microsoft has 7,000 partners offering BPOS with 20,000 active trials under way, she said. And since its launch last month, 200 customers per day are signing on to use Windows Azure, she added. "In many ways, it's still a green field with an upside in trillions of dollars," she said.

Indeed, according to our own survey of 500 Microsoft partners, 18 percent believe cloud computing will have an impact on their business this year. Twenty-six percent believe the impact will come next year, and 16 percent say it will arrive in 2012. Another 10 percent predict it will come after 2013, while 8 percent say it has already arrived.

But in response to a blog post by Watson following the video that effectively reiterated Microsoft's five principals, one partner asked, "Where can I get information on partner opportunities now?" Watson replied that more information will come at the Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in July.  

There are some actions partners can do in the meantime. She suggested working with the Bing APIs because search will embody the need for partners to help customers find and aggregate data in new ways moving forward. "We're developing search technologies that integrate information seamlessly from the cloud from users, from developers, and we are bringing all of those things together in an integrated way," she said.

Another key area where partners will be able to add value is helping customers address security and privacy, she noted.

OK, so Watson has primed the pump. But many partners are still wondering how this will change their business. What's your take on Microsoft's "we're all in" cloud campaign? Are you "in" or are you still wondering, "Where's the beef?" Drop me a line at [email protected].

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on March 11, 2010