While Hewlett-Packard dominated readers’ attention in March, SearchITChannel.com’s April news stories proved to be more diverse. Talk that Microsoft would put ERP on its own cloud infrastructure had come and gone for years, and there were partner concerns about what that would mean to them. The new Dell vStart bundle and the Microsoft Office 365 beta release held VARs’ interest as they focused on how to sell the products.
1: Microsoft-hosted ERP on tap at Convergence
After five years of discussion, Microsoft said last month that it will offer its own hosted ERP on Azure. This move has a number of moving parts that will keep partners on their toes. Despite hearing that Microsoft-hosted ERP sales will go through Microsoft Dynamics partners, not direct, some VARs don’t expect that to last for long. Others said that not one of Microsoft’s four ERP products is really ready for the cloud.
2: Dell vStart bundle draws VAR interest
The idea of affordable bundles of Dell servers, EqualLogic storage and VMware virtualization products that Dell is offering in its new vStart appliances has VARs wanting to kick the tires even though vStart will not be available through the channel for a few months. The vStart packages serve as a somewhat lighter alternative to vBlock 0, but some VARs said these preconfigured packages won’t sell because customers want a less rigid product that they can configure to meet their own needs.
3: VARs still unsure of Microsoft Office 365 impact
VARs were all over last month’s Microsoft Office 365 beta, but many have yet to decide whether Microsoft’s hosted Office productivity service can be a money-maker. Microsoft partners don’t like the fact that Microsoft controls the billing relationship and some worry about data security. Referral fees will also be a key consideration for partners because the product that Office 365 is replacing, Business Productivity Online Standard (BPOS), currently brings them 12% margin for the first year and 6% per month thereafter.
4: Google Apps brings opportunities to cloud-focused VARs
Some VARs are starting to see Google Apps as a business opportunity rather than a roadblock. Google Enterprise partners receive margin on licenses that they recommend and implement, but the potential cash cow for VARs is integrating Google with legacy apps. Other partners said that collaboration will be a key to the suite because of the demand from customers that want to keep Microsoft Excel and Word applications.
5: VCE partner program modifications tackle channel conflict, deal reg problems
The Virtual Computing Environment (VCE) Company is trying to improve partner relations by streamlining deal registration -- partners will deal with one deal registration process versus three (sometimes four if you count the three parent companies plus VCE itself.) To reduce channel conflict, VCE also said that its parent companies -- Cisco Systems, EMC and VMware -- changed their incentive structures so direct sales reps won’t make more on a Vblock component that sells direct instead of through the channel.