WPC 2016 Reflections

chris-strongIt’s been several months since Microsoft’s latest Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC 2016) ended this past July in Toronto. Naturally, it’s common to want to immediately blog about the latest announcements that are fresh in one’s head. WPC, like many of Microsoft’s larger events, is adept at inspiring excitement and enthusiasm, no question. The sheer volume and scale of content across a wide spectrum of software and services categories in the Microsoft portfolio, accentuated with rock concerts and festivities, help to hammer home the sense that what you’re experiencing is important to the overall roadmap of the future ā€“ both for Microsoft and for its partners.

This year, I wanted to try and take a different approach to reflecting on WPC. Rather than join the masses of bloggers providing an immediate reaction and rundown, I thought I’d wait a few months to let the announcements and proclamations sink in, see many of them come to fruition in an actual go-live state, and see what sort of initial uptake happens in the market. After all, what good are these flashy announcements if they don’t end up leading to tangible outcomes that are felt in the industry.

To recap, some of the major announcements Microsoft made were:

  • The continued growth and expansion of Azure’s regions and the datacenters within them ā€“ 34 total as of July 2016 (and far more than the other major public Cloud providers)
    • While not specific to WPC entirely, there were a slew of new services and features that came to Azure over the past year, many of which were highlighted during WPC’s various presentations and sessions
  • An intense focus on the security aspects of the Microsoft Cloud, and amazingly the types of victories Microsoft has achieved with governments to keep data secure from prying eyes of any kind
  • Continued adoption and expansion of the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program, which is quickly becoming the de facto standard method many partners leverage to sell Azure and Office 365 to various customer market segments
  • “Surface as a Service,” in which the physical Surface devices could be leased out to companies’ users essentially in the same manner that they are utilizing Office 365 subscriptions
  • Dynamics 365, bringing Dynamics CRM and AX Online into a unified cloud-based utility service format, very much like Office 365
  • Reiteration of the power of the HoloLens device, and augmented reality technology’s potential to disrupt the market and cause us to rethink how users interact with their environment

For Virteva, the announcements related to Office 365 and Azure were particularly compelling, as usual, not only because it’s part of our core expertise, but also because of the unparalleled pace at which these two service platforms have matured and grown into such a powerful and dynamic technology platform. Our customers have been able to immensely benefit from the scalability, cost reductions, and particularly the performance improvements that have been made possible by Azure. We continue to be increasingly excited by the amazingly vast potential that Azure has allowed us to pursue with customers in the mid-market (500 – 5,000 employees, typically) in ways that would have never been possible with on-prem infrastructure.

That’s not just from a capability standpoint, but from a time standpoint as well. We still look back fondly on the project we undertook last year that led to an entire web hosting platform ecosystem being built in 45 days in Azure rather than the original 18 month estimate the organization’s own IT folks had assumed if they had gone with an on-prem setup in their datacenter. Such vast differences in time and capability will only continue to increase as Azure’s maturity and services grow.

The last several months since WPC have essentially confirmed the validity and strength of the Azure-related announcements, and we continue to see organizations ask to embrace more of these new capabilities, with concerns around security and regional availability becoming less and less of an issue thanks to Microsoft’s intensive focus on addressing those exact areas over the past few years.

The Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program also carries much potential, and the ensuing months since WPC have done nothing to dissuade us from that thought. In one panel discussion, “The modern, profitable cloud partner: Optimize your operations and deliver customer lifetime value,” Microsoft’s Brent Combest noted that the CSP platform was built with the partner in mind, so that ultimately partners can make the experience for customers as painless as possible. We were lucky enough to have our own Sales Executive, Craig Schmidtke, on the panel to help contribute to the discussion around how Microsoft partners can really help Microsoft’s customer succeed in the Cloud. Craig went into some detail around what Virteva has been able to do within this new landscape, including the nuance of bridging into partnerships with other software providers such as ServiceNow, that have helped make these Cloud transitions come together seamlessly. As Craig also reiterated several times, the primary goal in mind is the simplest, most efficient, and most effective means of procuring and setting up Cloud-based services and assets in Azure and Office 365. It all boils down to that. Click here to view the video or download the PowerPoint presentation.

The CSP ecosystem is certainly continuously improving upon this, and we continue to work towards entering that model as it matures. Microsoft certainly has seemed to give it their full attention, and the months since WPC have revealed an ever-increasing emphasis on ensuring that Microsoft and its partners work together to help organizations have the easiest path to the Cloud from a purchasing and provisioning standpoint.

Overall, after looking back on what Microsoft’s actions have been since WPC this year, it’s clear to us that they remain laser-focused on following through on their desire to be a “Mobile first, Cloud first” company. We’re still waiting to see some of the announcements made come to fruition, such as the Surface-as-a-Service offering, but for the infrastructure-related aspects of Office 365 and Azure there has absolutely been continued progress and attainment of the goals that Microsoft has set for themselves and their partners.

Virteva, for our part, has also tried to remain diligent in focusing our attention and efforts on keeping pace with Microsoft, and allowing us to capitalize on the new functionality with our customers to help them achieve more. There’s plenty more to come out of Azure and Office 365 in the time between now and the next WPC (renamed Microsoft Inspire), and at a pace that the industry truly hasn’t seen in some time. We’ll be right there at the forefront to allow our customers to benefit from this unparalleled Cloud ecosystem as it inevitably continues to expand across the market.