At Worldwide Partner Conference, Microsoft Works Hard to Woo Potential Partners

Microsoft may not have answered all the questions prospective partners had when they attended a summit before the companys annual Worldwide Partner Conference here July 11-13, but it certainly convinced many of them that they should join forces with the company.

Microsoft invited some 320 potential partners to attend the Partnering Executive Summit on July 10, where company officials tried to sell them on the benefits of partnering with Microsoft and explain why it is better positioned competitively than the platforms they are currently selling.

Many prospective partners had questions they hoped would be answered, but some were let down.

Richard Groves, the chief operating officer at Streamline Computing, which has been delivering Linux clusters for six years, is one such potential partner.

Groves hoped to hear about HPC (high-performance computing)-supported applications that would allow Streamline to address some needs of small and midsize businesses, as well as how Microsoft plans to deliver a consistent development environment and all the tools that go with it.

Allison Watson, Microsofts corporate vice president for the worldwide partner group, told eWeek that, while she had received a lot of positive feedback from summit attendees, "this is just the beginning of the journey."

However, "there was no mention of the development environment and the tool chain at [the] summit, and this is very important to us and to our customers," Groves said. "Also, with regard to certification and accreditation, the HPC market is a completely new one to Microsoft, and I wanted to hear what they planned to do on that front. Again, I did not."

Still, Groves said the summit was useful. "I was … surprised by the breadth of products they have and are bringing to market beyond the core Windows and Office brands," he said.

Groves also was interested to hear Microsofts perspectives, especially the companys prediction that some 10 percent of all servers sold worldwide eventually will be HPC servers.

With regard to becoming a Microsoft partner, Groves said, "My view coming in is that if Microsoft wants to get into a market, they will, and if you want to be part of that, you have to work with them."

Streamline has been fielding calls from customers interested in Microsofts HPC offering, known as Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003, and expects to start delivering it soon.

"We dont see this as displacing Linux in our business but rather adding to it," Groves said.

For his part, Graham Jones, chief operating officer for Integralis, a London-based security systems integrator, said his company wanted to learn more about Microsofts future security product strategy before it built a consulting practice around those solutions.

Jones said he also wanted to hear about "truly differentiated channels. With all of our vendors, we have the highest level of accreditation, and, in exchange for that, we expect the best terms and engagement that we can get." He said he was also curious to see what the real service opportunity with Microsoft is, as he believes the current Microsoft channel does not understand security the way companies like Integralis do.

"They can supply Exchange, Office and Windows, but we understand the environment that [a Microsoft] ISA Server is going into. We have a far wider view of security," Jones said.

Jones said Microsoft did lay out its security product road map and that the company has gone for the low-hanging fruit—the anti-virus market.

"We dont play in that market. I thought the road map was a good, compelling story for users. Our involvement will probably come in the second wave of [Microsofts] security technology," Jones said.

Jones also said he remained unsure of how to navigate the Microsoft system to reach the right people and that theres "more work to be done there" on both sides. But he welcomed the ability to attend the full Worldwide Partner show. "Outside of the technology, this was a great opportunity to learn about the company, meet its people, and network with potential and existing partners," he said.

PolyServe: Linux and Windows

There are both huge advantages in partnering with Microsoft and huge challenges associated with working on such different platforms as Windows and Linux. PolyServe, based in Portland, Ore., is a successful company that did both, first developing an enterprise product for the Linux platform and then one for Windows. Heres how they came to be:

2000

* Company established

* PolyServe makes technical decision to develop a clustering solution for Linux

2002

* Matrix Server for Linux, designed for enterprise customers, is released

* PolyServe approaches Microsoft about developing the product for Windows; Microsoft encourages the company but warns about technical complexity

2003

* PolyServe releases Matrix Server for Windows

2004 to present

* Windows rapidly contributes 60 percent of product revenue; Linux, 40 percent

2006 and beyond

* As industry-standard servers take over the data center, Windows and Linux will be the operating systems to be supported.

Source: eWEEK reporting