Microsoft Pulls Out All the Stops to Get New Partners

As Microsoft starts providing software in new areas such as high performance computing and security it is also trying to woo a new set of partners with established expertise.

Editors Note: This is the first in an series of articles that examines Microsofts strategy of gaining market share and driving new solutions to market through its partner base.

BOSTON—As Microsoft starts providing software solutions in new areas, like the High Performance Computing and security space - it is once again turning to partners to help it gain traction and market share in those markets.

While the Redmond, Wash., software maker pays tribute to its loyal existing partners, who generate more than 90 percent of is revenue, at its annual Worldwide Partner Conference in Boston from July 11 through July 14, the company is also trying to woo a new set of partners to help leverage new markets.

One of the ways the software giant does this is by inviting successful non-Microsoft partners to an all-day event known as the Partnering Executive Summit—held on July 10 this year—prior to the start of its main partner conference.

The summit is designed to show what is involved in being a Microsoft partner, as well as how they would navigate through the company.

But no Microsoft event would be complete without the company giving its take on the competitive landscape and how its solutions—new and old—are positioned to compete with the current platforms.

Potential partners are also invited to stay for the main partner show, attend sessions and talk to existing partners.

/zimages/7/28571.gifClick here to read more about whether Windows and open source can play nice.

"We want them to see what Microsoft is all about, and allowing them to attend the conference and talk to our existing partners helps them understand how the company approaches partnering. Some 600 people from 320 organizations will attend this day-long event this year," Don Nelson, Microsofts general manager of managed partners, told eWEEK in an interview.

Nelson, who gave the keynote address to these prospective partners at the Summit, told eWEEK that he planned to spend a lot of time showing them how to navigate through the Microsoft partner process and the company to help them connect. This is important given the size and scale of the company, he said.

Microsoft also uses the one-day preconference event to broadly address the opportunities that it believes will come from partnering. Each partner is also hosted by a Microsoft representative from their geography, who will be responsible for answering their questions.

Nelson also downplayed the costs involved in becoming a Microsoft partner, saying this was around $1,500 in addition to some training costs.

/zimages/7/28571.gifClick here to read more about the release of Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 to manufacturing.

"But the big cost to partners comes from the people resources and the time they need to put in on the sales and technical side," he said, adding that there were no requirements that a partner become certified before they started delivering solutions to customers.

"We will be upfront with them and tell them in no uncertain terms that Microsoft wants their business. Some of our established businesses, like Information Worker, have data showing that partners can get a return on their investment in less than a year," he said.

Asked whether Microsoft would be more flexible and offer incentives to established partners in new markets like HPC and security, Nelson said that this was evaluated on a case-by-case basis and "local market conditions do allow flexibility for new areas and those areas where Microsoft doesnt particularly have strong market share."

/zimages/7/28571.gifTo read more about eWEEK Labs bakeoff: Linux versus .Net stacks, click here.

Ryan Gavin, Microsofts director of platform strategy, who also spoke to the potential partners at the summit on July 10, told eWEEK he would talk about the customer perspective from a competitive platform point of view, concentrating on key areas like vendor support, especially looking at the Linux and open-source business model and "the partner profitability lens with regard to Linux."

The midmarket segment is one that is well served by partners, but the penetration in that market is "surprisingly low with regard to Linux adoption. I get a lot of questions about vendor relationships, particularly with regard to the Linux and open-source platform compared with that of the Windows platform," he said.

With regard to new markets like HPC, Gavin said that Microsoft was going to be building out its ecosystem on this front and was aided by its developer ecosystem, which was as "rich and robust as anything in the industry," he said, adding that the companys commitment to community was "open and growing, and that includes the open-source communities."

In part two, read about how two potential Microsoft partners felt before the July 10th summit, the questions they had and what they were hoping to hear. One, Streamline Computing, is an integrator of HPC clusters and based in the United Kingdom while the other, Integralis, is a European-based security systems integrator.

/zimages/7/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.