Microsoft will announce a mix of new products and programs Wednesday designed to appeal to partners looking for more revenue opportunities among small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs), enterprise applications and security software.
Andy Lees, corporate vice president, server and tools marketing at Microsoft, will make the announcements formally during his Wednesday keynote address at the vendor's Worldwide Partner Conference in Boston, which runs through Thursday.
"Partners are going after the same opportunities they have in the past, not new avenues," Steven VanRoekel, director of Windows Server Solutions at Microsoft, said. Most partners continue to chase opportunities among enterprise customers and, while there's still money to be made in that market, the much larger SMB arena holds more promise.
Microsoft unveiled its Branch Infrastructure Promotion, a bundle of the vendor's software available to SMB partners at a 10 percent discount. Priced at around $US2,000, it includes Microsoft's Windows Server 2003 R2 operating system, Internet Security and Acceleration Server, Virtual Server 2005 R2 and System Center Management Licenses.
The majority of SMBs have one or more branch offices in addition to their central office. Those branch offices are typically using several PCs linked together by a hub. "Customers don't know what to buy," VanRoekel said, as they look to improve the connectivity and security of their operations.
Having an all-in-one bundle to handle the IT needs of branch offices could help Microsoft partners win more business with SMBs. "The biggest challenge with SMBs is opening the door" when partners make that first contact with customers, he added.
Microsoft is also releasing its Windows Server System Assessment and Deployment Solution for Midsize Businesses tool. The tool will enable systems integrators to determine what products are running on a prospective customer's network, saving time and money previously spent on making such assessments through face-to-face interviews or site visits.
Perhaps, the most interesting SMB offering is a new Windows Server systems management product, System Center Essentials 2007. Partners will be able to sell Essentials to their customers and then use System Center Operations Manager 2007 to provide remote software support over a secure Internet connection.
Essentials will be one of the components of both the next version of Small Business Server which is currently code-named Cougar, and of the future mid-market Centro software bundle, VanRoekel said.
Microsoft launched its Security Software Advisor program Wednesday. As it more fully enters the security software market, the company intends to reward partners who recommend its offerings to customers. Under the plan, partners involved in new sales of Microsoft security software who advise customers or help them deploy those products are eligible for an extra fee as long as they are already certified on its security solutions.
On the enterprise side, beginning Oct. 1, Microsoft will broaden the distribution of Windows Server 2003 R2, Datacenter Edition so that customers can buy the product from resellers and account managers. Previously, the high-end operating system was only available from large original equipment manufacturers such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard and IBM.
Microsoft is also widening the scope of its SQL Server Competitive Migration Program. Kicked off in the fall of 2005, the program initially provided partners with incentives to woo Oracle database users over to Microsoft's rival software. Going forward, the program will also target users of other databases including Sybase and IBM's DB2.