With its Windows 2000 launch looming closer, Microsoft is pulling out the stops to ensure its channel partners have the right skills to make the new operating system and other upcoming Microsoft products a success.
At its recent annual Fusion 99 conference for Microsoft Certified Solution Providers (MCSPs), company executives outlined a handful of initiatives aimed at Microsoft's service partners. While the efforts relate to the gamut of Microsoft products, Windows 2000 is clearly high on the company's agenda.
"What you need to understand is that Microsoft has bet the farm on this product, and we're not going to fail," John Connors, vice president of Microsoft's worldwide enterprise group, told an audience of MCSPs.
Large vendors, including rival IBM, are turning to services as a way to attract corporate customers faced with the tough job of reorganising their businesses to take advantage of the Internet. Without a big services operation of its own, Microsoft must ensure high levels of expertise in its channels in order to remain competitive, Ian Rogoff, Microsoft general manager of enterprise services, said in an interview.
Microsoft has set aside $US40 million for training service professionals in Windows 2000 deployment. Part of the money is going towards a 50 per cent discount on a five-day training course in deploying the new operating system, which Microsoft hopes will draw 5000 MCSPs worldwide. The course is available in the US now, and will be offered worldwide on August 15, according to a company statement.
Also last week Microsoft announced two new "enterprise services frameworks", which are designed to help channel partners and customers plan and implement IT systems using Microsoft software.
The so-called Microsoft Readiness Framework identifies skills individual workers need to use Microsoft systems, and provides resources to help develop courses, events and training plans. The Operations Framework provides companies with a model for how to administer and maintain Microsoft products to maximise their efficiency after they are installed.
The company has also expanded its existing "solutions framework", which identifies common configurations for Microsoft software and offers advice on how to implement them.
"If we decide a key inflection point in the market is Exchange for 500 users, we'll characterise what's the hardware, networking, and software environment you need to run Exchange for 500 users," Rogoff said.
"Obviously we do it based upon a particular customer scenario, so it's not going to work in all cases. But that's where the partners can start to add a significant amount of value. Instead of them working from scratch trying to figure out what it takes to run Exchange for 500 users, there's a base level of information there from Microsoft," he added.
In other news Microsoft:
Launched a Web site for small and midsize firms that allows them to obtain volume discounts through online licensing, access information about technology systems from e-commerce to networking, and locate MCSPs. Called Microsoft Business Advantage, the site was launched last week at http://www.microsoft.com/biz/.
Introduced an MCSP referral Web site designed to help put companies in touch with the right MCSP to meet their needs. The site can be accessed through the Business Advantage site. The referral engine is initially being launched for customers in the US and Canada; any plans for overseas availability weren't announced.
Also announced were three packaged e-commerce software systems developed in conjunction with third-party software vendors Impressa, VisualCommerce and OneSoft. The packages are the latest additions to Microsoft's E-Commerce Alliance, which was announced in April and brings together Microsoft software, MCSPs, and third-party hardware and software into a packaged IT solution.