From Cape York Peninsula in Queensland, to South East Cape in Tasmania, over 10,000 partners make up the Microsoft ecosystem in Australia.
Amidst the channel chaos however, one subset is innovating from the epicentre.
“The ISVs are taking centre stage,” Microsoft director of partner development, Phil Goldie, said.
Speaking to ARN, Goldie hammered home Redmond’s readiness to let its ISV community loose on its traditional channel base, highlighting a fundamental shift in how cloud is changing the partner ecosystem across the country.
“There’s a need to become very focused within the cloud through differentiation and specialisation, whether that’s at a technology or industry level,” Goldie added.
“It’s been a huge part of Microsoft’s DNA in terms of working as a platform organisation with some of the leading software companies and as we’ve moved to the cloud we’ve continued to grow our investment both globally and locally, and increase our work with ISVs.”
While Microsoft’s deep-seated desire to place ISVs at the heart of ongoing channel strategies isn’t new, the vendor’s message to its conventional channel is strengthening.
“It’s key for our traditional channel to think about connecting the dots,” Goldie added.
“The notion of specialisation means you’ll do one, two or three pieces of the puzzle and everything else from a customer perspective will come from different partnerships.
“We have over 10,000 partners in Australia and they are all at different stages of the evolution process, with both leaders and laggards.
“But the point of connection for the Microsoft ecosystem is based around understanding the partnerships that need to be formed with ISVs and other software vendors.”
With a corporate "no-cloud" policy expected to be as rare as a "no-internet" policy today within the next three years, cloud-first, and even cloud-only, is replacing the defensive no-cloud stance that dominated many large providers in recent years.
Today, most provider technology innovation is cloud-centric, with the stated intent of retrofitting the technology to on-premises.
By 2019, more than 30 percent of the 100 largest vendors' new software investments will have shifted from cloud-first to cloud-only.
Gartner research suggests that the now well-established stance of cloud-first in software design and planning is gradually being augmented or replaced by cloud-only, which also applies to private and hybrid cloud scenarios.
“More leading-edge IT capabilities will be available only in the cloud, forcing reluctant organisations closer to cloud adoption,” Gartner vice president of research, Yefim V. Natis, said.
“While some applications and data will remain locked in older technologies, more new solutions will be cloud-based, thus further increasing demand for integration infrastructure.”
The shift is playing out across the industry, with ISV players moving to the skies en masse, innovating on top of cloud platforms such as Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS).
Below is a quick snapshot of Microsoft's leading cloud-focused ISV partners in Australia...
As an education-focused ISV, Janison has been building online learning and assessment solutions, for global corporate, government and education customers since 1998.
The company’s SaaS model is designed to provide flexibility and cost-effective deployment, with key customers including the NSW Department of Education and Deakin University.
Operating as a long-time Microsoft partner, the northern New South Wales-based company has been running its software on Azure infrastructure since its inception in 2011.
Fast forward to 2016 however and the business is preparing to take advantage of the increasing digitalisation of the education industry.
“The classic pen and paper assessments are now being digitised which requires very scalable and secure solutions,” Janison CEO, Tom Richardson, said.
“Every school child will be assessed using online technology and this represents an ongoing opportunity for our business.
“The conversations are changing in Australia, and also New Zealand and Singapore, as country’s begin to realise the economics benefits and the speed of the results.”
Founded 18 years ago around the notion of online learning, Richardson said the industry has progressed to embrace online assessments, creating new demands from a technological standpoint.
“It’s crucial to operate on the technology that is capable of scaling to this level,” Richardson explained. “We can have over 1.2 million school children carrying out an assessment online at the same time and that can be a challenge from a technical point of view.”
As one of the largest ISVs in Australia to embrace the Microsoft Azure platform, Objective Corporation operates as a specialist provider of content, collaboration and process management solutions for the public sector and regulated industries.
Based in North Sydney, Objective deepened its cloud relationship with Microsoft in early 2015, with the company’s flagship Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solution - which manages documents and information-driven business processes - now offered on Microsoft Azure.
With a strong heritage in ECM, Objective has a growing list of end-users seeking assistance in transitioning to the cloud, with Microsoft Office 365 as an entry point to adoption.
“It’s clear that cloud has been a transformative technology for a while and the crest of the wave has been coming,” Objective Corporation director of strategic alliances, Tim Rubin, said.
“Two years ago we pivoted away from AWS SaaS offerings and made a strategic bet around Microsoft Azure.
“During the past 18 months we’ve migrated two global SaaS applications and Azure and are operating at double the run rate of what we were previously.”
Founded in 1987, Rubin said the ASX-listed company’s decision to take to the skies with Microsoft centred around three core objectives.
“Firstly, we wanted the global reach of the Microsoft Azure data centres,” Rubin explained. “Secondly, the co-selling motion was a big factor in our decision through the ability to have feet on the street in different parts of the world, which ties into our global expansion plans.
‘Thirdly, the partner-to-partner environment created around Azure or Office 365 is offering greater traction from a cloud context.”
Capstone is a healthcare technology company specialising in the development of integrated cloud-based solutions, designed to deliver improved patient and practice management.
“Healthcare has suffered from a trend that began 30 years ago when technology started to provide solutions as part of the patient experience,” Capstone co-founder, Tim Madden, said.
“Technology came along and helped connect A to C, then M to P and then X, Y and Z which was an exciting development at the time.
“But this started an issue in that today’s medial and healthcare providers are all hamstrung by disconnected systems. As a result, we’re offering a solution that delivers that continuum of care across the board.”
After striking a partnership with Microsoft a year ago, the Canberra-based start-up recently created a unified practice management solution, spanning patient care, financial billing and practice management.
Developed from the ground up to meet the sector’s specific needs, Madden said the practice management software is powered by Microsoft Azure and integrates with Office 365 to provide a practice management solution capable of scaling nationally and globally.
“In Azure we can spin up VMs (virtual machines) in minutes,” he explained. “That was a game changer for us - we have to migrate huge amounts of data when we put a client on and need to scale up VMs very quickly for a short period of time.”
As one of Australia’s leading cloud webbed email security service providers, MailGuard is new to the Microsoft channel.
Founded in 2001, MailGuard is the world’s largest private SaaS cloud security company, with approximately 15 per cent market share in Australia and three per cent internationally.
“We were introduced to Microsoft three months ago and we’re now in the process of migrating across to the Azure platform,” MailGuard founder and CEO, Craig McDonald, said.
“But we’re 15 years young in the cloud space and everything we’ve done, and still do today, is based around innovating to ensure we keep criminals at bay from our customer’s web or email services.
“We’re constantly innovating and spend 40 per cent of our revenues on R&D, and have been for the past nine years.”
The Victoria-based ISV is recognised globally as one of the top players within cloud web and email security, providing complete protection against malware, ransomware, spyware, phishing, spear phishing, viruses, spam and similar malicious scams in 27 countries around the world.
“We’re focused on the development of our technology given the ongoing amount of threats coming through every day,” McDonald added.
“We’re now understanding how big an opportunity Azure represents for our business, but it’s not just a one-way street, we’re also providing Office 365 activations in Australia.”
From a Microsoft perspective, the onus is now on the vendor to invest in making partner finders and marketplaces essentially more “ISV aware” in terms of a discovery and purchase models for partners.
Built around the notion of creating a "channel-as-a-service" type model, Goldie said Microsoft is now focusing on establishing how to put the right tooling in place to allow the vendor’s expanding ISV base to reach its core channel partners.
“If you take CSP as an example,” Goldie explained. “How do we make ISVs a skew within CSP? That’s driving a lot of our thinking at present around how we rebuild some of our programs.
“It’s in the works and we’re piloting it with ISVs in North America. A lot of our business goes through CSP and into the markets we want to target, and the easiest way to make this happen is to light up that one product that the channel could start to buy.”