Microsoft's plans are well underway to go hard against Amazon Web Services in Australia, top executives told CRN at World Partner Conference (WPC) in Washington.
The vendor is set to launch two Australian regions for its Azure public cloud service – in Sydney and Melbourne – later this year.
Microsoft is ready to throw its marketing and financial weight into driving partner opportunities out of the new regions, said Vahé Torossian, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s worldwide small and midmarket solutions and partners.
He told CRN that Microsoft has "huge, 'go big' Azure plans. They include focused investments around "managed partners" as well as broader "regular promotional activities".
"Go big Azure" has become common parlance for the vendor's plans in the lead-up to the two new regions launching, said Phil Goldie, director of partner business & development at Microsoft Australia.
Specific elements of the plan include the newly announced addition of Azure to Open licensing as well as the new cloud competencies in the Microsoft Partner Network.
"On top of that, what the 'go big' plan looks like is we are adding additional partner business development roles focused on Azure – we are adding lots of new Microsoft employees around Azure partner business development roles, customer business sales roles and solutions architects specifically for the Azure solution."
He also shed some light on the Azure Early Access Program, which sees a number of partners working with customers to migrate them to the data centre before lauch.
It is "effectively early deployment into the data centre so when it gets to launch, we will have a combination of great proof points and large brand-name customers", said Goldie. He would not confirm or deny whether this was taking place yet.
Microsoft has not revealed specifics around the date or facility, though it has been speculated that they will open in October.
Best practice in cloud
Azure has been an overwhelming focus during the partner conference, so CRN asked Torossian if there was a risk of alienating traditional partners who weren't offering cloud services.
"The key message is that if you are operating in the IT industry and not willing to change, you are in the wrong industry," he said.
He said "born in the cloud" partners were to create best practice that other partners could follow.
One such partner is Melbourne-based Kloud, an Office 365 and Azure specialist that has grown to 130 staff and more than $20 million of revenue after being founded less than four years ago.
Kloud is part of a "select group of partners" on the Azure Early Access Program, helping the first wave of launch customers prepare to migrate to the two new regions.
"We are helping customers with their network readiness, infrastructure readiness and operational readiness," NSW state business manager Damian Coyne told CRN during the conference.
He expected Microsoft to really push the platform-as-a-service side of Azure.
"Because IaaS is growing and it is fairly well understood, I think what we will see from Microsoft is a bigger focus around application development into Azure. PaaS hasn't grown to the level Microsoft would want it to, largely because of how transactional [PaaS workloads] can be. Customers don’t want that offshore."
During Monday's keynote, chief operating officer Kevin Turner said that Microsoft is the only provider that appears in Gartner's leader quadrant for both infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS). "AWS don't have that. Google doesn't have that and none of the traditional competitors have that."
Torossian also talked up this achievement. "Yes, AWS has a first-mover advantage in Australia but if you think about Garter and the magic quadrant, we are in the IaaS space and we are in the application platform as well. There is no one else – and we have been able to do that in the last 18-24 months.
"The battle is not won, but it is great trying to say we are coming as a challenger and we are already in the magic quadrant and there are not many others who are there," he added.
Beyond Azure, Torossian also said CRM Online would ramp up in Australia; it is another Microsoft cloud product that faces stiff opposition, in this case from market leader Salesforce, which "is also very present in Australia", he said.
"Being more aggressive on CRM Online is something you will see in Australia in the next 12 months, investing in that on top of Azure."
Steven Kiernan is a guest of Microsoft in Washington DC.
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Issue: 347 | March 2016