Microsoft's partner program changes ahead of Ignite 2022 – Software – CRN Australia

Microsoft's partner program changes ahead of Ignite 2022 – Software – CRN Australia

Microsoft's partner program changes ahead of Ignite 2022 – Software – CRN Australia 0 0 Alan Dickson

Partner Centre user interface changes, a Teams Rooms Pro offer, a new discount related to new commerce experience and new restrictions around outsourcing are among the biggest announcements from Microsoft as partners get ready for the tech giant’s Ignite conference in October.
This year has been one of large changes for Microsoft partners, from navigating consequences of Microsoft’s new commerce experience (NCE) roll out and understanding how to achieve enough points under the new partner capability score system.
Microsoft appears to not be letting up on changes for partners, with upcoming adjustments in October including a virtual core licensing option for Windows Server, flow changes in Partner Center and even the end of physical checks as a payment option to Microsoft.
Did Microsoft make changes to NCE?
The one change that Lane Shelton, director of licensing for US Microsoft partner Core BTS is hoping for, he told CRN US in a recent interview, is for the ability for MSPs to trade customers if a customer wants to leave an MSP during an annual commitment.
“We just would like for Microsoft to give us portability for customers,” Shelton said. “And we’re more than happy to risk losing our customers to our competitors to have that benefit. Because we just think that that’s the biggest gap that they have right now.”
Microsoft Ignite, meanwhile, will be hybrid this year, with in-person and digital events running 12 to 14 October.
Here are the Microsoft partner program changes you need to know about.
Partner Centre user interface changes 
Microsoft plans to roll out a series of improvements to Partner Centre’s user interface the rest of this year, according to a company announcement.
“Partner Centre is the central place for partners to manage their relationship with Microsoft,” according to the tech giant. “To streamline engagement between us and make it simpler and easier to do business together, we’re continuing to invest in and update the user experience.”
Microsoft continued: “The changes will help partners have a more efficient, productive, and faster experience. As part of the updates, we’ll define clear user roles and institute consistent and inclusive design principles. We’ll launch with the initial experience and continue to release improvements throughout the calendar year.”
The first changes, introduced this month, are a grid view for the co-sell opportunities referrals page for deal management and a new layout for deal details.
Users can switch between the grid view and the previous interface with a button click. The new view promises faster performance and page load times, improved sorting, improved filtering and a search function for finding deals, according to Microsoft.
Grid view allows sorting by deal details, including deal name, customer name, status and create date. The view shows tabs for inbound, outbound and favourites.
In October, Microsoft will change the flow for new deals to match other flows in the “referrals” workspace. In November, Microsoft will change the “leads” pages to match the other flows. And the “business profiles” page will be changed to match the other flows in December.
Azure savings plan for compute 
On Monday, Microsoft will enact changes to make way for Azure savings plans for compute – similar to Azure Reservations.
Microsoft will introduce reconciliation data model changes for Azure savings plans for compute in the sandbox, the company announced. The plans are for customers who commit to a certain hourly expenditure on Azure compute services for one or three years.
“After receiving invoices and the reconciliation data from Microsoft, you can confirm that the consumption and cost are consistent with the savings plan purchased,” Microsoft said in a message to partners. “We‘re adding new attributes to our daily rated usage data model to improve and streamline your reconciliation experience.”
Partners can only purchase plans through the Azure portal for now, Microsoft said. Plans aren’t available through Partner Centre or application programming interface (API).
Microsoft Publisher agreement updated
In October, Microsoft made updates to its publisher agreement for listing offers on its commercial marketplace to clarify tax obligations, remove outdated terms and make the agreement easier to read, according to the company.
One of the changes was a clarification that publishers “are responsible for complying with laws related to biometric data.”
“Also, if your Offer processes biometric data, we provided additional detail regarding your obligations related to that biometric data and data subjects,” according to Microsoft.
Microsoft removed language that suggested that sales to Microsoft in countries that use value-added taxes (VATs) were exclusive of the tax.
The company also clarified when Microsoft collects and remits taxes, when publishers collect and remit taxes and dispute resolution.
Microsoft also added information on API usage data, saying “when you connect to our Microsoft 365 Application APIs, we may assess installation and usage metrics of our APIs by your Offers along with basic information about your Offer” and that data “may be used for internal reporting and business operations, reports we provide to you, and providing recommendation of your Offer to Customers.”
Microsoft Teams Rooms Pro offer 
Microsoft launched a Microsoft Teams Rooms Pro offer for US$40 a month through Enterprise Agreement, Enrollment for Education Solutions, partner-led new commerce experience, Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program and web direct.
According to a Microsoft blog post on the offer, written by Microsoft Teams Vice President Nicole Herskowitz, “more than 60 percent of the Fortune 500 have already chosen Microsoft Teams Rooms to connect employees across the hybrid divide and active Teams Rooms devices have more than doubled year over year.”
Teams Rooms remains a major opportunity for partners, according to Microsoft. “Less than 8 percent of the 90 million conference rooms worldwide are video enabled”
Teams Rooms Pro features include intelligent audio and video – with noise suppression, bandwidth optimization and automatic active speaker framing – and a touch display for multi-user, shared whiteboard.
Enterprise-grade management and security for Teams Rooms Pro includes access control, remote configuration, device analytics, IT service management integration, a Teams Rooms managed service platform and updates and problem detection driven by artificial intelligence (AI).
In October, Microsoft updated Teams Rooms incidents to automatically remediate or route to customer IT departments and designated management partners – removing the intermediary of a Microsoft engineer.
Microsoft 365 nonprofit pricing enacted
This month, Microsoft made good on its plan to increase prices on multiple Microsoft 365 nonprofit products, which was announced in April.
Four of the nonprofit products increased by the same percentage their commercial counterparts experienced in March. One product — Microsoft Office 365 E3 — grew by a larger percentage increase than its commercial counterpart.
Microsoft continues to provide nonprofit discounts of up to 75 percent on other Microsoft 365 (M365) products. The changes don’t affect grant-based nonprofit offers. Some of those offers include 10 licenses of Microsoft 365 Business Premium, 300 licenses of Microsoft 365 Business Basic and 2,000 licenses of Office 365 E1 through Microsoft’s Enterprise Agreement.
In August, Microsoft released a document explaining the nonprofits price increase to M365. “Since initial release, we’ve added 24 new apps and more than 1,400 features,” according to the document.
“This is the right time to update our pricing,” according to Microsoft. “Although there are still questions and uncertainty, we see clear signs of economic recovery around the world. Moreover, over the past few years our competitors have increased prices, in some cases aggressively. We simply have a better story and proven track record of reinvestment in the product and consistently delivering new value to our customers.”
NCE-related discount unveiled
Microsoft launched a 16.7 percent discount valid until June 30 for customers new to Microsoft 365 and existing customers who want to upgrade to a more premium product – a help to some partners still dealing with the rollout of the “new commerce experience” platform, while still leaving in place some issues partners have with NCE.
The discount – aimed at small and midsize customers and called the “Microsoft 365 SMB and New Customer Upsell Promotion for Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) Customers” – is for customers who buy “a low-risk monthly commitment” for a variety of Microsoft 365 plans, Microsoft Teams Essentials and Microsoft Defender for Business, according to an announcement by the Redmond, Wash.-based tech giant.
The valid M365 plans are Business Basic, Business Standard, Business Premium and Apps for Business. The discount does not work on “legacy” subscriptions – ones made off NCE.
New hosted solutions options
Microsoft unveiled the prices for one- and three-year subscriptions to Windows Server Datacenter and a monthly billing option for one-year software subscriptions of Windows Server, SQL Server and Remote Desktop Services (RDS).
“Over time, one-year software subscription prices will be aligned with offers sold under the Services Provider License Agreement (SPLA),” according to Microsoft. “Some prices might decrease while others might increase.”
Among the pricing changes, the “Windows Server 2022 Standard – 8 Core License Pack 1 Year” offering will decrease from $272 to $213.60.
“Windows Server 2022 Remote Desktop Services – 1 User CAL 1 Year” will increase from $56.04 to $77.04, according to Microsoft.
And – once they are available – “Windows Server 2022 Datacenter – 8 Core License Pack 3 Year” will sell for $3,091.68 while the one-year edition sells for $1,481.28, according to Microsoft.
Flexible virtualisation 
On 1 October, Microsoft will launch a flexible virtualisation benefit so that Software Assurance and subscription license customers can use their own licensed software to build and install services and run them on outsourcers’ infrastructure, dedicated or shared, according to Microsoft.
However, outsourced infrastructure from Google, Amazon Web Services, Alibaba and Microsoft itself are exempted.
“This gives partners that offer infrastructure outsourcing the opportunity to host the customer solutions on more flexible hardware configurations, and enables hosting partners that sell license-included hosting (such as Windows Server under Services Provider Licensing Agreements, or SPLA) to allow their customers to install customer-licensed products, like SQL Server, Microsoft 365 Apps, and more, on their hosted solutions,” according to Microsoft.
Virtual core licensing 
As part of the benefit, Microsoft will offer a license model for Windows Server compatible with shared server outsourcing.
Instead of partners licensing Windows Server by physical core – meaning the customer needs access to physical server hardware to make sure they have enough Windows Server licenses to cover a machine’s physical cores – virtual core licensing allows partners to license Windows Servers by virtual core amount, making licensing easier when virtualizing or outsourcing.
“This change will help cloud providers appeal to customers with legacy Windows Server workloads by enabling them to move these workloads from on-premises servers to the cloud,” according to Microsoft.
Email preferences updated 
Microsoft updated its Partner Centre to allow for emails when leads are created. This way, partners “can quickly reach out to your customers and help them with the offer installation and pricing,” according to the tech giant.
“If you have many leads, we don’t want to bombard you with email, so we just send you a single digest email every day,” according to Microsoft. “This email is sent to Referral admins in Partner Centre.”
Last month, Microsoft updated Partner Centre so that users can opt out of some email communications.
“You can only opt out of some Partner Centre communications,” according to Microsoft. “However, some communications are required by the partnership agreement. New users are opted-in to all email communications, but those preferences can be changed at any time. Any previous user preferences were migrated to Action Centre. You can change those preferences at any time.”
Additional virtualisation license eliminated
After 1 October, Microsoft will eliminate the need for an additional license to virtualize the Windows 10 and Windows 11 operating systems on customers’ servers or an outsourcer’s server.
The policy change applies to users with Microsoft 365 F3, Microsoft 365 E3 or Microsoft 365 E5 licenses, according to the company.
Like other announcements ahead of Ignite around outsourcing, the change does not apply when outsourcing infrastructure from Amazon Web Services, Google, Alibaba and Microsoft itself.
Customers who want to use those vendors for outsourcing “can acquire licenses directly from” the provider, according to Microsoft.
No outsourcing SPLA licenses on Google Cloud, AWS
One of the more controversial announcements from Microsoft ahead of Ignite is the removal of Services Provider License Agreement (SPLA) license outsourcing on data centres from Amazon Web Services, Google, Alibaba and Microsoft itself.
“Customers that want to use a Listed Provider for outsourcing can acquire licenses directly from the Listed Provider,” according to Microsoft.
Partners have until 30 September 2025, to transition from outsourced hosting to direct licensing from those cloud providers.
“Traditional outsourcers and datacentre providers will benefit from this change, and it will help foster the hosting partner ecosystem,” Microsoft said.
New Hoster partner program
Microsoft will introduce a program within its Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) channel partner program called “CSP – Hoster.”
This replaces Microsoft’s qualified multitenant hosting (QMTH) program and is meant to allow partners to pre-build hosted desktop and server services for sale to customers who need a new license or already have one.
At the beginning, the hoster program will be limited to direct-bill partners only, “but we look forward to expanding program eligibility over time,” according to Microsoft.
The customer must have a Microsoft Customer Agreement with the hoster-partner and proof of the preexisting license, if applicable.
Partners can access a catalog of Microsoft software used to pre-build services instead of getting distinct media and keys from each end customer to deploy the pre-built service, according to Microsoft.
Microsoft retires Kaizala 
Microsoft plans to retire its “made for India” Kaizala secure messaging and work management application and encourage users to adopt Microsoft Teams.
Kaizala will retire on 31 August, according to Microsoft. Users will have 12 months of notice to plan and transition to Teams.
Kaizala support and access will cease after retirement, but customers can keep adding users until then.
“We have put significant resources into making this transition smooth for customers,” Microsoft said. “We anticipate this announcement may spark an increased volume of inquiries from customers with questions about Kaizala support, Teams’ capabilities, upgrade planning resources, and even exception requests for support past August 2023.”
In 2018, Microsoft revealed that Kaizala was used in more than 1,000 organizations in India. It was available in 28 markets at the time across Asia, Africa and South America.
Solutions partner benefits updates 
In August, Microsoft announced some changes to benefits for solutions partners, the partner designation system that replaces Microsoft’s long-used gold and silver system.
Microsoft will on longer offer 18 points for editorial review of co-branded assets, although the go-to-market toolbox will stay active.
The tech giant has “delayed until further notice” Azure development and testing bulk sponsorship.
In the meantime, dev/test credits will launch in Visual Studio Enterprise subscriptions. The benefits will match those of silver and gold competencies.
Also, unavailable “until further notice” are GitHub Enterprise Cloud subscriptions for the DevOps with GitHub on Microsoft Azure specialization, according to Microsoft.
This article originally appeared at crn.com

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