Microsoft's global channel chief Phil Sorgen has said that despite the market's maturity, moving to the cloud will still be the biggest challenge for partners next year.
At the vendor's Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in July, Microsoft's chief operating officer Kevin Turner said 64,000 of its partners across the world had transacted Microsoft cloud products already.
Sorgen (pictured) said that number has "continued to grow" since the summer but added that although it is now a mature technology, even the most experienced partners do not have it all figured out.
"This is a time of transformation," he said. "While there are a lot of partners who have participated in the cloud, I would say if you put a group from the broad ecosystem – even those who have participated in the cloud in the UK – together and ask how many feel they have completed their transformation, the number of hands that would go up would be small.
"They are continuing to learn across the business – what is the innovation cycle they are going to create that is unique? How are they driving their compensation models? What are the kinds of skills they need? How do they train their people fast enough? I would say that continues to be at the core of our opportunity for partners [next year]."
Sorgen added that Microsoft was "literally in the process" of deciding which distributors will be signed up to the second tier of its Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) programme.
The CSP – which was announced at WPC – allows partners to sell the vendor's cloud offerings along with their own. Some partners, including Softcat in the UK, have been given the nod for Tier 1 of the programme, and in the first half of next year, Tier 2 companies will be brought on board too.
Sorgen said broadening the programme is great news for the wider channel.
"It is what partners have been telling us they want: they want the ability to own the customer life cycle; to provision the customer; to bill and have the flexibility to provide that capability. Now, those that can't do it in Tier 1 because they don't have the skills or capability will be able to do that through distribution."
He said the difference between Tier 1 and Tier 2 partners is based on skills and not necessarily on size, but that SMB partners will be pleased with the option to get on the second tier.
"They are very excited about it; it is exactly what they asked for," he said. "Our solutions are at the core but they can add value-add capabilities for their customers too."
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