While the world watches to see if Windows 8 flies and if the Surface tablet can make a dent in Apple's mammoth market share, Microsoft is looking at other growth opportunities -- big data, systems development and managed cloud services.
Microsoft has updated the competencies provided to resellers through the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN). Chief among them is the new application development competency, designed to propel providers into the development of advanced programming, application customisation and big data analytics.
Big data, the omnibus term describing deep analysis of information by business applications, is one of the hottest trends in the market. Enterprises to mid-market companies are seeking big data offerings as a means for improving business decision-making and operations.
Microsoft's MPN general manager in the US, Julie Bennani, tells us that Microsoft partners are developing skillsets and solutions that address business analytics needs.
Like other channel networks, Microsoft's reseller and integrator community is lagging behind the big data trend. Bennani says the customer, armed with more information about technology capabilities, is leading the big data discussion, dragging providers into the conversation.
Research by the 2112 Group finds similar trends, with much of the channel as much as three years behind big data and business software demand in the market. As technology capabilities increase, customer demand for business application customisation, management and outsourced administration will increase, 2112 has found.
Bennani says also that more Microsoft partners are enquiring into or developing business application and big data capabilities. Momentum is building to where big data will be a substantial growth driver for the Microsoft channel over the next three to five years.
Microsoft partner I.B.I.S, a provider of Microsoft software sales and integration services in the US State of Georgia, is shifting its focus away from Microsoft operating systems and productivity tools to advanced services building on Microsoft Dynamics.
Its chief executive, Andy Vabulas, tells us that investment in new applications and skillsets is being under-served by the rest of the market, instead of commodity products such as hosted Exchange, giving it a competitive advantage in mid-market and enterprise accounts.
Microsoft isn't alone in developing partners' big data capabilities. IBM, through its Netezza assets, is pushing more big data tools and services to its partners. HP has made big data one of three columns in its recovery plan. Oracle and Saleforce.com are looking at big data as a catalyst for their next growth spurts. And Cisco could reach into big data as it expands its software business.
In the Microsoft community, cloud assets and applications, including the newly released Cloud Essentials, are making more assets available for partners. Bennani says more cloud-based tools are coming, including an online version of the Visual Studio development platform, that will help partners ply their big data and software skills.
Larry Walsh is president and chief executive of Channelnomics
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