Solution providers who work heavily with Microsoft are busy this year leveraging Office 365 migrations to help customers grow in a range of useful new applications and features, partners at CRN said.
In Salinas, California, Alvarez Technology Group, for example, said that CEO Luis Alvarez has “really started to see that the value we provide to our customers today is rather to help them deliver the services that ‘they are already paying for. ”
[Related: Microsoft Channel Chief On Growing Azure ‘Preference’ And Windows Virtual Desktop]
Meanwhile, in the area of migrations to Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, the company’s victory in the Pentagon’s much-sought-after cloud contract JEDI only throws more fuel on the fire.
When explaining the use of Azure to customers, “everything is covered, because Microsoft has already been checked,” said Kelly Yeh, president of Chantilly, Phalanx Technology Group, Virginia.
In recent interviews with CRN, most partners mentioned opportunities such as helping customers get the most out of their existing Office 365 subscriptions and using Azure Active Directory to enable single sign-on with others applications, including non-Microsoft applications.
Several also highlighted opportunities such as securing Microsoft and Windows Virtual Desktop environments, which debuted last fall and are aimed at simplifying and reducing the cost of virtual desktop deployments.
“From a supplier perspective, I think these are the greatest opportunities right now – there’s no question about it,” said Mike Jackson, president of Pendello Solutions, based in Prairie Village, Kansas.
The following are comments from five solution providers on the biggest opportunities they see with Microsoft in 2020.
Kelly Yeh, President of the Phalanx Technology Group in Chantilly, Virginia
Azure blue: “If you looked at my practice three or four years ago, Phalanx was a completely different company – the traditional management and deployment of MSP, mostly on-premises server systems. Do in-place upgrades from Exchange and SQL and that sort of thing. Obviously, with all the cloud computing coming out with Azure and all the other cloud systems, the need for on-premise systems has really gone down … In the past year, we’ve really taken everything that was on-site and pushed it up at Azure. So last year was a huge increase.
Even though we are in Washington DC and we do not have federal contracts – most of our clients are businesses – they still have a lot of compliance with NIST and FedRAMP standards in this market. So it’s very easy to get it out of the box with Azure. “
JEDI: “Microsoft winning this JEDI contract also helps. It’s easy to say, we are in an Azure data center, USA East 1 [region]. And they say, “OK, that’s all I needed to know.”
If you are a federal contractor, you know that they won the JEDI contract. We are a kind of single market, but it really helps. What we discovered recently is that we discussed with insurance auditors our customers’ cyber policies. When we sit there and tell them, here’s our continuity of disaster recovery activities, as well as physical and logical security – the listeners immediately say it’s all I needed, thank you. Everything is covered, because Microsoft has already undergone all the checks. “
Compete with Google and AWS: “I have been a Microsoft certified engineer since 1997 and I have been a Microsoft partner since 1998. So, I love Microsoft. They are not always the first to market a product, but they certainly have the best commercial product. Office 365 is just kicking the buttocks of Google Docs. They know how companies want to use their systems – this is what I always say as the best thing about Microsoft.
We do both Azure and AWS. With AWS, we only use it for our customers who are e-commerce websites or websites. The Microsoft Azure environment is far superior if you are trying to move your prem-prem farm. So unless you are heavily invested in on-premises Linux servers, you will of course run it in Microsoft Azure. It’s so much easier to manage than AWS. “
Windows Virtual Desktop: “We are thinking about it a lot right now. We were trying to replicate this before using standard Microsoft licenses – they had VDI licenses you could buy, and then we were running servers in the cloud, but it didn’t work so well. We are currently testing it as a disaster recovery strategy.
If you have had a fire in your office, you cannot buy 1,000 workstations overnight. But you can run 1000 VDI Win 10 devices in 10 minutes. So you can recover fairly easily and quickly from a catastrophic disaster. This is how I position it now. And then also for the times – so you can keep the old laptops which are slow, but you don’t mind because the computation takes place in the cloud. So temporary manpower and disaster recovery – basically when you have a fluctuation, this is the best implementation. Replacement of the workstation fleet – I am not yet fully convinced of this. But again, it just came out, so I have to see. “
Travis Adair, Senior Partner and Vice President of Columbia, based in Manitoba, InfiniTech Consulting
Office 365: “Microsoft is moving towards a kind of mixed environment, where they interweave many features of Office 365 and add new applications based on SharePoint. So they change their packaging a bit, compared to just saying, here’s a wide open Azure platform. Instead, they say, let’s break it down into easier-to-digest pieces and turn them into business functions which we can then market as apps as part of the Office 365 suite and as add-ons. This is really where we start to see much more success in selling and implementing additional Office 365 features that lead to certain Azure features.
Azure Active Directory is the simplest. With Office 365, you get this Azure Active Directory base, and then you can manage that through your Azure portal. But then, if you want to deploy advanced features, such as single sign-on, with some of your other non-Microsoft apps, self-service password resets, additional auditing and security around Azure Active Directory – there are a few paid upgrades out there. It has become much easier for us to sell and implement, like some of the features of Azure Active Directory. “
Allowed: “Then you start looking at device management. And it’s easy to deploy Microsoft’s Intune product. It really was based on the integrated Azure-Office 365 platform, and then I can start pushing things like Group Policy and device control – not only on my Windows devices but also on iOS, Android. And then it becomes another enterprise application on the joint Azure-Office 365 platform in which people are starting to see a lot of value. I think that’s Microsoft’s direction – we’re going to start moving our traditional technology and Windows Server, and on -Activation of Active Directory and into Group Policy, with Azure Active Directory, Intune. “
SharePoint, teams: “Then there is SharePoint to move the file shares on site. We have done major SharePoint migrations. It’s a big boost for us and Microsoft. We’re starting to see a lot more traction with Microsoft Teams as customizable chat management, for internal messaging, for creating external conferences. I can plug all these other apps into my Teams portal and it becomes my work portal there.
The element of digital transformation they are starting to work with is their Power Apps and Flow app. I can then enter without having any real coding experience and create my own software applications that use SharePoint and create automation with my Outlook applications, SharePoint, My teams and all kinds of third-party applications. I can connect to Gmail and various online accounting applications, Salesforce, etc. I create automation. So an email arrives from that certain customer that contains these keywords, and save it in this SharePoint space and create a record in Salesforce – all of that automation from Power Automate. This is where we start to see [traction]. “
Growth prospects with Microsoft products: “I would say it is quite high. I would say we are probably looking at 30-50% revenue growth over the next year. This is probably one of our fastest growing areas.
The rate of adoption with Office 365, at least from my understanding, is faster than most of the technologies we’ve seen. And now that Microsoft is making people captive, they have a captive audience here and they can deploy additional functionality to deliver more value in existing subscriptions – and create opportunities to enhance those subscriptions with additional functionality, security functionality, etc. – organizations that think are starting to adopt a lot of these things.
Basically, Microsoft is putting its flag in the ground and claiming its claim over the next 10 years of IT spending. Just like 20 years ago, when they deleted Corel from the office space, and now everyone has Windows and Windows Server basically because they want to run Office – they just did the same for the next generation. of TI. “
Luis Alvarez, President and Chief Executive Officer of Salinas, California, Alvarez Technology Group
Office 365: “Like many people, we started with Office 365 – although we started long before that when it still had this really sexy name of the online business productivity suite – BPOS. We’ve moved from there to Office 365 and Azure, and we’ve really started to see that the value we provide to our customers is now more about helping them deliver the services they already pay for. They get Office 365 and they get teams and all those really cool things that they never use because it’s like, “We have Office 365 – it’s my email.” And so, I think Microsoft has done a brilliant job of creating an ecosystem that will capture their customers – our customers – pretty much everything they do. So they add layers, add functionality. I think their last security concern was a bit late, but they finally got there. And this presents opportunities, as we now go back to many customers for whom we did our original implementation of Office 365 and saying: if you want to avoid the pain of the new login format, you really need to link Azure AD . And now we are doing projects around that. And then say, now that you have Azure AD, we can do some really cool things with single sign-on to enable single sign-on for the other apps you use, whether they’re on-premise or in the cloud. “
Microsoft 365 and security: “Then we go to Microsoft 365, the entire suite of products – the entire stack, including the security element – for our more mature customers, those who are really more concerned with security at the heart of their activities. This has a lot of opportunities, either to upgrade existing tenants to this complete stack, or simply to get people in the first place.
I think we are currently receiving a lot of requests for training. The added value we provide is all of those extra services for which we are paid. Nobody makes a lot of money selling Azure or Office 365, unless you have 1 million or more subscriptions. You really use this as a way to keep your customers close, because I am your trusted partner – I manage your environment. And then also to take advantage of all these product features and say, did you know it can do this or did you know it can do this? Let’s talk about this …
I think Microsoft wants partners who focus on the cloud. And it becomes for us just an indication that this flag that we planted in the sand to become a cloud service provider, with everything we do, was a good decision. “
Eric Rockwell, director of information security at Encino, California, based on MAP CyberSecure
security: “I would say that 95% of our customers [use Microsoft products]. We have a lot of clients who are government contractors or defense contractors, and we are pushing many of these companies into the cloud of Microsoft government contractors from other solutions that do not meet some of the regulatory requirements that they have. One thing about Microsoft is that they have done a very good job of aligning their 365 product suite with the NIST cybersecurity framework. So it doesn’t come out of the box securely – it’s actually extremely vulnerable – but you can make it very secure. This is one of the projects we carry out immediately with most customers.
[At Microsoft] they have a system that a lot of companies use that has to be secure. And they have done a great job in securing their technology stack. And we have a whole recurring revenue program based solely on securing that Microsoft stack – whether it’s a Windows operating system, or Office 365, or whatever.
And here’s the other thing for any managed security company that represents a huge opportunity – Microsoft isn’t just going to say, “Hey, if you want to buy a secure Windows, it’s here, it’s this version.” This is not how it works. . It has all these billions of features, and it’s up to you to configure it as your business needs to be configured to operate. So this is a great opportunity for managed security companies, as we can help companies secure what they have, while making it usable, but less vulnerable to cybercriminals. “
Mike Jackson, President of Prairie Village, Kansas, Pendello Solutions
Microsoft 365: “It has changed since the days when we were doing a lot of migrations to Office 365. Now, if I look at the opportunities that we are currently working on, I think that all of them, except for one, is on Office 365 already. Now it’s more about what they currently have, then A.) fine-tune and B.) let’s develop how they use not only Office 365, but Microsoft 365 – which then accesses Azure Active Directory for security and all rest . We do a lot with Microsoft there, and we really come to the serverless environment – where customers who had a domain controller and on-site file sharing and minimal applications, take it fully in the cloud. And it’s not that deep Azure, but it does take advantage of services within Microsoft 365 file shares to SharePoint, to OneDrive. And then, what really allows us to do and provide our customers is access to their data, anytime, anywhere, in a secure environment. I think this is probably the biggest benefit we see for our customers, and they are just claiming it, to be honest. This is something we started looking at a little bit in 2019, and now we have customers lining up to do it and take care of it.
Microsoft 365 takes everything from Office 365, then adds a layer of security, as well as Azure Active Directory as a service – so you can actually have your identity in the cloud, which is a higher level of identity. deep than what you adopted. So essentially where customers had an on-site domain controller, this is now 100% cloud-based. It goes to the cloud for this identity, so that we can manage it better. I think everyone has more mobile workers today, so how do we provide them with everything they need to do their jobs, wherever they are?
We are starting to push this. While last year I think we had three or four customers who were really going in this direction – this year it will be much more, as well as many new opportunities where we will take them to Microsoft 365 and Azure Active Directory as that service the first day. So it changes the conversation with a client. “
security: “I think they are also enhancing their opportunities from a security perspective – as we look at advanced and advanced threat protection, DLP and everything else. So I think it’s also about expanding that possibility. Now, we believe in a layered security approach, like everyone else. But if we can start having better security in this central Microsoft stack, it will make it even stronger. From the supplier’s point of view, I think it’s the greatest opportunity right now – there’s no question about it. “