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Microsoft tweaks its most important revenue channel

Protocol Enterprise

Hello and welcome to Protocol Enterprise! Today: Microsoft rolls out new incentives for its partner program, SiFive has an independent Arm in its sights, and there’s a new AI-powered robot to make fun of.

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Multicloud might be here to stay, but it is definitely not evenly distributed. According to a Nutanix study of health care companies, there’s a fair amount of interest in multicloud strategies but 84% of respondents said they lacked the internal skill sets to meet current business needs, let alone a challenge like multicloud.

Microsoft to partners: Sell Azure

Microsoft is revamping its partner program and setting new recertification requirements for the 400,000-plus companies that sell and support its enterprise products and services and build their own solutions and devices around them.

The changes reflect Microsoft’s investments in the cloud as a strategic growth area and the need to align partners with the evolving requirements and buying patterns of customers, according to Rodney Clark, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of Channel Sales and channel chief.

  • “While we've delivered on this promise of customer value in the past, the reality is that this has shifted, especially in the last two to three years,” Clark said in a press conference Wednesday.
  • “It's no longer us — Microsoft and our [partners] — leading our customers on this tech-intensity journey of innovation and ongoing development. It's very much our customers that are directing us based on their emerging needs.”
  • On Oct. 3, the current Microsoft Partner Network, which is more than 15 years old, will become the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program. The new program will be focused on six areas: Azure data and artificial intelligence, Azure infrastructure, Azure digital and app innovation, business applications, “modern work” and security.
  • The new two-level program will continue to be open to Microsoft’s current partners — resellers, systems integrators, managed services providers, device partners and independent software vendors — but Microsoft is changing the way it categorizes them to signal their cloud expertise and experience to customers.

Partners are a critical part of Microsoft’s success: The company has previously credited them with having a hand in 95% of its commercial revenue.

  • “The scale of our success that we see through our partners drives these incredible results — $28 billion in partner co-sell value in the past four years — and we continue to refine and enhance the sales motion with partners as [evidenced] by the 37% revenue growth,” said Nick Parker, corporate vice president of Global Partner Solutions.
  • The first new partner qualifying level — a “solutions partner” designation — will validate Microsoft partners that meet specific requirements for each of the six new areas.
  • Microsoft’s second new partner qualifying level will include specializations — renamed from the current advanced specializations — and expert programs.

Microsoft stressed that there will be no immediate changes to partners’ business or program statuses, including anniversary dates, prior to October.

  • “It's important to know that as part of this evolution, we're not removing any benefits that partners receive today,” Clark said. “In fact, we're increasing investment in our program by more than 25%.”
  • Partners have until Sept. 30 to decide whether to join the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program or renew their legacy Microsoft Partner Network benefit status for another year.
  • “We want to make sure that our ecosystem, who contributes so much to our commercial success, is set up for success — that we don't allow competitors to come in and basically, through their set of offerings or their capability, impact the value that we deliver to customers,” Clark said.

— Donna Goodison (email | twitter)


Dataiku is the only AI platform that connects data and doers, enabling anyone to transform data into real business results — from the mundane to the moonshot. Because AI can do so much, but there's no soul in the machine, only in front of it. Without you, it's just data.

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SiFive takes aim at an independent Arm

SiFive received a big injection of cash this week that will help the 6-year-old chip designer focus on its most advanced technology, which pits it directly against Arm’s chip designs.

Days after SiFive unloaded its custom chip unit called OpenFive to a Canadian company for $210 million in an all-cash deal, SiFive said Wednesday that it had raised $175 million in a new round of Series F financing, which values the business at $2.5 billion. SiFive makes chip designs using the open-source RISC-V architecture developed at the University of California, Berkeley by the company’s founders.

“The performance per watt differential is extremely material and particularly in those designs where power is important,” SiFive CEO Patrick Little told Protocol in an interview. “We found that the industry is figuring that out.”

Though RISC-V doesn’t command significant market share compared with Arm or x86 chipmakers such as Intel or AMD, the technology received renewed interest after Nvidia’s failed bid to acquire Arm.

— Max A. Cherney (email | twitter)

Ibex you didn’t see this coming

Earlier this month Kawasaki unveiled its version of a four-legged AI-powered creature: Bex, the robotic ibex. Bex, which looks like one of Boston Dynamics’ freaky robots with the head of an ibex thrown on for kicks, stems from a Kawasaki research effort on bipedal mobility that concluded it’s going to take a long time for bipedal robotic technology to mature, according to IEEE.

Bex is designed to carry up to 100 kilograms of cargo and is also envisioned as a remote-controlled inspector that can examine hard-to-reach or dangerous places. It also comes with handlebars, which means a drunken happy-hour mishap is coming to the next enterprise tech conference that hosts Bex.

— Tom Krazit (email |twitter)

Around the enterprise

France’s OVHCloud filed an antitrust complaint against Microsoft in Europe, charging that Microsoft’s licensing practices make it overly difficult to run Microsoft software on other cloud providers.

Kubernetes users that rely on the CRI-O runtime are advised to patch their systems after the discovery of a vulnerability that could allow remote takeover of their clusters.

PagerDuty bucked the sad SaaS stock market trend with fourth-quarter earnings that exceeded Wall Street’s expectations.

Box said it plans to reach a 17% revenue growth clip by 2025 — rather modest by SaaS standards — and that it’s starting to move more of its workloads out of its own data centers and into cloud services.


Dataiku is the only AI platform that connects data and doers, enabling anyone to transform data into real business results — from the mundane to the moonshot. Because AI can do so much, but there's no soul in the machine, only in front of it. Without you, it's just data.

Learn more

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