Microsoft Inspire 2017 partner conference: Key themes and impacts to customers

microsoft inspire-july-9-13

Microsoft’s partner conference, now called Inspire, wrapped up July 14th.  Here are five key takeaways that customers should evaluate with the support of their Microsoft partner:

Microsoft 365

Microsoft unveiled a new bundled offering that brings together Office 365 along with Windows 10, device management and security. There are two versions — Microsoft 365 Enterprise for large organizations (rebranding of Secure Productive Enterprise), and Microsoft 365 Business for small and midsize businesses.  At first blush, this may just seem like Microsoft re-bundling products again, but it is also true that Microsoft 365 should be evaluated as an important evolution because of the progress made to manage three products as a complete solution.

Microsoft is changing how they manage customers

With this reorganization, there is a high probability that you will be working with either a partially or completely new Microsoft team.  Microsoft also wants to better understand your industry vertical and make sure that the conversations that the Microsoft account teams are having with you are more relevant.  Understanding if your Microsoft Account Team has changed and if so, getting introduced quickly will be what many of our Microsoft Specialists will be assisting with in the coming weeks.

Microsoft Account Managers will be more focused on consumption

Microsoft Account Managers will now be more focused on helping customers consume Cloud technology…not just making a monetary commitment.  What this means is that your Microsoft team will be much more motivated to ensure that you as a customer have a fully developed plan for implementing and using Azure and Office 365. We were very pleased to hear this at Softchoice since business and technology planning for cloud adoption is at the core of our Microsoft practice.

Azure Stack

Microsoft announced that Azure Stack, the company’s hybrid cloud platform, is available for ordering from initial hardware partners HPE, Dell EMC and Lenovo. Azure Stack enables hybrid application development and provides a consistent platform for connecting from Azure data centers to the edge.  Softchoice has been gaining much engineering and operations experience with Azure Stack from the start since so many of our customers are (or looking to) run in a hybrid environment before expanding a commitment to Azure.

Solutions built on Cloud Solution Provider (CSP)

The CSP program that Microsoft has had in the market for a couple years is maturing as the lead platform for partners to develop compelling & differentiated offerings for Microsoft Cloud services.  Softchoice currently has two solutions leveraging the CSP platform for Office 365.  Our solutions for Azure are coming in late Summer.  The CSP platform will continue to iterate and include the ability to license on-prem solutions as well as Cloud in the near future.

Bonus:

Shortly after Inspire, Microsoft announced on Thursday, July, 20th that Azure revenue growth was up 98% in constant currency.  This reflects the critical leaps in adoption of public cloud to run and transform businesses of all kinds. While many of our customers are still unsure how to plan their public cloud journey, Softchoice is excited to be working with them to identify the ideal outcomes and transition plan to get there, before their competition has leapt ahead.

If you would like to find out more information about these takeaways and how they may impact your organization, give your dedicated Softchoice Account Manager or Microsoft Specialist at Softchoice a call.  If you don’t know who that is, feel free to ping me and I’ll be more than happy to help.  Luke.black@softchoice.com

MPSA: Microsoft’s new licensing vehicle (and what it means for you)

MPSA: Microsoft's new licensing vehicle (and what it means for you)

Updated: May 6, 2016 (Originally published Sep 2014)

Many organizations have been taking advantage of the Select Plus Agreement over the past few years for ad-hoc purchases that don’t require a standardization across one of Microsoft’s three Enterprise Product sets. And whether using the Select Plus as a companion agreement to an EA, or as the main licensing vehicle, our clients have enjoyed the flexibility and control of their product selection.

Although the Select Plus is an “evergreen” agreement that was to never expire, Microsoft has recently introduced their next generation volume licensing agreement, the Microsoft Products and Services Agreement (MPSA), that will soon take its place.

The two agreements have many similarities such as both being evergreen, but the main difference is that the MPSA was created to allow purchases of Online Service, which continue to be the focus for Microsoft. If you’re currently enrolled in a Select Plus, or are considering a purchase through an MPSA, here are a few things you should know:

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Microsoft increases seat minimums for corporate Enterprise Agreement

Microsoft Moving Corporate Enterprise Agreement User/Device Minimums From 250 To 500

Earlier this month, Microsoft announced that starting July 1st, 2016 any new corporate Enterprise Agreement (including Enterprise Agreement Subscriptions) will require a 500 user/device minimum. Before we get into the specifics, let’s all take a deep breath.

While at face value this may seem like a major change from Microsoft, in reality, the impact on existing EA customers is minimal. That’s because Microsoft is allowing all current EA customers, including those who sign up now until June, to have the ability to renew one (1) time for an additional 36-month term. That means that customers under 500 seats may still be in an EA for the next 6.5 years (if they sign or renew in June of 2016).

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A roadmap every CIO needs when launching Office 365

A Roadmap Every CIO Needs When Launching Office 365

Picture this: It’s your tenth birthday, and you’ve just unwrapped the gift you had begged for all year. A brand new Lego set of your favorite NASA space shuttle. You tear open the box, spread the blocks around the carpet, ready to build, and then you notice it… The instructions are missing.

The example above might seem like a trivial childhood drama – but IT leaders embarking on an Office 365 project are facing a similar sort of surprise. We’ve opened the box, so to speak, expecting huge productivity, simplicity and licensing gains, only to discover we’ve got no user-manual to this complicated, unknown new technology.

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Combine Office 365 managed services and licensing into one single bill

Softchoice unveils Managed Services for the Microsoft Cloud

Dealing directly with Microsoft support for Office 365 licensing, while bringing in a third party to separately manage and implement your environment has been a struggle all too familiar with businesses for sometime.

Which is why  Softchoice is so proud to announce a new service designed to handle all your Microsoft cloud needs,  bringing together all your activities into a single, straight-forward monthly invoice.

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Phishing scam: Microsoft VLSC welcome email

Phishing scam that looks like Microsoft VLSC welcome email

A new phishing scam is affecting Microsoft clients across North America.

The email looks legitimate, and appears to be a welcome email from the Microsoft Volume Licensing Service Center (VLSC). The scam email includes links taking you to an authentic-looking Microsoft website, designed to steal your username and password associated with your Microsoft account.

We’re asking our clients to be vigilant, and await further instruction directly from Microsoft.

If there is any doubt in your mind, do not click on any links.

This is what the email looks like (by way of a Microsoft VLSC Phishing E-Mail thread at Spiceworks).

The VLSC phishing scam

Credit: Spiceworks discussion thread

We’ll update this post as soon as our team has new information to share.