Staff at Microsoft aren’t usually allowed to say the word free. Someone will sue on the basis of abusing market dominance. However sometimes, it’s justified.
Eric Ligman, a senior sales excellence manager at Microsoft, has posted a few news items in the past about freely downloadable eBooks. Microsoft Press can be pretty generous and the latest free eBook released is titled Microsoft Azure Essentials: Fundamentals of Azure. I heard about this smack bang in the middle of teaching an Azure course. How serendipitous.
The eBook, written by two Microsoft Most Valued Professionals (MVP) Michael S. Collier and Robin E. Shahan is a great point to start about the capabilities of Azure, which I describe as an enormous box of Lego. Azure can be anything and you need to play and practice to get the best out of it. I’ll explain some concepts and ideas in a future blog post.
The book also has a publication date of February 2015 so is up to date. The change cadence of Azure is bewilderingly fast so it’s nice to read something which matches the current offerings.
Buying Microsoft Azure directly from Microsoft is as easy as online grocery shopping and for some people might even be cheaper (Waitrose does have a tempting cheese selection). Until recently, the pricing calculator on www.azure.com offered pay-as-you-go rates or discounted monetary commitment rates if you paid £300 or more per month for 6 or 12 months. You can read our previous blog post about this.
From July 26th, those commitment options are no longer shown, despite the website mentioning them. No notice, no announcement; one could even use the phrase ‘swept under the carpet’. Why is this?
As of 1st August, any Microsoft reseller can sell Azure monetary commitment to any customer in the same way they sell other Microsoft software such as Windows or Office (previously, Azure could only be purchased directly from Microsoft or through an Enterprise Volume Licensing Agreement). Customers can now turn to their IT provider and buy Azure credit in $100 chunks (approx. £65 of Azure services). This credit will then last for 12 months from the time the customer redeems the code online. So if you want £1,800 of Azure credit, you would buy 27 or 28 of the Azure monetary commitment chunks. We’ll run a blog post in the next week or so showing the experience in more detail.
As an example of how this credit might be used, a customer buying £1,800 worth of Azure monetary commitment from a reseller would go on to pay £34.75 per month for a 200GB Azure Backup Vault. Around 52 months’ worth of Azure Backup (the azure credit only lasts 12 months so they’d spend the rest on other services but work with us here, this is a simple example).
A customer buying direct through Azure.com and pre-paying £300 for 6 months (a total of £1,800) would gain a discount of 22.5% off the pay as you go price and bring the Azure Backup Vault cost down to around £26.93 per month. Around 67 months’ worth of Azure backup. Both methods cost the customer the same £1,800 up front so which would you go for? This is obviously detrimental to Microsoft resellers who wish to transact Azure as they wouldn’t be able to compete against those discounts.
So that is my understanding why the 6 month, 12 month and pre-payment pricing options on Azure.com were hidden in the little attic room. I believe it’s only for the time being and Microsoft is working towards rationalising the pricing waterfall and discounts across buying direct and via a reseller.
We’re proud to be working in conjunction with Microsoft to deliver monthly webinars on licensing. The 60-minute calls run on the second Wednesday of every month and will take you through a different topic each month kicking off with Azure in the Open Volume Licensing programme in August. The calls also include updates on products, technologies and promotions and each month’s call is also recorded so you can catch up with previous topics.
There are three calls on the day, each targeted to a specific audience segment:
10am – 11am Microsoft small and medium business (SMB) partners and distributors
12pm – 1pm Microsoft customers with volume licensing agreements
2pm – 3pm Microsoft Large Solution Providers (LSPs)
Registrations are monitored so please do not register for calls outside your segment or try to register with generic email addresses such as @gmail or @hotmail.
If you are an LSP, please contact your Microsoft account manager to register.
If you are an SMB partner primarily transacting Open and Open Value licence agreements, please contact your preferred distributor who can provide details of the registration links.
If you are a Microsoft Volume licensing customer, you have access to a great new UK specific volume licensing site. The site is a hub through which you can access UK specific VL content and resources. To view details on the Spotlight Calls as well as our upcoming 2-day Licensing Fundamentals events, please click on the events link in the rotating banner.
Update August 2014 – We’re proud to be working with Ingram Micro to deliver a series of webinars on the Microsoft Cloud platform. In this recording we go through the new Office 365 Business plans.
In almost every cloud event we run, I mention how frequently cloud services change. Think about Office; there’s Office 2013. Before that came Office 2010, Office 2007, Office 2003 and so on. A nice predictable release cadence of three years or so. A similar pattern exists with server products and OSs. The cloud has a much faster release cycle and from October 1st there will be new Office 365 plans for small business: Office 365 Business, Office 365 Business Essentials and Office 365 Business Premium. All three of these are aimed at the small and medium business (SMB) market and will replace the current lineup (Small Business, Small Business Premium and Midsize Business) by late 2015.
This is a nice improvement on the current, fragmented SMB position, because you can now mix these three plans to your hearts content, up to 300 seats of each. You cannot currently mix and match Small Business and Midsized Business plans. The 300 seat limit is per plan, not per tenant, so you can have up to 900 seats across these three plans if necessary.
Before you get too excited, these plans also have clear omissions.
Office 365 Business doesn’t include the Office apps and features that Midsize Business did; Access and Lync. I think this is almost the wrong way around. Access shouldn’t be chosen over SQL Server for enterprises and SMB love the power that Access can bring. Lync is marvellous for all types of organisation and shouldn’t be limited to just enterprise.
My personal position remains that customers and partners should start with the Office 365 Enterprise plans and then work downwards if absolutely necessary, not the other way around:
There’s more choice with the Enterprise family of services, not just plans E1, E3 and E4 but all of the standalones
You can mix and match so office users can go for plan E3 for example whilst lighter workers may just require hosted email
More control over the Office installation and updates via the admin centre
More services to grow into when you’re ready, without having to consider migrating to a higher plan
Lower cost entry point: Small Business Premium is £8.40 per user per month; Exchange Online is just £2.60 per user per month
A question from Nigel: “Do MS Partners have to take out MAP or a Silver/Gold Competency to get access to Office 365?”
Excellent question Nigel and I fear you already know the answer; yes.
Internal use rights (IUR) are licences that allow companies to use selected Microsoft software for their production use. As you can imagine this can save thousands. So why does Microsoft allow this and how can commercial companies get these?
Why Does Microsoft Allow Internal Use Rights?
Why do Ford sales staff drive Ford company cars? They don’t normally need to travel as they’re showroom-based. The dealership tends to do this so the salespeople understand the product better and that translates into sales figures. Microsoft wants their partner channel to do the same. The amount of partners I see that aren’t using Office 2013 on their primary machines is pretty high and these are often the same partners that struggle to sell Office 2013. Use the software and you’ll soon discover little gems that make brilliant anecdotes, demos and proof points for customers.
How Can a Partner Obtain Internal Use Rights?
Up until the early part of 2014, any organisation registered on the Microsoft Partner Network could enrol into a program called Cloud Essentials which allowed partners to sell Office 365 and other cloud solutions. Becoming a registered partner is free and very easy; my mum could do it. Furthermore, becoming a Cloud Essentials partner was easy. It required no minimum purchase and just involved taking an online test (which shows you the answers afterwards) and signing an online agreement. Again, my mum could have registered, taken the test once, got it wrong but noted the answers and taken it again. Cloud Essentials partners then had access to 250 seats of Office 365 E3 plan, 100 seats of Dynamics CRM online as well as Intune. This was over £50,000 in software and more than most small and medium business (SMB) partners required. It also devalued ‘real’ partners. By that I mean Microsoft has a lot of inactive registered partners; companies that perhaps only registered to get access to a webpage that asked them to register or companies that only registered to gain the IUR. I’ve even seen a couple of registrations where the partner’s registered web address was along the lines of Daddy@TheStevensFamily.org (names changed to protect the innocent).
Cloud Essentials is now closed to new enrolments and existing IUR benefits will not be renewed at the end of the enrolment period for those partners who were Cloud Essentials partners.
Internal Use Rights are now obtained by purchasing a Microsoft Action Pack (MAP) or by gaining a competency (e.g. Small Business, Communications, Server Platform or Learning). Simply being a registered partner (aka community) does not accrue IUR. This makes them harder to obtain but means Microsoft are concentrating on committed partners. IUR have also changed to become more flexible as they allow partners to allocate their licences on-premises, in the cloud or as a mixture of both. At the time of writing the Action Pack subscription costs £310 + VAT. Competency fees vary according to the competency you earn but are in the ball park of £1,000-£2,000 for Silver and £2,000-£3,500 for Gold.
Again, as a guide an Action Pack would earn 10 Windows 8.1 Pro licences and 5 Office licences which can be a mix of Office 2013 on-premises or Office 365 E3. This is in addition to a host of other software titles. A Silver competency would earn 25 windows 8.1 Pro and 25 office licences. A Gold competency would earn 100 of each.
Partners who were enrolled in Cloud Essentials could enjoy £65 of free credit for Microsoft Azure per month; the offer states this is no longer available but it will continue for previously-enrolled Cloud Essentials Partners. I’m hoping this free credit will still be available to any registered partner but I’m yet to test this. Looks like I’ll need to set up one of those Daddy@TheStevensFamily.org partner accounts.
For more information on the number of licences you can obtain through IUR as well as how to increase the IUR seats, you can read this page directly on the Microsoft Partner Network.
If you currently enjoy IUR and you want to read up on the transition, this Cloud IUR guide will help you.
The Office 365 roadmap monthly email is a thing of beauty. It lays out the changes and service improvements to the Office 365 Services, billing and licensing for 3-6 months ahead with the information coming directly from the product team. Essential for keeping up to date with such a regularly changing service. However it was always under NDA (non-disclosure agreement) so recipients weren’t allowed to disclose the contents. Not even with a nod and a wink.
In addition to the public roadmap, there’s also a new program called First Release which allows customers (once they opt-in) the opportunity to get significant enhancements to Office 365 at least two weeks before customers in the standard release group.