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The Microsoft ecosystem is an increasingly complex one. How are you making sense of it?

Dion Visagie, Dell Technologies Dion Visagie, Dell Technologies

At last count, Windows was running on over 87% of the world’s personal computers, and of this, over 40% are now running Windows 10. The increasingly elderly Windows 7, meanwhile, is on the decline, and is now running on about 36% of all PCs, and 41% of those running Windows, according to analytics company Net Applications.

There are also more Microsoft products being shipped, and it’s an increasingly complex ecosystem in which resellers find themselves.

With this in mind, Nick Keene, the business group lead for the modern workplace at Microsoft in South Africa, recently pointed out some signposts for channel partners at an event in Johannesburg hosted by this magazine, distributor Axiz, and Dell Technologies.

Coincidentally, the local Azure datacentres went live on the very day the event was held in early March.

The company will be staggering the release of its cloud services, with Office 365, Microsoft’s cloud-based productivity solution, expected to be available by the third quarter of 2019, followed by Dynamics 365, its intelligent business applications, in the fourth quarter.

Keene said if a company’s policy dictated that its data needed to be kept inside South Africa’s borders, Microsoft was committed to keeping it within the country. Its Teams communication product, however, will still be provisioned from the EU, although he said there was a business case for bringing it to South Africa.

He added that when Office 365 goes live in the country, it will introduce a ‘move’ programme to shift the customer’s data to South Africa. This move programme will have to be initiated by the customer, after which Microsoft schedules the move. This off er is only valid for six months, after which customers will have to pay for the transfer.

Upgrade path

Keene said if a customer wants to buy new laptops for their staff , and decides to buy Dell machines, these ship with Windows 10 Professional, which provides an opportunity for the partner to suggest they upgrade to the Enterprise edition.
Andrew j Moodley, Axiz Andrew j Moodley, Axiz

This enhances the customer’s experience of the operating system, and also off ers better security features.

If, however, a customer has some machines running on bare metal, or has Linux installed, and now wants to switch to Windows, the only option is to sell them the base OEM Windows Professional licence.

Some hardware retailers are also selling machines with Home editions, perhaps in an attempt to keep the price down. These Home editions cannot be used for running a business, and the only way to upgrade from Windows 10 Home to Enterprise is to sell them a Professional edition, after which they can be upgraded to Enterprise.

He said he knows of a number of customers using Window 10 Home in their businesses, and asked the partners to point out that they were ‘technically noncompliant’.

Keene suggested to his audience that they need to address the question of digital transformation in their customers’ business, which, properly executed, should realise efficiencies and generate more value. He said a customer may have a business problem and the challenge for partners is to suggest technology to streamline the business’ processes. This could be as simple as turning on OneDrive for Business, for example.

Keene reminded partners that Microsoft would be ending support for Windows 7 in February 2020, and for large customers – say, between 300 and 500 people – it’s probably too late to complete a migration by then.

End of support

“We’ve been warning them,” he said. Older operating systems, too, pose a risk, he added, mentioning the case of a large healthcare organisation in the UK that had been using Windows XP, and had subsequently fallen prey to WannaCry ransomware.

It’s preferable that a customer switch to a subscription model, which allows a partner to build their annuity revenue stream.

“The first day of the month, you want to wake up knowing how much money is coming into your bank account.”

Keene suggested that partners familiarise themselves with the Office 365 value proposition, which includes the Teams application.
Traci Maynard, Axis Traci Maynard, Axis

Teams is now the company’s unified communications strategy, and consolidated email, SharePoint, and Skype for Business. The eventual aim, he said, was to reduce the amount of email, and this could be achieved by ‘getting people to live in Teams’.

More security

Keene said that in the past, Microsoft was seen as a productivity vendor, and was less associated with being a security vendor. With increasing threats, the company is now starting to pay more attention to security with measures such as threat protection and analytics, and its products are also shipping with ‘layers of security’.

 The company was working to ensure Microsoft 365 (which includes Office, Windows 10, and the Enterprise Mobility and Security products) dovetailed with PoPI’s requirements, and that this has also been carried out for GDPR.

The company is also collecting metrics from the telemetry of many millions of operating systems in the world, some of which is visible at as part of its security intelligence report.

Keene warned that while there was still a lot of money to be made by migrating a customer’s exchange environment into Office 365, it’s a declining business, worldwide. If this was a significant share of a partner’s business, ‘your world is going to become smaller’.

Part of the problem, said Keene, is keeping up with technology that is being added to Microsoft 365 all the time, such as the automation tool Flow, or MyAnalytics.

The challenge is finding business cases for these technologies, after which the partner can begin to charge a business consultancy fee, rather than just a migration fee.

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