Microsoft® Partners Evaluate Directory Alternatives

By George Lattimore Posted August 13, 2019

The news of Microsoft® threatening to change their support for Partners has caused quite a stir. In service provider channels around the web, Microsoft Partners are banding together to discuss a path forward and evaluate directory alternatives. When you read through the story summarized through the quotes below, ranging from Bill Gates to the Microsoft Partners themselves, it’s fairly obvious why so many managed service providers (MSPs) are upset with the recent treatment. Let’s trace the narrative arc from the situation to the response to the backtracking in an effort to find an optimal path forward.

Most people believe in the end, it’s about solving customer problems. If you do that well, the thought process is that everything else will follow. This raises the question: how can MSPs evaluate alternative solutions and partner programs that truly prioritize their client needs? 

Mounting Pressure on the Microsoft Partner Network

One way to follow the storyline here and understand the perspective of Microsoft Partners is to read through quotes. What better place to start understanding Microsoft’s optimistic, progressive motivational approach than a quote from Bill Gates in 2017:

“Surround yourself with people who challenge you, teach you, and push you to be your best self.” 

Fast forward two years to Microsoft’s 2019 Inspire Conference, and their tagline reflects Bill’s conscientious sentiment. It was important that Microsoft thanked Partners for their contributions to the $8.8 billion in net revenue earned in Q2 2019. As such, the corporate rallying cry rang out as, “Together, we achieve more.”

Around the same time, however, Microsoft Partners woke up to this sobering message in their Azure dashboard inbox: “You must increase your customer base by 10 new Office 365 customers within the previous 12 months.” Otherwise, the Partnership would be terminated. This more than doubled the previous tenant growth requirements, and what’s more, Microsoft announced that they were removing much of the support that Partners relied on. Specifically, this included 25 free IUR (internal use rights) licenses, $100/mo in Azure credit, and on-prem product support incidents. 

Hearing the Train Whistle Blowing

For some MSPs who had based their business, and essentially their lifestyle as a service provider, around Microsoft software and enablement for the past 10 years, this was a painful development. Loyalty and trust had been directly challenged. Wayne Small, founder of a small Microsoft Partner based in Australia, responded online by stating the following:

“My personal view is that lately, Microsoft has become more focused on the end customers and less so on the resellers who helped get to them: it feels like they’re not focusing on them as much as they used to, especially the smaller ones.” 

In a reddit posting entitled, an “open letter to Microsoft regarding the IUR benefit,” another Microsoft Partner reiterated the shared disappointment felt towards Microsoft’s proposed changes:

“Owning a separate development company myself, I’ve already started taking steps to move out of your ecosystem because I no longer feel that Microsoft has my back. For the first time in 30+ years, I feel like you are trying to shed your smaller partners like they are some sort of a fiscal liability. This is absolutely not how partners should behave.”

By voicing their frustrations en masse through a petition that collected over 6500 signatures, Microsoft Partners forced Microsoft’s hand in the matter and the proposed cuts were revoked:

“Given your feedback, we have made the decision to roll back all planned changes related to internal use rights and competency timelines that were announced earlier this month.” – Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President Gavriella Schuster

If you’re wondering how long Microsoft plans to stay with the status quo before changing their support again for the Partner Network, you’re certainly not alone. 

What’s Next for Microsoft Partners?

One of the positives emerging from this situation is the undeniable upswing in valuable discussion. Pushed into action, managed service providers everywhere have sought out web forums and media channels to band together and make their voices heard. In the process, they’re flipping the script on demands from Microsoft, and actively evaluating alternative partner programs. 

As IT service providers plan for the future and look to build a foundation with the right tools and partners, it’s clear that Partners have to maintain their customers first. Before vendors, before partner programs, there’s always the customers’ problems and need for IT services.

Navigating the labyrinth of on-prem Active Directory® limitations and third-party connections in order to manage modern client environments has made Microsoft a difficult pill to swallow for some time. Now, the value in doing so has dropped, and MSPs are looking to find a vendor-neutral substitute instead of waiting for Microsoft’s other shoe to drop. 

A Client-first, Cloud Directory Alternative

When compared with Microsoft, any option can stand out if it’s vendor agnostic. For JumpCloud® Partners, this means that each platform (Mac®, Windows®, Linux®) is treated equally, so MSPs can manage any client’s fleet with full confidence. No vendor lock-in. No hidden integration agendas. Expanded opportunity. JumpCloud Partners have the freedom to choose the best tools for their clients, and build a platform agnostic foundation they can grow with. Create a free test account, leverage 10 free users per client, or go ahead and apply to be an official JumpCloud Partner

About JumpCloud’s Partner Program

JumpCloud’s Partner Program empowers IT Service Providers with central identity management from the cloud. Fine-tuned for MSPs with cloud security offerings or clients transitioning to the cloud, Directory-as-a-Service can be easily bundled at the center of any product stack to make your business, and your clients’ businesses, as efficient and scalable as possible. Make Work Happen™ for your clients while improving the bottom line for your business.

George Lattimore

George is a writer at JumpCloud, a central source for authenticating, authorizing, and managing your IT infrastructure through the cloud. With a degree in Marketing and an MS in Public Communications and Technology, George enjoys writing about how the IT landscape is adapting to a diversified field of technology.

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