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Microsoft bolsters cloud focus with new Cloud Partner Program

Rebrand scraps silver and gold tier system in favour of six cloud-aligned industry designations

Microsoft has announced the arrival of its new Cloud Partner Program, which it says has been designed to change the way it develops and delivers its cloud applications, services, and devices.

The initiative replaces the tech giant’s Partner Network, with the aim of strengthening its cloud offering and providing partners with differentiated end-to-end products and global reach.

“We are committed to making the Cloud Partner Program a beneficial place for all partners, whether you build and sell services, software solutions, or devices,” said Nicole Dezen, chief partner officer and corporate vice president of global partner solutions at Microsoft.

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First announced back in March, the rebranded programme has dropped the old silver and gold competency tiers and replaced them with six Solutions Partner designations.

Available now, these Cloud-aligned specialisations focus on data and AI (Azure), infrastructure (Azure), digital and app innovation (Azure), business applications, modern work, and security.

While these initial designations are geared towards partners that sell services, Microsoft is also working on creating additional pathways for those who build software. There will be industry designations to differentiate solutions based on partners’ “demonstrated performance with customers, technical maturity, and customer success,” it said.

“We’ll be prioritising industry designations anchored on the Microsoft Industry Clouds and aligning across both the Solutions Partner and ISV programmes,” Dezen continued.

Existing silver and gold competency badges are no longer valid – although partners will continue to receive legacy benefits until their next anniversary date. Upon reaching the next anniversary, Microsoft said those that attain a Solutions Partner designation can choose to move to the updated Solutions Partner benefits or retain their legacy benefits and pay the corresponding fee.

Additionally, there are also increased resources for ISV partners via the recently-announced ISV Success programme. Currently in private preview, the pathway aims to provide benefits to help build and publish apps faster, accelerate innovation, as well as reach more customers.

However, despite outlining the partner rebrand and its competency changes, Microsoft made no mention of its controversial New Commerce Experience (NCE) policy, which it expanded back in December 2021 to cover Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365, Windows 365, and the Power Platform.

Ultimately, the NCE changes mean a pay-monthly subscription is now 20% more expensive than the annual alternative and a clear attempt to lock partners into year-long deals.

It’s a move that sparked anger amongst its partner community, with particular attention placed on the fact that resellers would become liable for the bill to Microsoft for the remainder of the subscription, should a customer become insolvent.

Following a wave of criticism back in March, former Microsoft MVP Nick Whittome revealed that an insider had acknowledged the unrest amongst partners off the record, particularly about insolvency protections. According to his tweet, the internal commenter said Microsoft would be reviewing the situation.

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