Last week, on behalf of Techedge, I attended to Inspire 2018, the Microsoft event dedicated to Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Community. This year the event was held in Las Vegas, and for the first time ever, it was held in conjunction with Microsoft Ready, the yearly event dedicated to Microsoft employees that represents their New Fiscal Year kick-off.
In this blog post I would like to summarize my personal takeaways.
#1 MICROSOFT OPENNESS
The morning core-notes were delivered to both Partner and Employee communities. That means that, as a Partner, we received the same strategic info, guidance, roadmaps that Microsoft shared internally; having spent years working for big software enterprises I can assure you that this is not foregone.
Microsoft Top Management delivered passionate speeches; Satya Nadella (CEO), Gavriella Schuster (CVP for One Commercial Partner), Judson Althoff (EVP of Worldwide Commercial Business), Jason Zander (EVP of Azure Team) are just one selection of key Microsoft people that jumped on stage to articulate corporate strategy and Partner led go-to-market.
#2 MICROSOFT FOCUS AND GROWTH
Nothing new or secret here, Microsoft confirmed its strong focus on four strategic areas:
- Modern Workplace that means Office 365 and other value adding surrounding propositions.
- Business Applications that essentially means Microsoft Dynamics offering.
- Applications and Infrastructure that largely map to Azure Cloud.
- Data & AI that represent Microsoft Data Platform offering, strictly related to Cloud offering.
While we were in Vegas, Microsoft was in “no disclose” period preceding FY18 official results release so all the figures they provided us were referring to the first three quarters of the fiscal year. Anyway Office 365 grew by 42%, Dynamics 365 grew by 65% while Azure grew by 93%.
Pretty interesting results, but from my perspective even more interesting is the 234% growth in Cloud Service Provider business that is essentially fully driven by partners.
By the way: on July 19th Microsoft disclosed FY18 Q4 results, if you are interested in details you can give a look here.
#3 SAP CUSTOMERS ARE A KEY TARGET
No, I’m not referring to an hypothetical Microsoft Dynamics frontal attack to SAP installed base. Instead I'm referring to the SAP on Azure motion that, given the number of mentions and specific sessions delivered at Inspire, is really top of Microsoft mind.
We had the chance to compare our thoughts and experiences with other System Integrators and Microsoft professional focused on this topic. Here I summarize just some findings:
- We’re all aligned: Lift & Shift of ECC is not compelling event, everybody is looking for S/4HANA migrations to justify business cases.
- Why Azure? Here there’s convergence on different main aspects: Cost Reductions (some presented use cases produced 40% annual savings), Agility to address Business Requirements, Pace of Innovation, Cloud Regions availability (54 at present moment) and Security (Azure has more certifications than any other provider).
- Microsoft suggested that opportunity for Partners is not only related to SAP HANA, but on everything around it like system monitoring, analytics, storage, high availability, disaster recovery. Pure SAP business apart, there’s space to complement with Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Cortana, Power BI, ...all services available via Azure Cloud platform.
We had interesting discussions around migration strategies and approaches: a customer can go Horizontal that means by layer (e.g. move all the sandboxes to Azure, then Dev Environments, then Quality, ...) or Vertical that means the full stack of environments for a specific application (e.g. Financial, CRM, HR, Supply Chain, ...); but modules that exchange real-time data have to move together, otherwise latency could quickly became an issue.
#4 MICROSOFT SERIOUSLY RUNS SAP ON AZURE
Microsoft partnership with SAP is well known and publicized. As of today, Microsoft provides the biggest VM certified for SAP HANA on the market and the two big companies have common strategies on this business area... But even more interestingly Microsoft disclosed details on the migration of their own SAP footprint (some 50TB) to Azure.
Microsoft runs SAP to cover Finance, HR, SCM, Commerce, Enterprise Services and Platform processes, now all running on Azure and integrated with SAP native SaaS offering (Success Factors, IBP, Ariba, Concur) and we have had a very interesting session with Hans Reutter, Microsoft IT Manager in charge of SAP on Azure project.
#5 INTEGRATION AT ITS BEST
Microsoft has a huge products and services offering, exactly as many other players in Workplaces Suites, Business Applications and Cloud spaces - but what really impressed me is the level of integration provided. If you are still thinking that “Modern Workplace” stands for Excel, Word, Office and Outlook you’re outdated a bit: today Microsoft provides an immersive experience of content sharing, web conferencing, augmented reality and it’s incredible how an end user can leverage features from a variety of applications and services (Teams, Sharepoint, Yammers, just to name a few) without even realizing that is switching from one to another.
I witnessed another great integration example with a Power BI demo where Azure AI Service was seamlessly integrated to provide root-cause analysis in front of differences in expected outcomes; very effective result with low implementation costs (that sounds like Consultant’s Nirvana).
#6 MICROSOFT CAN MANAGE COMPLEXITY
No, I’m not referring here to application architectures or customers requirements (although it is implied), In this case, I'm referring to Microsoft ability to smoothly manage such a massive event: around 40,000 people (almost half split between Partners and Employees) from 132 countries (that means lots of attitudes, religions, eating habits,...) that need to move from various venues, hotels, conference centers. The event is huge, incredibly huge - but the organization was outstanding: an army of hyper-energized people provided guidance, paths were clearly depicted, any queue (for bus shuttle or meals) was never longer than acceptable.