Last week we attended the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, or WPC as it's more commonly known, in Toronto. WPC is Microsoft's annual partner kick-off where the software giant shares its strategy for the next 12 months. It's quite a popular event attended by over 17,000 partners world-wide. We've pulled together some of our key takeaways from the five-day event to give you a flavour of what the next 12 months holds for Microsoft and its customers.
This year's keynotes included numerous references to "digital transformation" – how organisations can use Microsoft Cloud/Azure and Cortana Intelligence for crunching big data, business intelligence and predictive analytics. There was also a big focus on security with enhanced offerings from the likes of EMS (Enterprise Mobility Suite – or as it is now known, Enterprise Mobility and Security).
Windows 10 will celebrate its first anniversary on 2nd August, marking the occasion with various updates and new features, including the extension of Windows Hello to allow users to log onto websites using their credentials instead of just the domain. Keep your eyes on Softcat News for a more detailed look at what's next for Windows 10.
The Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) programme, which gives flexible monthly billing of Office 365 services backed by partner-delivered first line support, also got a lot of focus at WPC. The programme has matured from the fringes at last year's event to the mainstream this year; this is great news for Softcat who have been transacting as a CSP since it launched.
In the next 12 months we'll see some software licensing being introduced to CSP, including Windows Enterprise and Secure Productive Enterprise (SPE). Akin to HP Inc's existing device subscription model, we also expect Microsoft to announce 'Surface as a Service', with new leasing options for Surface alongside monthly licensing on CSP.
In line with the overall conference theme of strengthening security, Enterprise Mobility & Security (EMS) has got and is getting new security features and enhancements. Some of these security features will be available from the Autumn, when EMS will be available as two plans, either EMS E3 or EMS E5.
Existing EMS customers will automatically move to EMS E3, whereas the higher cost EMS E5 will include additional information protection services and new features such as Cloud App Security – a dashboard that shows all your SaaS applications and highlights where security policies or changes need to be applied.
According to Microsoft, the name "Enterprise Cloud Suite" didn't convey much meaning to customers, but "Secure Productive Enterprise" will. SPE is essentially ECS version 2 – availability expected from 1st October – and will be offered as two plans, either SPE E3 or SPE E5 (both including EMS E3 or E5 and Windows Enterprise/per user E3 or E5).
The SPE plans will include rights to install any number of Exchange server, SharePoint server and Skype for Business servers, meaning there's no need for organisations to buy these separate server licences. Also included, and possibly of greater significance, are the rights to Office Professional Plus (with downgrade rights) in certain scenarios. Pricing is still to be confirmed, but expect it to be higher than the current ECS pricing.
Expected to be made available to UK customers in March 2017, Dynamics 365 will offer elements of CRM (Sales and Marketing modules) and NAV, creating what will essentially be a cut-down/light offering of CRM and Financials aimed at the SMB market. This will be a SaaS only offering, only available via the CSP programme. An Enterprise-orientated offering will also be made available which will include AX as a service, available again via the CSP, EA and MPSA licensing programmes.
This is the "committed offer" on MPSA which in time is designed to replace the existing Enterprise Agreement (EA), allowing customers to make company-wide commitments to software/online services but billed through your Microsoft partner rather than Microsoft directly. We expect availability in early 2017.
This will offer a more flexible way for customers to commit to a mix of software licensing and Office 365 services in any combination as required on a company-wide basis – using the cloud-ready, modern MPSA agreement for easier management and provisioning of licenses and services. We'll share more details on this as soon as we have them.
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