Microsoft: Security issues in cloud computing lead to partner revenue

At WPC 2011, Microsoft revealed how channel partners can cash in on cloud security problems with Redmond’s new modules and value-added services.

LOS ANGELES -- At Microsoft’s 2011 Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) this week, the software giant laid out its strategy for resolving enterprises’ cloud security problems, and that strategy relies heavily on its channel partners.

Microsoft extolled the many revenue opportunities it envisions for its partners, including VARs and LARs, ISVs and consultants, who can help deliver a more secure cloud experience for customers using Microsoft’s updated slate of modules and value-added services options.

Ward Ralston, director of server & cloud platform outbound marketing at Microsoft, spoke during a presentation at WPC 2011 entitled, Identity and Security in the Cloud: Overcoming Customer Concerns. He cited a 2011 Gartner Inc. report in which the Stamford, Conn.-based research firm found 90% of CSOs surveyed were hesitant to move data and applications to the cloud because of security issues in cloud computing.  Ralston believes this finding spells opportunity for Microsoft channel partners.

Consulting services for cloud deployments
Microsoft cloud-based products, such as Azure and Office 365, are currently supported by some Microsoft security tools and security capabilities within other Microsoft products, including Azure AppFabric Access Control Service (ACS), Active Directory (AD), Forefront Identity Manager (FIM), Windows Identity Foundation (WIF) and Rights Management Services (RMS). 

The point of entry is, does the customer have Active Directory?
If they do, there is so much value you can add for them. 

Ward Ralston
Microsoft

In a WPC 2011 session entitled, Partnering with Microsoft in the Cloud, Microsoft executives encouraged partners to add value on top of Microsoft’s cloud platform, including not only its Azure public cloud platform, but also private cloud and hybrid implementations. Microsoft pointed to identity management as a key area where partners can add value. As an example, Microsoft representatives explained that channel partners could augment subscriptions to Intune, Microsoft’s cloud-based service for managing Windows clients (whether computers, mobile devices or browsers), with BitLocker or BitLocker To Go consulting services for customers interested in data encryption.  

Add-on products for cloud security
Morten Boel Sigurdsson, CEO of Microsoft Gold partner Omada Solutions Inc., also gave a presentation at WPC 2011, where he explained the modules his company had developed to address cloud security issues. Omada developed and now resells Omada Identity Suite for Forefront Identity Manager (FIM) 2010, Omada Compliance Attestation Manager for FIM 2010, Omada SharePoint Governance Manager for FIM 2010 and Omada Role Manager for FIM 2010, all of which seek to improve or enhance the underlying security functionality of Microsoft’s cloud platform.

Developing add-on products for Microsoft’s cloud platform may be an opportunity for channel partners with ample development resources, but what about partners with fewer resources or partners who want to focus on services? Microsoft’s Ralston believes there is still plenty of opportunity for these partners, too.

“The point of entry is: Does the customer have Active Directory? If they do, there is so much value you can add for them. Even just setting up identities and permissions before handing it off to the customer’s own IT staff can be a huge value-add for some customers,” Ralston said in an interview with SearchSecurityChannel.com at WPC 2011.

He added that partners can also bring in a Microsoft ISV who has added value to Azure, Office 365, CRM Online or other Microsoft cloud products.  “The reseller can help choose the right additions for these customers, recommending and then deploying these modules as a consulting service,” Ralston said.  

Proliferation of hybrid clouds
Discussions of cloud security often raise the question of private versus public clouds. At WPC 2011, Microsoft conceded the public cloud may never be secure enough for some customers’ requirements. 

“We over-pivoted on the cloud the last couple of years,” Microsoft’s Ralston noted in his presentation.  “We had a vision that customers were going to move everything into the cloud.  But we now know, especially with compliance issues, we are going to be in a hybrid [model] forever.”

Microsoft’s Thomas agreed, saying in his presentation, “We are encouraging partners to leverage the cloud, especially in a hybrid environment.  We had run ahead on the cloud story before, but now we are taking a slower approach.”  

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