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Smart Move Plucking New Microsoft CEO from the Cloud

Satya Nadella becomes the third CEO of Microsoft, having previously held the position of Executive Vice President of Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise group.

Satya Nadella becomes the third CEO of Microsoft, having previously held the position of Executive Vice President of Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise group.

I was asked to share my views on the appointment of Satya Nadella as new Microsoft CEO with The IndependentThe Evening Standard and The New Zealand Herald so I thought I’d take the opportunity to expand on what I told them here.

It doesn’t come as too much of a surprise because he’s a known quantity within Microsoft circles and has a proven track record of success in previous roles.  The Microsoft I’ve always known likes to promote from within. More than that, it sends a signal of where Microsoft sees the key battles being fought over the next five years or so.

Despite the success of Xbox, the acquisition of Nokia and other consumer-oriented initiatives, Microsoft’s heartland is undoubtedly in the enterprise.  Microsoft is in the early stages of a major shift from the provision of on-premise licensed software to subscription-based Cloud services. The die is cast in terms of the steady shift of enterprise IT investment into the Cloud so it makes sense that Microsoft embraces this shift. But what makes it even more critical is that the Cloud is in Google’s DNA not yet Microsoft’s.

So the stage is set for a monumental battle for the hearts, minds and dollars of the world’s enterprise CIOs.  Microsoft has the market share and the track record in serving this audience but Google is making inroads. For much of Microsoft and its partner network, this is a time of great creative change and opportunity.

Satya Nadella has shown that he’s able to grasp the nettles and drive the Cloud agenda at Microsoft. The stakes are high and Google, Apple and a raft of start-up organizations own significant Cloud mindshare now.

Will Microsoft succeed?  We believe it’ll win with apps and back-end business services because such a huge percentage of the enterprise base has been well served by Microsoft’s technologies over the years, and the first choice for most of these organizations will be to migrate to the Microsoft Cloud with as little disruption to end users as possible.

Will it succeed with devices? I think it’ll need to pick its battles. Microsoft used to have a clear lead on the end user operating system and to the extent that its future strategy might rely on recreating this scenario it’ll certainly have a tough fight. Future work surfaces will be a diverse set of devices and it’s hard to imagine Microsoft evicting iOS and Android from these markets. So I think the front-end operating systems are going to need to be less important to Microsoft and perhaps that’s something that comes more naturally to Satya Nadella than it might have to Steve Ballmer.

But it won’t be easy. One of Microsoft’s advantages has traditionally been its extensive network of partners, both in terms of channel and software vendors like Mimecast.  It’s crucial, as Microsoft seeks to move its customer base to the Cloud, that it continues to partner in order to provide the best possible Cloud experience to demanding enterprise customers.

Certainly from our point of view we’re strongly backing the Microsoft horse and optimizing our services for Office 365, the company’s Cloud version of Exchange. We’re looking to help customers and prospects build their short, mid and long-term plans to move all their email services to the Cloud.

Ultimately, Mr. Nadella’s appointment is all about Microsoft’s commitment to the Cloud. Given that Mimecast has been a catalyst for Cloud adoption since we started ten years ago, we’re very encouraged that Microsoft has appointed a CEO who shares our view on the future of IT.

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WPC 2013 is Around the Corner – Come Join Us!

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The 2013 Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Houston, Texas, is this week and Mimecast will be there in full force. Our massive booth (#1207) will have regular opportunities to win prizes and meet with the Mimecast leadership team who’ll be available throughout.

Mimecast’s Newly Opened U.S. HQ in Boston

Mimecast’s Newly Opened U.S. HQ in Boston

Of course, heads will turn for presentations from Microsoft executives like Steve Ballmer, but first and foremost this event is for the Microsoft Partner ecosystem. We’re very proud that at last year’s WPC we were recognized for our part in that network, winning the 2012 Microsoft Innovative Customer Advocacy Partner of the Year. It marked the start of an excellent year of growth for Mimecast globally and in particular in the US. We’ve just opened up a new U.S. HQ in Boston and plan a 30% growth in local headcount in 2013. The next step in that growth is to develop our partner network quickly, which is why we’re so keen to meet potential partners next week in Texas.

Going into WPC this year, it strikes me that we’re finally seeing fruition of cloud technology after many years of expectation.

In March 2010, Steve Ballmer made a statement to the market – “for the cloud, we’re all in.” It rapidly became IT folklore and was a clear recognition from Microsoft that the shift from client server to cloud computing was an irresistible force, and that the company needed to get on the bus.  And once the Redmond behemoth got on that bus, everyone started looking for a ticket.

Yet I’m surprised to still be reading a few comments in the IT press imploring readers to ‘embrace the cloud’ or to ‘make it a strategic part of your business’, three years later the jury is in – the cloud has won.

So why isn’t the channel grabbing this opportunity with both hands?

The IT channel ecosystem is still threatened by the cloud for two reasons. Either, they can’t figure out how they can ‘add value,’ i.e. build cloud services into a powerful value proposition for their customers or because they see their margins being eroded.  But find the right partner, and the long term rewards are there.

How do you know if you have the right partner?

  • Margins. Looking at vendors’ long term margins can give you a good indication of how committed they are to the relationship.  It’s no good being paid a good percentage margin on closing a sale, only to see that drop off a cliff further down the line.  Resellers have businesses to run.  The whole attraction of the cloud business model is recurring revenue – if resellers can’t predict a flow of income after closing a deal, their business looks unsustainable.  The key here is working with vendor partners who aren’t just selling a cloud service, but are fully committed to a cloud business model. From the outset Mimecast has designed a partner program that is hugely rewarding with high retained margins. These margins, especially when combined with Office 365, provide an extremely healthy annuity revenue stream. I encourage you to stop by the booth for the facts – I guarantee that you’ll be impressed.
  • Revenue protection: when a deal is signed, what steps are taken to protect that opportunity?  Ask about partner deal registration support, such as Mimecast’s unique ‘Poacher’s Penalty’ which means any partner attempting to steal an existing Mimecast customer from another partner only receives a maximum of 2% margin.
  • Does the partner have products or services that compliment your – or your clients’ – area of expertise?  The service aspect of your business is the only aspect you actually own.  Product supply chains can be taken away at any time, so the ability to add value with additional services is vitally important and your reputation is based on it.  Again, working with vendors who are cloud ‘from the ground up’ can help you build these services into a compelling and valuable proposition for customers.
  • What is the partner’s customer retention rate? At Mimecast, for example, our 97% customer retention rate means we’re offering our partners a customer for life, thus securing reliable, recurring revenues for the long term.
  • Will that partner offer to help you generate leads? Are the benefits of that vendor easily understood, tangible and demonstrable?  What resources does the partner offer in terms of marketing training, technology or campaigns?  From your first conversations, a good partner should be providing you with facts and figures about resources available, numbers of meetings and high quality leads provided.

The cloud needs to be profitable to the IT channel.  And it can be.  But only if partners work with vendors with who they can build a long term partnership that offers mutual rewards.

There is money to be made for partners, and we’ll be at booth number #1207 if you’d like to hear how we can help make it happen together!

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Windows 8 Has Ruined My Life…Oh Wait Maybe Not

If this title sounds familiar, you’re likely to be someone who reads the technology media.

I mean let’s face it, ever since Microsoft announced its new operating system it had more than its share of critics appearing from every corner of the globe offering up their opinions (much like I’m doing now).

Microsoft has released screenshots confirming the return of a Start button to Windows 8

Microsoft has released screenshots confirming the return of a Start button to Windows 8

I don’t understand what the negativity is about.

I’m a Windows 8 professional user and I’ve been very happy with my upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 8.

Before I continue, I just want to clarify a few things about myself and my history with Operating Systems because I’m not like the average user.

Like most, my first OS was a Microsoft OS (DOS 3.1 to give you an idea of my age) and I stayed within the Microsoft ecosystem for many years until one day in 1998 I decided to run a test to see if Linux was ready for the desktop. That test failed miserably but it instilled a love of all things Linux in me which I still have today.

In 2000, I moved to a fulltime Linux desktop as all the work I was doing was consulting and working around Linux systems. This continued to 2004 when a consulting project I was involved in required documents to be created in Office 2003 (Project and Visio). At that point I migrated from SuSE Linux 9.1 to Windows XP with Office 2003. That project completed and in 2005 I started working at Mimecast. My machine stayed on XP as I didn’t have the time to dedicate to migrate my data again.

My work at Mimecast brought me closer to Microsoft Exchange and Outlook and when they released Windows Phone I was excited to see what their re-imagining of the user interface would be like. The change from my BlackBerry Bold 9000 to the HTC HD7 was remarkable. Never before had I handled a phone that was so intuitive, user friendly and functionally useful to me. Sometime later I got “upgraded” to an iPhone 4s and – in what my wife and many others thought was a backwards step – I returned the iPhone and went back to WP7, this time to a Nokia Lumia 800. The iPhone wasn’t anywhere near as user friendly and intuitive as the Windows Phone was for me.

So when Microsoft announced Windows 8 and that it would be a similar experience to the Windows Phone, I was intrigued. I soon had a Lenovo Twist, a nice little machine with a touch screen that folds over and turns the laptop into a tablet and I began using it and reporting back to the IT department any problems I had or things I thought might be problematic for us as an organization to support.

I love being a guinea pig.

Anyway, barring basic issues like desktop AV clients not yet properly supported and drivers for my obscure Boogie Board Rip not yet working properly, everything has worked pretty much perfectly from day 1.

Yes, I’m not a basic user, but I ‘m a person who uses a lot of applications and is constantly moving between them. I’m someone who should, if the people who cry about the lack of start buttons and booting to desktops are to be believed, be miserable with this new OS.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

All in all, my life hasn’t really changed. I use the machine almost exclusively in desktop mode. Not because I don’t like the apps in the new UI, but because the tools I use on a daily basis are all on my desktop. I use Outlook, not the mail app, I use Word, not some note app, I use Excel not some calculator that can be obtained from the marketplace.

When I start up, I get dropped into the new start screen. Shock and horror, in order to begin my day I do what I’ve ALWAYS done. I start my mail client, Outlook. This is done by clicking or tapping the Outlook tile that I’ve positioned neatly in my direct line of sight on the start screen. Outlook starts and takes me into desktop mode.

I don’t miss the start button at all and it amazes me how much attention this insignificant little feature is getting. The start screen easily replaces the start button but if I am too lazy to jump around, I just use shortcuts. My taskbar in desktop mode has shortcuts to all my frequently used apps on it. (Microsoft have just announced that Windows 8.1 will include a start button but no start menu, among other much more exciting features but more on that later).

Both in my home office and my work office I’m connected to external displays and in almost every instance of using the machine I’m working with my keyboard and mouse.

My son uses the touch interface to play games. I don’t play games on this, I prefer to save the battery for more boring things like connectivity and spreadsheets.

That’s not to say I don’t go into the new UI ever because I do. My password management app is in the new UI.

So let’s recap.

I can do everything I need to do.

I don’t care that I’ve no start button because it doesn’t impact me in any way.

I work in desktop mode all day and the start screen doesn’t magically stop me being able to do this.

I switch between new UI and desktop all the time and I haven’t gone crazy.

So why’s everyone so anti this new operating system?

Beats me!

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Microsoft Moves to SaaS with Office 2013

Having been at Mimecast for many years championing the benefits of the Software as a Service model to customers, prospects and partners alike, I am well versed in the benefits that this model poses to organizations of every shape and size. Also, having been

involved with hosted services and cloud services, I have seen how vendors, customers and partners have all worked hard to deliver simple solutions to end users while maintaining levels of integration that make many sysadmins lose sleep at night. In addition, having seen this landscape evolve over the past decade, it’s truly refreshing to see a traditionally on-premise software vendor like Microsoft not only shout about the cloud, but actually surface a strategy that makes broad-based cloud computing part of everyday software consumption.

With Steve Ballmer’s announcement yesterday, came the first real view of what Microsoft’s long term strategy is. We all know that Microsoft is a huge company with massive amounts of resource available to do just about anything they want, but yesterday we saw for the first time just how long it takes to change direction for a company of this size.

When Microsoft announced BPOS, it was generally regarded as a tentative attempt to show presence in the cloud/SaaS market and was

experience across devices and the touch user experience (and a secure environment).

more of an attempt to deflect much of the criticism that was levelled towards Redmond at the time. That evolved and became Office 365 which was a much better service offering but it had some poor choices in terms of its distribution model. Last week in Toronto, Microsoft announced that Office 365 Open licenses would be available for delivery through its vast channel and its partner ecosystem breathed a collective sigh of relief and committed to more active promotion of the service.

For me, all the build-up around Windows 8 has always been about two key (and one key but not promoted) things: Ubiquitous

With yesterday’s announcement of Office 2013 preview, we can now see how integral that ubiquitous experience is to the long term plan, which appears to be – “get everything, get it now!”

Ok, what do I mean by that?

Well it’s simple really, with Office 2013 defaulting to storing files on SkyDrive, apps written for Office being available to users no matter what device they are connecting from or even if they are using the web-based versions of the applications and Microsoft’s massively increased push to move users into the cloud for its three biggest server platforms (Office 365 for SharePoint and Exchange and Azure SQL for DB), it now makes more sense than ever to start sipping the Microsoft Kool-Aid.

I mean let’s face it, they may not have invented any of these wheels but they have done a damned fine job of moulding and shaping them to what people are looking for.

Back to my title – Microsoft moves to SaaS with Office 2013 – and a little more on the service side of things.

Microsoft has said quite clearly that it wants to make adoption and upgrades far simpler for its customers and partners. Buy an Office 2013 license and it will provide over the wire upgrades because you are effectively acquiring the software as a service, whether you choose to deploy the full rich client of use the web-based clients. This means that you will always be running the latest version of Office.

Add to this that it only requires a single license for a user, rather than forcing a license per device, and you have a winning success story for people to seriously consider moving their computing across to the Microsoft way.

Microsoft laptop, tablet and phone (X-Box too…?), all using a common authentication mechanism to ensure ubiquitous experience across all three devices as well as pure play internet-based access to all of your apps and docs when you don’t have one of your own devices handy? It’s a compelling mix of cloud and client side applications delivering service to users where and when they want it.

Sounds like utopia to me.

Well it would, for years Mimecast has been working on the premise that customer choice in cloud adoption was an important part of allowing them to make the move towards cloud without it ever having to be a binary decision of cloud vs. on-prem.

In the coming months we are sure to see more features surfacing that will extend on this message, particularly in the server space but it all boils down to Microsoft finally flexing its muscle and demanding that both business and consumers take notice of its offerings and stop settling for second best.