Happy New Year! Microsoft recently celebrated the end of FY2019 and kicked off FY2020 at Microsoft Inspire + Ready. Inspire, their flagship partner event, was held at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. I was one of the 20,000 partner attendees from 140 countries who gathered to meet, learn, plan and celebrate at Mandalay Bay.
For a partner, it’s the first and best chance to hear about new solutions, align with the Microsoft field, and meet with and hear from the product groups developing the newest solutions at rich and interactive sessions.
Since renaming the Worldwide Partner Conference Microsoft Inspire in 2016, the event has coincided with their internal annual kickoff, Microsoft Ready. Thousands of employees from around the world, who in FY19 celebrated triple digits across almost every solution, hear about realignment, new roles, new solutions, new customers, and scary new quotas they will likely exceed with Microsoft on an all-time roll.
Just How Big a Roll is Microsoft On?
Fueled by an amazing year on Wall Street, including a $30.1B Q4 revenue number (~$1B above their Wall Street expected revenue in Q4), the vibe of Inspire 2019 was one of pride, confidence and potential – fitting for a company that is the best case study for what it sells.
Microsoft has grown while transforming on a massive scale. They’ve exited the software business and are moving upstream to quickly become an intelligent service provider, building the “new Internet,” rich with integrated new-age collaboration, productivity, and infrastructure platform offerings, wrapped with integrated security. Software ate the world, and now Microsoft is eating software and turning it into massive service revenue.
4 Key Takeaways from Inspire
As always, I left Inspire with tons of thoughts about what the rest of FY2020 holds for Microsoft and their customers. I’ve boiled those thoughts down into these 4 key takeaways:
- Azure IaaS is still the core focus for Microsoft. Cloud Wars continue, with AWS still holding the Infrastructure-as-a-Service market share lead and Google investing heavily in sales and partners to capture market share. Approximately only 20% of workloads are in the cloud today, according to a study by IBM and McKinsey, so anything that drives Azure consumption is good for business.
- Microsoft’s Security Platform is for real. Azure Sentinel is a cloud-based security platform intelligent SIEM that offers integrated core-to-edge analytics powered by Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, open to best-of-breed solutions. Microsoft’s integrated platform approach has always been a key value differentiator for integration, compatibility, and dependability. It provides a supportable long-term roadmap and findable skill set. Combine this with the ability to integrate and ingest data from market leaders like Palo Alto and CheckPoint solutions, and the field of competitors falls away. It also doesn’t hurt that Microsoft owns Active Directory, the de-facto standard for authentication for many enterprise companies.
- Data, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are ready for prime time. Data Centralization, Synthesis, Management and Analytics are key components of digital transformation. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are only as good as the information they can access; the more, the better. Microsoft is offering amazing subsidies for companies who will transition their data to the cloud. Leveraging Azure Hybrid-Use Benefits, a company can migrate and save more than 50% on the cost of SQL in the cloud.
- Microsoft’s Partner Program is alive and well. Microsoft announced they were onboarding 7500 partners per month, driven in part by their open cloud stance with Oracle, VMware, Adobe, and other tier-one manufacturers’ partner programs. After reversing the gaffe of rescinding internal use rights just days before the conference, market-maker Microsoft shared new competencies, solutions, and market coverage models with their partners, while providing a revamped “co-sell” approach, enabling Microsoft sellers and partners to work together seamlessly to serve the customer.
Walking around the celebration concert (Queen with Adam Lambert!) on the final night of Inspire, I found it hard to believe it was just six years ago that Microsoft needed massive change and a new identity, bringing in a new CEO and writing off $1B for a failed Surface RT launch, followed by a reported $8B write off for its Nokia acquisition. Those headlines couldn’t have felt further in the rear view mirror this year.
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