At this week's Worldwide Partner Conference, Microsoft unveiled a series of sweeping updates to the Microsoft Partner Network, representing a total expected investment of $5.8 billion in tools, training and other incentives. Microsoft Channel Chief Jon Roskill unveiled the changes during his address to some 15,000 VARs, MSPs, ISVs and SIs in attendance. And while these changes cover much of Microsoft's product ecosystem, there's definitely a focus on the cloud.

There's a lot to go over, so let's do this bullet point-style, with information taken from the official press release:

Competencies



  • Messaging and Communications are now separate partner competencies to reflect the difference between simple e-mail inboxes and the kind of unified communications capabilities reflected in products such as Microsoft Office 365.

  • Systems Management and Virtualization will be merged into a single competency by May 2012 with a new focus on using Microsoft Hyper-V and Microsoft System Center to provide private cloud services for customers.


Cloud Momentum Boosters




  • Software Assurance Planning Services are slated to be available in August 2011, providing partners with financial incentives for "deployment services to Microsoft Software Assurance customers for Microsoft private cloud, Windows Azure public cloud, SQL Server and software development," so says the press release.

  • Windows Azure Incentives is a new program that rewards service providers for moving customers to Microsoft's public PaaS platform.

  • Similarly, Private Cloud Incentives, a.k.a. the Management and Virtualization Solution Incentive Program, rewards Gold-level Microsoft partners for deploying private cloud technologies.

  • The SQL Server Solution Incentive Program is for Gold Certified partners deploying Microsoft platform and business intelligence solutions.

  • License mobility, which allows customers to move licenses for Microsoft SQL Server, Hyper-V and System Center between on-premises and the cloud, is aimed at helping hosted service providers grow their business.

  • "High-potential partners" will be eligible to receive coaching from Microsoft directly on the best way to scale up their businesses and integrate cloud services into customer offerings.

  • An update to the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Software Advisor Program (CSA) means that partners are eligible for 40 percent commissions on new subscription sales of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online. It's part of an initiative to boost Dynamics CRM momentum in the market.


New Tools



  • Cloud Accelerate partners will get 100 internal use licenses each for Microsoft Lync and Windows Intune, up from 25. Cloud Essentials partners will get 25, up from 10.

  • Partner toolkits and opportunity guides will be available for partners offering public and private solutions in the small-business, midmarket, enterprise and public sector markets.


I'm not sure where, exactly, that $5.8 billion figure for the new tools, training and incentive came from. But Microsoft certainly has created a hefty list of improvements -- and it speaks to the focus on boosting partner efforts in the cloud we've been hearing all week from Roskill and his team. But with Google and other competitors waiting for Microsoft to slip up, will it be enough?

Keep watching TalkinCloud for more details on these enhancements as they become available.