HostingCon 2008: Microsoft Interview with Michael van Dijken and John Zanni 1of 3


At HostingCon 2008, I managed to sit down with many movers and shakers of the industry. My interviews are more conversations between professionals and as such can take anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour. Due to this, I have split the interviews into numerous parts. The following is my interview with Microsoft representatives Michael van Dijken and John Zanni and is the first part of three. And don’t worry if it seems a bit dull to start with, it begins to pick up later in the conversation. 8-D

David: I am here at HostingCon 2008, sitting opposite me are Michael van Dijken and John Zanni of Microsoft. Michael is the Lead Marketing Manager for the Hosting Business, Communications Sector. John is the General Manager of the World Wide Hosting Business, Communications Sector.

Michael van Dijken: So this is the first time we chatted. Would it be helpful to start with an overview of the team or group where we sit in Microsoft?

David: If you’d like.

Michael: We are part of a group called the Communications Sector. Communication Sector is a sales and marketing vertical that sits in our worldwide sales team. We focus Microsoft products, which are fairly horizontal in nature because of their type of audience. We look at how we can sort of build solutions around those products to meet the needs of the verticals or the target markets we serve. For Communications Sector that’s essentially three segments: the hosting industry, which is why we’re here, the what we call network providers (the telcos, telephone operators, and the cable companies), and the content companies, the companies that create the content that get’s distributed on those networks. For the most part those are companies like Disney, Sony, and those kind of companies.

We’re here obviously representing the hosting business. John is the general manager for the Hosting Team World Wide and I run the Marketing Communications Program. You know when we say create we try to build solutions around our horizontal products essentially we look at what are the needs of the industry and how can we help our partners to essentially make money to delivery services using our platform. What are the issues they need to deal with and how do we help them over come them and be profitable.

So we’ve been, I guess as a group, taking this approach for the last nine years. We work with about 6700 hosting companies worldwide. I say a hosting company, that’s a fairly broad range of companies that you see here at the event that includes ISV’s that deliver SaaS solutions. It includes companies like John Deere where the John Deere headquarters provides hosted IT services for their dealerships. So not a true hosting type environment, but still acting as a service provider nonetheless. It’s a fairly broad definition of companies, but about 6700 worldwide. About 2500 to 2800 of those are in North America and the rest are distributed between basically Europe and Asia.

David: What would you consider to be the number one issue that you have to help your partners with?

Michael: The industry is changing rapidly today, the advent of cloud computing and the advent of Software as a Service, all be it early stages, and then entry of the big players like Google, like Microsoft, like Amazon, EBay, social networks like Facebook; they are changing the business models for Hosters. I think one of the biggest issues that service providers face today is how do they find opportunities in the market as its changing? Who are the right companies to partner with as they make their bets going forward? And what roll do they want to play in this new ecosystem? And then, what roll do we play in that? We work with a lot of companies in the industry and help them from a technology perspective; the value of our proposition is clear. We have a world-class platform that they can run on the data centers with broad range of services they can offer to their customers and tools to be able to deliver a very rich user experience. That is on the technology side to; help them to shape their offers using that kind of framework.

Now the business side, the Microsoft Partner Program is a very extensive program that we use to connect directly with our partners and help them to be successful by providing things like certifications, marketing tools, marketing programs and within that framework we have recently launched Hosting Competency. Being able to have Hosters to engage directly with Microsoft, through this program, makes it easy for them to be successful in how they market their services.

David: You said earlier about how you can tailor your products to verticals. Can you give a practical example of that?

Michael: So, let’s have a look at the hosted messaging, hosted email space. Microsoft has a long history with the Exchange product. In recent years, we’ve added some collaboration tools like SharePoint, we also have Office Communications Server, which was our communications server before that. Those products have very a strong position in the enterprise market and have been growing in market share for a quite sometime.

Enterprise deployments are very different from to service provider deployment because they don’t deal with multi-tenancy for example. They don’t deal with having to bill or to invoice or to track usage things like that. Also in tier delegation, administrative delegation, is not an issue and so, we have a solution in market called hosting messaging and collaboration, which essentially knits those three products together in a way which helps us service providers overcome those challenges. There some code that is built into the platform that enables multi-tenancy as a provisioning engine that allows the service provider to create gold, silver, platinum type plan with billing, rules in there with overage rules they can then integrate with their own backend to manage that. There some sample scripts that help them to do just the daily stuff that admins have to do. There’s reports that gets sent to the customers to show uptime, to show usage. Those things can be integrated to portal. So that’s the stuff we wrap around our core products, if you like, to address industry opportunities and help service providers overcome some those challenges.

Next time we will talk about Microsoft moving into the Hosting industry, Cloud Computing, Silverlight, and Microsoft Server 2008.

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