Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ : MSFT) announced significant changes to its partner program in mid-March, the long-standing network of more than 400,000 independent consultants and resellers that assist in putting the tech company’s products in the hands of customers.

Microsoft partner program to rebrand with focus on cloud

It’ll be renamed the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program once the changes take place in October 2022, emphasizing the firm’s greater concentration on the Microsoft Azure system and other cloud-based solutions. Microsoft’s most substantial effort so far to deploy these partners within the cloud contests versus Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud is represented by the modifications.

The most critical aspect for partners is the new points system. For the first time, Microsoft will assign the partners a “capability score” in major product areas based on how best they can assist clients in utilizing Microsoft’s cloud solutions. The higher the score, the more business and financial rewards Microsoft promises to offer.

The modifications have sparked debate among Microsoft partners because of their possible impact. However, some proponents argue that the adjustments are long needed and will help them stand out in Microsoft’s expanding partner ecosystem, possibly weeding out those who they believe are abusing program perks.

Changes to the partner program opposed by some partners 

The critics haven’t been bashful about airing their grievances. In March, a partner in Australia created an online petition asking partners to oppose the changes so that the company would reverse them; it already has almost 800 signatories. The changes have been condemned as “shameful” and “onerous” by partners that have signed the petition, who fear that the new restrictions may force them out of operation.

While any substantial shift to an existing program could be intimidating, Microsoft sees it as an opportunity to gain favor with the top-performing partners.

Chief analyst at Canalys Jay McBain said, “Microsoft is coming off nine straight quarters of outgrowing its major competitor in the cloud, AWS, and it’s done that through a great relationship with the enterprise channel that it’s had for decades.”