The Microsoft Partner Ecosystem

Microsoft leads in cloud services, integrating Azure with Teams, SharePoint, Dynamics, Power Apps, and Office, creating a comprehensive platform. Azure’s growth, accounting for approximately 54% of total revenue in the 4th quarter of 2023, highlights its importance. The demand for Azure is reflected in over 95% of Fortune 100 and 80% of Fortune 500 companies using it. Microsoft’s focus on AI, particularly through partnerships like with OpenAI’s Copilot, is set to expand its ecosystem even further. With over 400,000 businesses in its AI Cloud Partner Program, Microsoft’s influence spans globally, including over 700 providers servicing the South African market.

Designated Solutions Partners

The Microsoft partner ecosystem is adapting to significant program updates, transitioning from the Microsoft Partner Network to the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program. This shift encourages partners to focus on Microsoft’s recurring revenue by specializing in at least one of six designated solution areas, moving from traditional SaaS to cloud-based solutions. Key updates include replacing legacy Gold and Silver competencies with Solutions Partner designations, ensuring partners are well-equipped to deliver on their promises with Microsoft products.

Since the announcement in March 2022, 339 Solution Partner designations have been obtained by 148 service providers or about 20% of Microsoft partners servicing the South African market. With just under half of these Solutions Partners holding more than one designation and less than 10% holding all six designations. The Modern Work designation is the most prevalent accounting for over 30% of Solution Partner designations obtained with more than 70% of Solutions Partners holding the designation. While the Business Applications designation is the least prominent, accounting for less than 10% of the Solution Partner designations obtained with less than 20% of Solutions Partners holding the designation.

 # Designations

# Designation Holders

Solutions Partner Designations 339100%148100%
Business Applications278%2718%
Data & AI (Azure)​5917%5940%
Digital & App Innovation (Azure)​5917%5940%
Infrastructure (Azure)​5316%5336%
Modern Work10631%10672%


# Designation Holders 
# Designations 148100%
6 Designations118%
5 Designations1611%
4 Designations96%
3 Designations106%
2 Designations2516%
1 Designations7752%

Advanced Specialisations

Above the designated Solutions Partner level are Advanced Specializations, intended for partners aiming to secure more business and offer specialized services. These specializations denote superior technical proficiency and serve as a testament to a partner’s expertise. To qualify, a partner must already have Solutions Partner status and their employees must earn specific certifications, often requiring advanced training and examinations. 32 different Advanced Specialisations can be obtained by Solutions Partners across four specialisation areas.

Since March 2022, 230 Advanced Specialisations have been obtained by 43 Solutions Partners servicing the South African market, or less than 30%. With just under 60% of these Solutions Providers holding an Advanced Specialisation in more than one specialisation area and around 15% holding an Advanced Specialisation in all 4 specialisation areas. Azure is the most prominent specialisation area accounting for more than 40% of total Advanced Specialisations obtained, with more than 65% of all Solution Partners with an Advanced Specialisation obtaining at least one Azure advanced specialisation. Business Applications is the least prominent accounting for just over 10% of total Advanced Specialisations with less than 40% of the 43 Solution Partners with an Advanced Specialisation obtaining a Business Applications Advanced Specialisation.

The most Advanced Specialisations obtained is 19, achieved currently by two Solutions Partners. Just under half of the 43 Solutions Partners who obtained an advanced specialisation hold three or fewer. Threat Protection (Security) and Infra and Database migration to Microsoft Azure (Azure) are the most prominent Advanced Specialisations obtained with nearly half of the 41 Designated Solutions Partners obtaining one.  Interestingly, no Solution Partners holds the Business Intelligence (Business Applications) advanced specialisation or the Hybrid operations and management with Microsoft Azure arc (Azure). With the least prominent Advanced Specialisations obtained being Sales (Business Applications), Service (Business Applications) and Hybrid Cloud Infrastructure with Microsoft Azure Stack HCI (Azure).

# Specialisations# Specialisations Holdings 
Specialisation Area233100%43100%
Business Applications2511%1535%
Modern Work5021%2251%
 # Specialisations Holders
# Specialisation Areas43100%
4 Specilisation Area716%
3 Specilisation Area716%
2 Specilisation Area1023%
1 Specilisation Area1944%
# Specialisations Holders
# Specialisations43100%
19 Specialisations25%
18 Specialisations00%
17 Specialisations12%
16 Specialisations00%
15 Specialisations00%
14 Specialisations12%
13 Specialisations00%
12 Specialisations37%
11 Specialisations00%
10 Specialisations37%
9 Specialisations12%
8 Specialisations12%
7 Specialisations00%
6 Specialisations37%
5 Specialisations37%
4 Specialisations37%
3 Specialisations37%
2 Specialisations819%
1 Specialisations1126%
# Specialisations# Specialisations Holders
AZURE 96100%29100%
AI and Machine Learning in Microsoft Azure88%828%
Analytics on Microsoft Azure1314%1345%
Build and Modernize AI on Microsoft Azure44%414%
Data Warehouse Migration to Microsoft Azure33%310%
DevOps with GitHub on Microsoft Azure22%27%
Hybrid Cloud Infrastructure with Microsoft Azure Stack HCI11%13%
Hybrid operations and management with microsoft azure arc00%00%
Infra and Database migration to Microsoft Azure2021%2069%
Kubernetes on Microsoft Azure33%310%
Microsoft Azure VMware Solution22%27%
Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktop1617%1655%
Migrate Enterprise Applications to Microsoft Azure1516%1552%
Networking Services in Microsoft Azure22%27%
SAP on Microsoft Azure77%724%
Business Applications25100%15100%
Business Intellegence00%00%
Intelligent Automation312%320%
Low Code Application Development1040%1067%
Small and Midsize Business Management624%640%
Supply Chain28%213%
Modern Work50100%22100%
Adoption and Change management1938%1986%
Calling for Microsoft Teams816%836%
Custom Solutions for Microsoft Teams36%314%
Meetings and Meeting Rooms for Microsoft Teams714%732%
Modernize Endpoints714%732%
Teamwork Deployment612%627%
Cloud Security1727%1777%
Id & Access Management1423%1464%
Information Protection & Governance1118%1150%
Threat Protection2032%2091%

Azure Expert MSP

Microsoft’s Azure Expert MSP program aims to highlight elite cloud managed service providers. Partners must undergo a rigorous independent audit of their capabilities, including people, processes, and technologies, to demonstrate their proficiency in delivering top-tier Azure managed services and technical support. Globally, fewer than 100 partners have achieved this status, with 13 accredited Azure Expert MSP partners in South Africa.

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