Microsoft's Cloud Solution Partner program is only a year old but Microsoft is already tweaking the program in response to what they're hearing from the channel. Partners are telling Microsoft they want to own the billing relationship with customers, own the support and they want to handle customer lifecycle management
"CSP is really rounding out that full level of offer and allowing partners to, on a monthly basis, resell the Microsoft cloud services in their entirety. To date we've brought Office 365, online SKUs for Project and Visio, Azure Active Directory, Digital Right Management, InTune - these are the products we've brought to the CSP programme today. Through the course of this year we'll be adding CRM Online and Azure to the offering," says Phil Goldie, the director of partner business and development at Microsoft.
With Microsoft recently announcing local presence for their cloud services with data centres established on the Australian mainland, Goldie believes this offers new opportunities for the local channel.
Back in November 2014, Microsoft announced the first wave of 1-Tier CSP partners with CloudFirst, OBS, Melbourne IT, OzHosting, Ensyst, Nimbal, and iiNet entering the program.
New partners Ingram Micro and Rhipe now join, as2-Tier or cloud wholesalers, that group with the ability to sell Microsoft's cloud offerings to resellers.
"We think Ingram and Rhipe offer the best combination of cloud competencies around abilities to really drive the cloud penetration through partners but also some good innovative thinking about how they're going to go to market," Goldie adds.
Goldie says 1-Tier partners need to have sufficient scale to sell enough seats or services to make the business model work.
"When you think about the billing, provisioning and back end to be a 1-Tier partner it's obviously pretty significant investment. It's not for all partners. Not all partners will be able to drive the right kind of volume to make those investments make sense," he says.
The new two-tier model means customers will have choice in the market. They can either buy an annual subscription through traditional licensing means or, through a 1-Tier partner, offer services to customers with monthly billing.
The choice of Rhipe and Ingram Micro followed an exhaustive process that centred on the companies' ability to support customers technically and through the entire sales process.
Danny Dainton, Ingram Micro's senior regional manager says, "The opportunity this opens up for Ingram micro really allows us to work with our customers and meet customer demands around cloud adoption. What Ingram will bring to this offering around the CSP programme is bundled cloud solutions, working with our migration services and 24 by seven customer facing support teams. It allows us to work from a one-stop shop perspective with our partners".
One of the advantages this offers to Ingram's customers is that they can focus on selling the product rather than needing to establish their own migration and support services. Dainton sees this as a way for both Ingram and their partners to profit from Microsoft's cloud services. The bundling of these services won’t force resellers to abandon whatever support and technical services they have. Dainton sees this as an opportunity to complement the capability of resellers.
Rhipe's CEO, Dominic O’Hanlon is looking to continue the company's solid 45% year on year growth. With a focus on subscription software as the core niche the company is exploiting, the partnership with Microsoft is a natural fit.
"We believe that software should be treated as if it's a utility like electricity or water or gas where you pay for what you need after you've consumed it," he says. "The days of selling big, lumpy deals and putting software on the shelf never to be used again, we look at those days as gone".
Prior to becoming part of 1-Tier Rhipe was able to sell the full suite of Microsoft's private cloud offerings through the different licensing arrangements that existed.
"What's fantastic about this opportunity is that we can also say we have public cloud as well. We can give you Office 365 and later Azure and other public cloud capability and technology from Microsoft. We can say to service providers that when they are meeting with an end user to talk about their needs, they can offer public cloud, private cloud or hybrid and we can provide the technology they need regardless of the solution the customer wants".