By Scott Paul, Senior Director, Microsoft Alliance, AppRiver
In the days following Microsoft Inspire, as with WPC, partners paused to consider the news and plan for the year ahead. Every year since it was announced in 2014, the Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program has become more firmly established as the way to partner with Redmond. Each year, it helps to shape the Microsoft partner ecosystem and our businesses.
But partners are changing Microsoft’s businesses as well, and three years into the CSP program, those changes are starting to add up. The partners who jumped into Microsoft’s cloud-first plans early helped the company chart a course leading to one of the biggest changes it has ever made to its sales model — and the global organization responsible for it.
Microsoft’s new One Commercial Partner initiative is perhaps the most visible expression of the change partners are driving in Redmond. The focus on building, going to market, and selling with partners represents a major shift in the way Microsoft seeks to understand and connect with the small and midsize businesses that comprise more than 98 percent of U.S. companies.
Partners aiming to thrive in this rapidly changing ecosystem must understand its implications and plug in.
CSP indirect providers, the partners Microsoft authorizes to deliver its cloud products to resellers, are driving change by creating distribution models that incorporate ready-to-go specialty practices, vertical and market segment focus, and competencies resellers can add to their catalogs. These “practice gateways” increasingly include IP added by indirect providers and the ISVs they work with.
Resellers also are finding they can confidently add these competencies right now while growing their in-house capabilities gradually with the support of the indirect provider. Speed to market has never been more important for the channel, and the appetite of SMBs for cloud solutions shows no signs of having been satisfied. The right indirect provider can help make MSPs, SIs, VARs and nontraditional resellers quick and capable of harnessing the river of new products and technologies flowing from Microsoft and third parties through the CSP system.
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The channel also is influencing the way Microsoft packages and licenses products. To sell cloud through partners, Microsoft has been challenged to listen to its channel carefully, and they have responded positively to feedback.
The cloud’s flexibility allows Microsoft – for the first time – to …