Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider program goes mainstream

Gavriella Schuster, general manager, worldwide partner programs at Microsoft

Gavriella Schuster, general manager, worldwide partner programs at Microsoft

ORLANDO – Microsoft has “turned the rocket boosters on” on its Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program, expanding the number of products the program covers, and the markets in which the program is offered.

Introduced at last year’s Worldwide Partner Conference, CSP is the long-awaited program that allows Microsoft partners to finally retain full control over customers when selling the software titan’s cloud-based offerings. For the first time, it gives solution providers the opportunity to sell one or more CSP-eligible offerings, as well as their own services, on a single monthly bill to customers.

Previously, the program was primarily available only to larger partners who were capable of meeting the Microsoft-mandated requirement of 24/7 customer support, which Redmond said was necessary to ensure customers get the same level of customer support and experience as they would if buying the same cloud apps backed by Microsoft.

But with this year’s expansion, the company is acknowledging the role distributors and, for the first time, large cloud hosting companies, can play in helping smaller solution providers meet those requirements. Canadian solution providers can now connect to CSP-eligible products through three distributors (Ingram Micro, Tech Data, and Synnex) as well as two Canadian hosting companies, SherWeb and Ceryx.

“Over the last year, we’ve discovered that this is the way we want all our partners to transact services in the future,” said Gavriella Schuster, general manager of the Microsoft Partner Network. “It’s the best way for partners to create unique offerings on top of our services, and helps our partners differentiate and distinguish themselves in front of their customers.”

Schuster said hosting partners were added as tier-two partners for the program because of their existing capabilities around customer support, billing and provisioning.

Canadian channel chief Jay Brommet said Microsoft Canada currently has 23 partners engaged in CSP on a tier-one basis, as well as the five tier-two partners previously mentioned, with another 20 new partners en route to joining the program.

“We see [Microsoft] fiscal year 2016 as the opportunity to turn the rocket boosted on that platform,” Brommet said. “You’re going to see this program broaden very quickly.”

As well as bringing on more ways for more partners to get involved, the company has good broader (from 40 countries to 135), and deeper – whereas before CSP just covered Office 365, Azure and CRM Online now join the program, and Schuster said Windows InTune will soon be added, making CSP available for all of Microsoft’s cloud-based offerings.

The company has also made CSP more flexible for solution providers by introducing a series of APIs. For the last year, CSP partners have had to use the company’s backend and tools to provision, manage, and an bill for customers sold through CSP. But Schuster said the company quickly figured out that many of its partners that meet the requirements of CSP already have their own tools for those kinds of capabilities, either third-party tools or homegrown. Through the APIs, partners can write their own integrations between the tools they already use and the CSP system. And Schuster said the company is working to understand “the top systems and the top ISVs” creating third party tools that solution providers use to manage cloud customers, and to make sure those systems connect to CSP via the new library of APIs.

All in, the changes suggest that CSP is going to rapidly evolve from the ground of relatively few partners to a much more accessible program for the majority of the company’s channel, with the majority accessing the program via distributors or hosting partners. Schuster said she expects significant growth on the number of partners currently transacting through CSP, currently numbering “a few hundred” worldwide.

“We’re hoping that we get to a few thousand in this fiscal year. But if it goes faster than that, that would be awesome,” Schuster said.