Microsoft Cloud Channel Team Pursues Managed Hosters

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Microsoft continues its All In cloud computing push at HostingCon this week in Austin, Texas. During HostingCon, Michael Joffe (senior product manager, Windows Server) and Trina Horner (pictured, US SaaS/cloud channel development strategist) are expected to describe Microsoft's cloud strategy to scores of Web hosts, managed hosting providers and service providers. Still, Microsoft will need to maintain a careful balancing act as it pitches cloud computing to large hosting partners and small MSPs. Here's why.

No doubt, Microsoft has made quantifiable progress with its cloud computing strategy. Roughly 8,000 partners have sold BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite) to two or more customers. And during Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2010 (WPC10) last week, CEO Steve Ballmer communicated some clear milestones to partners.

Microsoft Channel Chief Jon Roskill offered additional cloud perspectives during this WPC10 press conference:


Lingering Questions

Still, questions remain. Many small VARs and MSPs worry they won't be able to make enough margin reselling BPOS, Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and other Microsoft-hosted services. Also, some VARs and MSPs worry because Microsoft's cloud software doesn't permit partners to control custom billing and branding to the end customer. And Channel Chief Roskill concedes he's still learning about the MSP channel segment.

Additional challenges could emerge. On the one hand, Microsoft is offering large service providers certain discounts and other benefits, if the service providers agree to wrap at least one value-added service around BPOS applications. On the other hand, those perks are not available to small MSPs and VARs, because those partners lack economies of scale.

Another potential hurdle: Some small VARs and MSPs were excited to hear about Azure Appliance, a platform that allows customers to build private clouds using Windows Azure. But many of those small partners were disappointed to learn that Azure Appliance only targets large hardware companies and service providers selling into enterprises. For smaller partners, Microsoft is preparing Windows Small Business Server Aurora -- a cloud-enabled version of SBS that's entering beta testing soon.

With those thoughts in mind, I'm curious to hear how Microsoft's Horner and Joffe discuss Microsoft's cloud strategy here at HostingCon. I suspect attendees will represent a range of company sizes...

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