Microsoft has launched a new program aimed at identifying its most capable and reliable managed service providers for Microsoft Azure deployments.
Partners earning the new Azure Expert Managed Service Provider designation will be the vendor’s go-to options for customers looking to outsource administration of their Azure-based workloads.
“As more and more customers move to the cloud they want partners to manage that infrastructure for them, so we’ve created this qualification in order for our customers to get the absolute best partner for the situation they’re in,” says Gavriella Schuster, the corporate vice president in charge of Microsoft’s One Commercial Partner organization.
Schuster spoke this morning during a virtual press briefing held days before the start of Microsoft’s 2018 Inspire partner conference, which takes place next week in Las Vegas.
So far, just over 30 Microsoft partners have earned the Azure Expert MSP title. To join them, other MSPs must satisfy a lengthy set of criteria that includes holding an active Gold Cloud Platform competency in the Microsoft Partner Network, driving at least $100,000 of Azure consumption revenue per month, and having at least four Azure customer references.
They must also pass a rigorous audit conducted by an independent third-party evaluator that can require as much as 300 hours of effort. Partners that earn the credential must then meet annual pre-requisites and successfully complete a yearly progress audit.
“Partners achieving this level of qualification have to demonstrate the highest degree of capability and ability to deliver repeatable high-fidelity managed services on Azure,” Schuster said this morning.
The elite Azure Expert MSP club is currently dominated by managed service giants like New Signature Inc., of Washington D.C., and Rackspace, of San Antonio, Texas.
“Becoming an Azure Expert MSP is a significant achievement and a key milestone in our long-time collaboration with Microsoft,” said Duan van der Westhuizen, general manager of the Microsoft Azure business at Rackspace, in prepared remarks. “With hundreds of Microsoft MSPs worldwide, this designation places Rackspace in an elite category and it is a testament to the depth of our Microsoft expertise and capabilities.”
The addition of a managed service certification to Microsoft’s Azure partner ecosystem comes at a time of skyrocketing growth for the public cloud platform. Azure revenues spiked 93 percent in Microsoft’s third fiscal quarter.
“It’s been our best year ever,” says Schuster, who credits much of that success to the dramatic series of changes Microsoft made to its partner program a year ago. Those include the creation of the One Commercial Partner organization, which consolidates all of Microsoft’s business-oriented channel resources in one place, and the introduction of a new “co-sell” program that allows Microsoft account managers to apply sales of partner solutions against their own quota requirements.
To date, Schuster says, co-sell opportunities have generated some $5 billion of revenue for Microsoft partners. The company has fed 1 million sales leads to its channel since last year’s Inspire event as well.
“We’re now sharing sales leads at a much higher rate than in the past,” Schuster says. “We’re also bringing partners into the sale stage much earlier and seeing much faster close rates when we sell together.”
Services like Azure, Office 365, and Microsoft 365 are the engine of that cooperative sales success,” she adds. Microsoft unveiled new Microsoft 365 capabilities, as well as a free version of the cloud-based Microsoft Teams collaboration tool, today.
“Our revenue growth will continue to be driven by this transition to cloud services,” Schuster states.
At present, Microsoft has roughly 72,000 cloud partners globally. Revenue generated by partners in the vendor’s Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program has grown 234 percent on a year-over-basis in the last 12 months.
“We’re incredibly pleased with CSP traction to date,” said Schuster this morning.
Microsoft will add new features and benefits to the CSP program on an ongoing basis, she added. The Azure Reserved Virtual Machine Instances the company introduced in May, which allow customers buying from CSPs to enjoy up to 72 percent savings over pay-as-you-go Azure VM licensing, are an example of what partners can expect to see regularly going forward.
“We’ll continue to make enhancements like that all throughout the year,” Schuster said.
Cloud computing is a core enabler of digital transformation, a broader market opportunity that according to Microsoft will be worth $4.5 trillion worldwide by 2023.
“The cloud really represents our modern-day gold rush,” Schuster says. “Our goal is to help partners capitalize on this tremendous opportunity.”
The first Inspire 2018 general session, which will feature a presentation by Judson Althoff, the executive vice president in charge of Microsoft’s worldwide commercial business, will take place Monday morning. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella will keynote on Wednesday. ChannelPro will be reporting from Las Vegas next week.