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Microsoft Launches Azure MSP Program

The roughly 30 rigorously vetted partners to earn the new Azure Expert Managed Service Provider designation so far, which include giants like Rackspace and New Signature, are now Microsoft’s go-to options for outsourced Azure administration. By Rich Freeman

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.”

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