Microsoft quietly unveiled at its Inspire conference Monday an online marketplace through which its channel can directly provision solutions from the software giant's technology partners, potentially upending the current software distribution paradigm across its vast ecosystem.
The B2B platform, called Third Party Offers, was introduced in a soft launch in the Office 365 section of the exhibition floor of the partner conference in Washington, D.C. The new cloud software marketplace aims to make it easier for solution providers to bundle third-party products with Microsoft offerings like Office 365.
Third Party Offers delivers to partners a catalog of ISV products they can purchase, deploy and manage for customers.
"Third Party Offers helps ISVs with SaaS-ready apps connect and sell through the Microsoft partner channel," reads a Microsoft brochure distributed at the event.
Microsoft, Redmond, Wash., will beta-test the commerce portal over the next six months with select partners, according to the brochure.
The soft launch includes channel partners with MSP or CSP business models and roughly 20 ISVs, including popular offerings like Zendesk and DocuSign.
Third Party Offers will greatly enable ISVs to leverage the channel to extend their reach, freeing resources to invest more in their sales and marketing capabilities, said Jon Ferrara, CEO of Nimble CRM, a Microsoft technology partner based in Santa Monica, Calif., that's participating in the trial program.
What Microsoft's AppSource marketplace did to ease selling SaaS directly to the end user, Third Party Offers will essentially do for channel partners, Ferrara added.
Currently, ISVs that want to sell SaaS solutions through an online marketplace must build custom integrations with a hodgepodge of commerce platforms offered by 2-Tier CSPs—large Microsoft resellers that distribute solutions to other partners.
Many are offered by large distributors, like Ingram Micro, which purchased Odin Services Automation in 2015 to power its own cloud marketplace. Others come from telecoms or web hosting companies that have built their own commerce platforms or embed ones from vendors like AppDirect.