CRN Exclusive: Tech Data Gives SMB-Focused Partners A Leg Up With New Pre-Configured Microsoft Azure-Based Cloud Server

Tech Data Wednesday launched a pre-configured small-business cloud server for Microsoft Azure to make it less expensive and easier for partners to support customers in the public cloud.

The Clearwater, Fla.-based distributor said that many small business have adopted the cloud-based Microsoft Office 365 productivity suite but have held off on moving additional workloads to the cloud, according to Stacy Nethercoat, vice president of Tech Data cloud solutions, Americas.

"Infrastructure-as-a-Service can be complex and overwhelming," Nethercoat told CRN exclusively. "We believe there is a lot of demand in the market for pre-configured solutions."

[RELATED: Tech Data CEO: Company Is 'Winning In The Marketplace' Following Key Acquisition]

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The server can be set up in minutes using Tech Data's StreamOne cloud provisioning and billing platform. The distributor's global solutions design group pre-architected the solution with Microsoft Azure, and then integrated it into StreamOne, Nethercoat said.

Prior to Tech Data's offering, Nethercoat said a solution provider would have needed to employ solution architects and developers well-versed in Microsoft Azure to unlock this capability on their own. But by leveraging the distributor's intellectual property, channel partners can increase their margins and get to recurring revenue faster, she said.

Tech Data plans to leverage its intellectual property and develop global solutions that can be deployed into multiple clouds so that they're available for partners regardless of their cloud provider. The distributor now also enjoys deep relationships with Amazon Web Services, IBM SoftLayer and IBM Bluemix thanks to its $2.6 billion acquisition of Avnet Technology Solutions in February.

Solution providers can swiftly and inexpensively set up the small-business cloud server and deploy and manage the servers remotely, according to Tech Data. Nethercoat said the offering should appeal to any partner servicing SMB or midtier clients regardless of IaaS proficiency, and will come with training and enablement collateral for partners.

The service is available in three sizes: one to six users, seven to 20 users and more than 40 users. Nethercoat said the resources need to be configured specifically based on the size of the environment, although the environment is flexible enough for partners to shift from one size to another as the size of their end-user customers changes.

The support provided by Tech Data remains the same across all three sizes of the service, Nethercoat said. The cloud server will be a monthly, pay-as-you-go offering, she said, and is expected to be the first of many cloud offerings that leverage the distributor's intellectual property.

Tech Data's post-sales support around the small-business cloud server includes everything from addressing simple password problems to needing to expand the environment because the end user has added additional people, Nethercoat said.

StreamOne will provide participants with detailed monthly usage and billing information, and allow solution providers to set pre-determined usage thresholds and limits, the company said. This provides partners with greater governance and control over an environment, which Nethercoat said is essential since the small-business cloud server will typically be part of a managed services engagement.

In addition to a Microsoft Azure virtual machine, the small-business cloud server comes with Microsoft Exchange, Office and SharePoint and provides backup, storage and VPN functionality, as well as optional remote desktop features.

Nethercoat said the bundle was inspired by Microsoft's popular small-business product, which was retired a couple of years ago.

"This is Tech Data's version of bringing back a very popular solution," Nethercoat said.

Overall, Nethercoat hopes the cloud server will bring more partners into the Tech Data cloud ecosystem and result in existing partners consuming more cloud services.

Solution provider Onsite Technical Services plans to showcase the cloud server to its customers, said Jim Hunton, owner of the Phoenix-based company. Hunton praised Tech Data's resources as being knowledgeable yet simple to understand.

"The small-business cloud server solution from Tech Data is very easy to deploy and manage," Hunton said in a statement. "It will enable us to provide more options and advice on which solutions best help solve our customers' business and IT needs."

At ComTech Network Solutions, Microsoft Azure has helped optimize the company's back-office environment and avoid one-size-fits-all boxes, according to Mike Farlow, president of the Graham, N.C.-based company.

"Small-business cloud server is a great option for SMBs as it provides the flexibility that we've not seen, and it allows us to grow as our business warrants without the traditional limitations of resources," Farlow said in a statement.