XChange 2014: How MSPs Can Make Money With Microsoft Azure

Managed service providers would do well to tout Microsoft’s Azure capabilities and recommend it to their own clients.

That’s according to David Geevaratne, co-founder and president of New Signature, a Microsoft National Systems integrator, who says MSPs can make money getting behind the corporate giant latest cloud technology.

In a talk at XChange 2014 in San Antonio, on Sunday, Geevaratne said MSPs will find ways to capitalize on Microsoft’s offerings and make money. By offering services related to Azure’s storage or site recovery, there’s room to capitalize on those developments, he said. At Geevaratne’s 11-year-old MSP Washington-D.C. company, he said revenue has gone up ’ten-fold’ for the group thanks to Microsoft. Gross margins are up 35 percent annually, according to company statistics sent to CRN, with revenue up 19 percent per employee.

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Geevaratne referred to Azure as ’the Swiss Army knife’ of public cloud offerings. By having clients join in a subscription-based plan with their MSPs who can bundle in services with Azure, Geevaratne said MSPs will boost their clients’ business while bolstering their own sales.

In one example, Geevaratne said MSPs can charge to setup, backup, monitor, patch and service the workloads for Azure’s IaaS (infrastructure as a service). The providers may also charge to create flexible storage options for their customers through the Microsoft public cloud, or charge to deploy and maintain websites in Azure’s PaaS for websites and apps.

Additionally, for Microsoft Office 365, MSPs could elect to charge to migrate their customers over to Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online. They could even offer to deploy Microsoft Office 365 Pro Plus to clients’ desktops, laptops and tablets, he said.

’The same applications are in a public cloud offering where a customer does not need to invest capital costs in hardware,’ Geevaratne explained. ’(As an MSP), I can bundle in my services for a small, low monthly free. The customer will naturally gravitate to the solution that doesn’t force them to make these large expenditures.’

NEXT: More Money-Making Opportunities in Azure Backup and Site Recovery

In another example for money-making by Geevaratne, MSPs can charge to create backup service for Azure and maintain that backup quality. For site recovery, MSPs could additionally charge to build protection and recovery for onsite virtual machines and charge for maintaining them.

’We’re not forcing companies to invest tens of thousands of dollars in on-premise hardware to create infrastructure,’ he added. ’We’re giving them more transformative, more nimble solutions from public cloud virtualization, which allows them to spin off new servers and new applications in minutes, not days or weeks.’

Geevaratne referred to Amazon’s own cloud developments, which he said are at competition with Microsoft’s. He said Microsoft comes out ahead, though, and he believes more people should come on board.

’By standardizing around the (virtual hard disk) format, Microsoft’s tools lets you move a virtual machine from an on-premises datacenter, to Azure, and then back to on-premises with a few mouse clicks,’ he added in an interview with CRN. ’Amazon locks customers in to a proprietary format. When most customers need a hybrid cloud solution, why would MSPs pick anything but Azure?’

Gartner named Microsoft as a leader in its 2014 Cloud IaaS Magic Quadrant, Geevaratne noted, writing in that report, Microsoft has a ’vision of infrastructure and platform services that are not only leading stand-alone offerings, but that also seamlessly extend and interoperate with on-premises Microsoft infrastructure.’

’I don’t think enough people know all the things it can do,’ Geevaratne said. ’This is an unfortunate side effect to the overwhelming number of public cloud technologies that are out there. MSPs are really evaluating Azure on their own. … That’s why I want to help educate and evangelize it.’