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Microsoft Offers Some Details On Its New Cloud Channel Program, But Partners Hungry For More

Kevin McLaughlin

Microsoft is offering more details on a coming channel program that will let partners package the software giant's cloud services with ones they provide, and give customers a single bill for both.

Microsoft's Cloud Solution Provider program (CSP), slated for launch in 48 countries by next July, also lets distributors, MSPs, ISVs and hosting providers directly provision cloud services and handle technical support for customers.

Gavriella Schuster, general manager of worldwide partner programs at Microsoft, said in a blog post Wednesday the program will be open to partners with two distinct business models.

[Related: 'Select' Microsoft Partners To Handle Tech Support For Office 365, Intune ]

The first type of partner, called Tier 1, will sell Microsoft cloud services directly to customers and will typically have " broad market reach, a 24/7 technical support relationship with their customers as well as direct ownership of the billing," Schuster said in the blog post.

The second type of partner, Tier 2, will include partners that sell Microsoft cloud services through distribution, Schuster said.

Microsoft will provide more details on its requirements for Tier 1 partners in mid-October and will "have more information to share" with Tier 2 partners later this calendar year, Schuster said.

The Tier 1 aspect of the CSP program, code-named Artemis, is by far the more attractive option for partners because it could allow them to significantly boost their gross margins.

The CSP program will help get legacy partners aligned with Microsoft’s most strategic initiatives, David Greve, national director of Microsoft cloud strategy at Perficient, a St. Louis-based Microsoft partner, said in an email.

"Further, the Tier 1 CSP program is a great way for Microsoft to compete with other online service providers for purchasing, integration and support," Greve said.

However, not all Microsoft partners have technical support capabilities, so they're probably not going to qualify for Tier 1 status. Also murky at this stage is how the CSP program will work for Tier 2 partners.

Microsoft said in July that the CSP program would be available to "select" partners, initially with Office 365 and Intune, and later with Azure, Dynamics CRM Online and other cloud services.

What was unclear then -- and remains unclear -- are the sort of requirements Microsoft has in mind for Tier 1 and Tier 2 partners that want to be part of the program.

"This isn't for everyone. Companies will have to have the business model to support this," Phil Sorgen, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Group, told CRN in July.

Three Microsoft partners, speaking on condition of anonymity, told CRN they're keen on getting Tier 1 status and are eagerly awaiting more information that will let them figure out if they qualify.

PUBLISHED SEPT. 24, 2014

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