AppDirect Enables Solution Providers To Sell Office 365 From Self-Branded Online Marketplaces

AppDirect and Microsoft struck a partnership Wednesday that will enable solution providers, distributors and system integrators to sell Office 365 direct to customers from self-branded cloud marketplaces. The deal was revealed at the 2015 Microsoft Cloud and Hosting Summit, being held this week in Bellevue, Wash.

AppDirect's platform for custom-building online marketplaces until recently was only accessible to a certain group of large telecoms, infrastructure hosts, retail giants and the like. In addition, Microsoft only gave a handful of telecom and software vendors the status of "syndication partners" with rights to directly provision Office 365.

But both AppDirect and Microsoft have democratized their stances in recent months.

[Related: AppDirect Reveals New Reseller Management Service At Cloud Channel Summit]

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San Francisco-based AppDirect, with its vendor-agnostic platform for selling SaaS products, is now aiming to simplify and facilitate the experience of reselling Office 365 for its own expanding channel, according to Daniel Saks, the company's co-founder and co-CEO.

And Office 365 as an anchor app will no doubt help AppDirect recruit new partners, especially those already part of Microsoft's vast channel.

"When we look at the overall opportunity, we see interest from both existing AppDirect customers, and a new part of the market that are looking to drive and resell Office," Saks told CRN.

The Microsoft partnership is only possible because of the software giant's Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program, which loosened restrictions on selling its popular cloud-based productivity suite. Partners started joining late last year, and Microsoft intends to keep rolling out the program globally over the coming months.

Solution providers, distributors and system integrators who qualify as CSP partners can directly provision Office 365 and include the subscription fee in the bill for their own services, shortening their wait to see revenue.

Microsoft, Redmond, Wash., created APIs in support of its new program to help those partners manage the entire product life cycle. In turn, Microsoft requires a minimum commitment of seats and for the partner to handle full end-customer support and billing.

Thousands of solution providers will likely be offering Office 365 within a year or two through the CSP program, according to Steve Banbury, AppDirect's vice president for worldwide marketing.

"We've been working closely to enable those Cloud Solution Providers. We're very much an enabler for Microsoft," Banbury told CRN.

Microsoft's new partner program is rolling out in sync with AppDirect's own channel expansion.

When AppDirect launched its white-label marketplace a few years back, its initial partners were mostly household names, from Samsung to Staples.

Because many of those companies were in the same Fortune 500 class as Microsoft syndication partners -- those with rights to resell Office 365 -- there was a good deal of overlap, with companies such as Deutsche Telekom and Telstra partnering with both software vendors.

But AppDirect started going downstream at the end of 2014 with a program called Reseller Management Service, opening its platform to the partners of those giant partners.

Now with a broad of swath of solution providers eligible for both programs, Microsoft wants "enablers" such as AppDirect to help its CSP partners bundle other products, such as security and domain services, in addition to their core services, Banbury told CRN.

The AppDirect Express program for Microsoft that was revealed Wednesday gives those partners a means of quickly on-boarding. "[It] delivers the fastest and most effective way to sell 365 to businesses of all sizes," Banbury said.

And AppDirect can help solution providers meet the criteria to qualify for Microsoft's CSP program, such as providing 24/7 technical support, handling billing and bundling services, Banbury told CRN.

Microsoft, in a blog post from John Case, vice president of marketing, wrote the CSP program was born from feedback from partners who wanted to engage at every part of the customer life cycle.

"The new program will open up interesting opportunities for our partners including distributors, MSPs, ISVs and hosting providers to package their solutions with Microsoft cloud offerings," Case wrote in July when the program was first unveiled.