CRN Exclusive: CSP Atmosera Sees Soaring Demand For Managed Microsoft Azure Services

Atmosera, a Microsoft cloud solution provider that specializes in assessment, migration and management within Azure, has seen customer interest in its public, private and hybrid managed Azure services skyrocket over the past several months.

The Portland, Ore.-based company, which on Tuesday announced the release of its expanded managed Azure services package, said the decision to build its business strategy around the platform has "paid off in spades" after Microsoft increased cloud-related incentives for its field staff last July.

Atmosera said it had seen a 294 percent growth rate across its entire Microsoft portfolio, leading the 60-person company to add 12 new employees in the first quarter of 2017.

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"It’s changed dramatically in terms of what our inbound leads look like," Atmosera CMO John Trembley said. "As of January and the last couple months, the amount of leads coming in from large companies and large software shops that want to be on Azure and are specifically looking for somebody to help them and manage the environment, that’s just exploded."

Previously, Microsoft primarily sold Azure enterprise agreements that were implemented by a systems integrator and then managed directly by the customer. In July 2016, however, the vendor restructured its incentives, so that field staff receives the same compensation if managed service providers are brought into the deal instead of systems integrators. The ensuing shift in attention toward Azure resulted in a dramatic uptick in activity for Atmosera.

Trembley went on to cite a JP Morgan survey published in 2016 that asked CIOs, "Which IT vendor will be most critical and indispensable to your organization's IT environment in the future?" Almost 47 percent of those surveyed answered "Microsoft," with Amazon Web Services sitting in second place at 13 percent.

"By 2019, they believe that Azure will overtake AWS," Trembley said. "From an inbound point of view, in terms of what we’re seeing coming in, I totally understand why they’re forecasting that."

Created in 2013 when Easy Street and Infinity Internet were acquired by Seaport Capital, Atmosera soon began channeling its efforts toward creating a winning hybrid platform, but the CSP needed a public cloud partner. Within its first year of existence, Atmosera said it chose Microsoft over Amazon Web Services, for a few reasons: Microsoft had more of a partner-focused business culture, it carried stronger relationships within small and midsized business markets and, most importantly, it believed in the hybrid cloud model.

The Azure path was not without its challenges at the outset, but Atmosera ultimately reaped major benefits by staying patient.

"That journey certainly early on, (there were) a lot of lessons learned," Atmosera CEO Jon Thomsen said. "Azure wasn’t totally a functional platform. There were a lot of issues with it. It’s gotten a lot better over the last two years."

Surging off the increase in Microsoft support, Atmosera has sought to set itself apart among cloud solution providers by building a set of pre-configured Azure offerings built around prevalent use cases, thereby allowing new customers to more quickly transition to the public cloud.

"As we’ve moved into more relationships within the channel, particularly with VARs, they’re used to very packaged sales. They’re used to a clear data sheet, a battle card, this is how you position it," Trembley said. "When it comes to the cloud it’s very different. So we try to bridge those two things."

Another leading component of Atmosera's managed services are its security-focused compliance offerings, which are designed to meet specific requirements for customers in the medical and financial industries. They include HIPAA/HITECH and HITRUST regulations for health care providers as well as payment card security, IRS federal tax information and audit standards for certified public accountants.

ISVs account for about 50 percent of Atmosera's customer base, with corporations and IT departments comprising the other half. Moving forward, the solution provider plans to direct even more of its strategy toward securing business from application developers and software-as-a-service providers, along with expanding upon its current compliance capabilities.

"(ISVs) are building applications that are going to be offered up in a SaaS format to our traditional IT departments or traditional businesses," Trembley said. "If we don’t service the ISV market, then the other side of the house will no longer need a private cloud or their application platform in Azure because they’ll be consuming it in SaaS. That’s why we have transformed the business into the software-defined paradigm."