New Offering Helps Microsoft Partners Bundle Services Directly Into Azure Marketplace

Microsoft introduced to the Azure Marketplace on Thursday a new means for consulting and technology partners to bundle ongoing services into enterprise applications delivered on the Azure public cloud.

The capability, called Managed Applications, enables ISVs who develop third-party apps, in tandem with their MSP and systems integration partners, to offer customers "a fully operated solution" with the upside of Software-as-a-Service, said Corey Sanders, director of compute for Azure, in a Microsoft blog.

Managed Applications is a first-of-its-kind for any cloud provider, Sanders said, unique in how it enables customers to "deploy entire applications and empower your partner to fully manage and maintain the application in your environment."

[Related: Cloud Proud: Azure Powers Double-Digit Growth For Microsoft's 'Intelligent Cloud']

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The capability was first introduced at Microsoft's Ignite conference for IT professionals and developers this past September. At the time, Managed Applications was only made available through the service catalogs of enterprise customers.

Adding the online software hub as a distribution channel allows partners to expand their reach to all commercial customers subscribing to Azure. Partners can publish the apps to Azure Marketplace through the Cloud Partner Portal, then add value with operational support and lifecycle services that generate recurring revenue, according to Sanders.

ISVs, MSPs and systems integrators can also leverage Azure Resource Manager templates to build turnkey solutions, then use Managed Applications to transition to an "Ap/Ops" model that includes ongoing management and support, Sanders said.

Managed Applications are packaged with pre-configured infrastructure into a single "sealed service" entirely under the control of the partner throughout the product's lifecycle. The applications are "immutable," Sanders said, meaning configuration changes at the application or infrastructure layers can only be performed by the partners as explicit lifecycle operations.

"The result is a higher quality of service for our customers, fully managed by our partners," Sanders said.

Solutions made available through the new delivery model can range from complex, custom-built applications maintained by Microsoft-aligned MSPs, or simpler apps packaged and then serviced by their developers.

"Managed Applications accelerate innovation, even in the most advanced application scenarios, bringing the best of Software-as-a-Service and Infrastructure-as-a-Service together," Sanders said.

Chris Presley, director of consulting at Pythian, a Microsoft partner based in Ottawa, told CRN Managed Applications will create new opportunities for Microsoft's channel to deliver solutions with the benefits of a Software-as-a-Service model.

"I like the fact that it can be on the vendor or customer's Azure subscription," said Presley, host of the Datascape podcast. "This shows Microsoft's maturity in leveraging the channel to enable partners. I'm excited to see what vendors will do with it."

Managed Applications will differentiate Microsoft from competitors in an ultra-competitive market, Presley said.

Gaurav Bhatnagar, program manager for Azure compute, said the offering gives partners an opportunity to expand their practices beyond simply deploying Azure infrastructure and the software hosted on the cloud platform. And partners publishing those packaged solutions to Azure Marketplace can invoice customers directly using Azure’s billing system.

"All of this enables an even richer cloud ecosystem for our customers and new business opportunities for our partners," Bhatnagar blogged.