Will Managed Service Providers Back Microsoft Exchange Online, SharePoint Online?

Will Managed Service Providers Back Microsoft Exchange Online, SharePoint Online?

Microsoft SaaSMicrosoft says Exchange Online and SharePoint Online are now ready for deployment, with 100 new partners and managed service providers signing up to offer the hosted systems ever week.

But that's not the entire software as a service (SaaS) story from Microsoft. The software giant is preparing Office Communications Online -- a hosted unified communications package. And Microsoft hints that it's preparing network administration and perhaps even a managed services platform for 2009.

So, are MSPs eager -- or worried -- about Microsoft in the on demand world? Here's some analysis.

To get a feel for Microsoft's Saas strategy for partners and customers, check out Microsoft.com/online or visit the company's list of SaaS solutions.

Are MSPs Onboard?

Microsoft has generated some fear and concern among partners who worry about the software giant promoting SaaS applications directly to customers. But in a press release issued today, Microsoft stated:
"Since July 2008, more than 1,500 companies have enrolled in the Microsoft Partner Program for Microsoft Online Services, with 100 more joining every week. These companies are realizing a wide range of revenue opportunity that spans reselling, migration, customization, consulting, training, support and application development, and integration services."
I wonder: Are all of those partners signing up to support Microsoft or are a few of those "partners" signing up to learn how to potentially compete more effectively against Microsoft and other large software companies entering the SaaS field?

The Strategy for 2009

One other thing for MSPs to keep in mind: The software company recently held focus groups involving MSPs and is rumored to be developing a managed services platform. In today's press release about the online applications, Microsoft offered some hints about MSP software in 2009:
"Microsoft also outlined its plans to offer new solutions as a part of Microsoft Online Services in the next year. In addition to Office Communications Online, Microsoft is planning to offer a Microsoft Online Services solution that will provide IT management and security capabilities for businesses, enabling IT managers to secure and manage desktops using a Web-based subscription service. These online services will be based on components from existing systems management, identity and security offerings, and will complement Microsoft’s on-premise solutions, as customers begin to adopt cloud-based computing to address specific needs."
Is Microsoft a friend or foe to MSPs? Frankly, I think Microsoft will find a way to work more closely with VARs and MSPs because the company has been fiercely loyal to the IT channel for three decades.

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