Microsoft and Managed Services: 10 Things to Know

It's a classic Microsoft tactic: Arrive late to a party and then attempt to steal the show. The has company announced the next chapter of its Software as a Service (SaaS) effort. If you offer managed services, it's time to listen up. I spent some time analyzing the Microsoft initiative and I see some clear opportunities--and challenges--ahead for managed service providers. Here's a rundown of the 10 things MSPs need to know about Microsoft's SaaS strategy.

10. New Microsoft “Live” services are designed primarily for individuals, business end-users and virtual work groups. In other words, MSPs generally don't have to worry about the Microsoft Live initiative.

9. Microsoft “Online” services give businesses the ability to control access to data, manage users, apply business and compliance policy, and meet high availability standards while providing performance, scalability, security, management features and service-level capabilities for mission-critical applications and systems. Wow. That sounds an awful lot like many of the MSP strategies I've read. Every MSP better watch the Microsoft Online product family in the months ahead.

8. Coopetition Returns. Former Novell CEO Ray Noorda coined this term in the 1990s. You better come to understand it. Fast. Coopetition is when you both compete and cooperate with a technology company, in this case Microsoft. When describing its hosted services, Microsoft says it is "providing business customers with the flexibility to choose between traditional on-premise implementations, services hosted by Microsoft partners and now Online services that reside in Microsoft’s datacenters." Yes, partners. You're going to compete with Microsoft for some customer opportunities.

7. Office Live Workspace: Access and edit your documents online. Not a big worry for MSPs, but certainly a counter offering to Google's online applications and similar applications from (Full disclosure: We're big fans of Zoho.)

6. Microsoft Exchange Labs: This is a new R&D lab for testing next-generation messaging and unified communications applications. For MSPs, the lab is a clear signal that you'll need to write unified communications on top of Exchange and other Microsoft platforms, rather than trying to profit from Exchange itself.

5. Microsoft Office Live Small Business: Formerly Microsoft Office Live. This assists small businesses with marketing and sales services. Again, not really a threat to most managed service providers.

4. Microsoft BizTalk Services: This is an area of opportunity for Microsoft. Think of BizTalk as a new way for MSPs to build composite online applications.

3. Microsoft Exchange Online: Targeting enterprises with 5,000 or more seats. Sounds like MSPs pushing email into the enterprise should proceed with caution or push into new areas--such as melding unified communications, VoIP and email into an integrated offering.

2. Microsoft Office SharePoint Online:
Quite a few MSPs I know offer SharePoint services to their customers. Now, they may have to share the market with Microsoft.

1. Microsoft Dynamics Live CRM: A next-generation release, code-named Titan, will allow customers to choose from on-demand or on-premise deployments. Let's be clear here: Microsoft wants to crush, and a few solutions providers that had hoped to offer Dynamics as a hosted service could get trampled along the way.

So there you have it: Ten key trends you have to watch as Microsoft builds out its managed services platforms.

While some members of the media paint Microsoft as "all good" or "all bad," I think that's irresponsible. Plenty of Microsoft's customers want to purchase online services directly from the software giant. As an MSP, it's up to you to show customers why you will remain relevant even as Microsoft cranks up its own marketing noise.

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