Microsoft Aims New Azure MSP Program at Cloud Networking

Unveiled at Microsoft Inspire, the program aims to make it easier for enterprises to connect to the public cloud.

Jeffrey Burt

July 16, 2019

5 Min Read
Tencent Cloud-China

MICROSOFT INSPIRE — Microsoft Azure is partnering with several networking vendors like SD-WAN company Aryaka and colocation firm Equinix to make it easier for partners and customers to connect to the Azure public cloud.

At its Inspire 2019 show this week in Las Vegas, the giant tech vendor unveiled the Microsoft Azure Networking MSP Program, part of a larger push not only by Azure but also other major cloud vendors to improve connectivity into their environments.


Microsoft’s Yousef Khalidi

The program aims to enable network-focused MSPs and other partners like systems integrators and network carriers to leverage their own networking capabilities with Azure’s expanding lineup of network products and services, according to Yousef Khalidi, corporate vice president of Azure Networking for Microsoft.

“Azure’s networking services are fundamental building blocks critical to cloud migration, optimal connectivity, and security of applications,” Khalidi wrote in a blog. “New networking services such as virtual WAN, ExpressRoute, Azure Firewall and Azure Front Door further enrich this portfolio allowing customers to deploy richer applications in the cloud. The Networking MSP partners can help customers deploy and manage Azure Networking services.”

Azure initially is partnering with eight networking MSPs for the program: Aryaka, Equinix, BT, Data Dimension (now part of NTT), IIJ of Japan, Megaport of Australia, InterCloud and Tata Communications.

“Azure Networking MSPs are a specialized set of MSPs for addressing enterprise cloud networking needs and challenges across all aspects of cloud and hybrid networking,” Khalidi wrote. “Their managed network services and offerings include various aspects of the application life cycle, including network architecture, planning, deployment, operations, maintenance and optimization.”

For Aryaka and its own channel partners, being part of the Microsoft Azure Networking MSP Program is a boon, according to Olen Scott, senior vice president of worldwide channels at the company, which was the only software-defined WAN vendor to be named to the program. At a time when enterprises are pushing into the Azure cloud, the program allows them to help manage an increasingly complex environment. The trend in cloud adoption is setting up individual Azure virtual networks (VNets) for each user or small group within a larger organization.


Aryaka’s Olen Scott

“It can get a little unwieldy and complex to manage if you don’t have an expertise,” Scott told Channel Futures. “The customers that had a whole bunch of these VNets were very large enterprises, so this will extend that VNet scenario to a lot of midmarket customers who don’t have the expertise to manage that. That’s why Microsoft is bringing in experts that understand, that have expertise and have the tools and the analytics and the toolsets to go with that. They provide not only the administration but also the visibility and the insights and control to the customers.”

Partners can use those same tools and services to manage their customers connectivity, he said. Aryaka, which also partners with other cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform and Oracle Cloud, has several hundred partners — and about 90% of its revenue comes via the channel.

In conjunction with the new Azure program, Aryaka is rolling out a new offering that includes SD-WAN technology and a global managed service, simplifying SD-WAN connectivity to Azure. It expands what has been an extended partnership between Aryaka and Azure, he said.

The new Azure program comes on the heels of other services aimed at networking. ExpressRoute offers dedicated private network fiber connections to Azure; Azure Firewall delivers high availability and scalability; and Azure Front Door provides load balancing with fast failover and application acceleration. In addition, Azure Networking MSPs can use Azure Lighthouse, which was announced last week and gives partners a single control plane for managing Azure at scale across all customers.

The eight MSP partners in the networking program also have been early adopters of Azure Lighthouse.

Azure and other major cloud service providers are putting a greater emphasis on …

… network in recent years, according to Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research. As the cloud matures, Azure, AWS, Google Cloud and others recognize that network connectivity is crucial.

“It’s something we’ve seen more and more of over the last couple of years, and part of this is because customers are now running mission-critical apps on the cloud,” Kerravala told Channel Futures. “In the early days of cloud, cloud deployments were in backup and recovery, and things that weren’t really mission-critical. But now, I’ve talked with companies ]that] want to run everything in the public cloud that they can, but if the network isn’t there, that’s going to prevent them from doing that.”

A report from Dell Technologies’ Virtustream, an enterprise cloud service provider, and Forrester Research analysts, released in May, found that the increase in the use of multicloud and hybrid cloud environments is enabling enterprises to find the right place to run their mission-critical applications in the cloud. Nearly all (97 percent) survey respondents said that migrating such key applications to the cloud was part of their multicloud strategy.

Kerravala said Microsoft is taking the smart approach by partnering with the networking-specific MSPs for the program.

“That’s the right way to do it,” he said. “Rather than building their own [networking technologies], they should be partnering with the companies that do networking well. Microsoft does what it does well, and then lets the network vendors do what they do well — and then brings the solution together for the customer.”

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