Tech Data Offers Hosted Exchange Server to MSPs

The market for hosted Exchange Server services is getting pretty darn crowded. The latest entrant is Tech Data Corp., which has signed a partnership with USA.NET to offer hosted Exchange Server, SharePoint and BlackBerry services to VARs and solutions providers.

Tech Data follows rival distributor Ingram Micro -- and a growing list of managed service providers -- into the hosted Microsoft applications market. Plus, Microsoft itself is expected to launch its Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) within the next few weeks.

Here's how the competitive landscape for hosted Microsoft applications is shaping up.

Distributors Move In

Ingram Micro Seismic unveiled hosted Exchange Server, SharePoint and Microsoft Dynamics CRM services in April 2008. More than 750 managed service providers now depend on Seismic services, and Ingram Micro expects that figure to grow to 1,000 MSPs by year's end. However, there are some rumblings around the market that Microsoft has hit a few bumps with hosted Dynamics.

Meanwhile, Tech Data's managed services initiative, branded as Tech Data VARChoice, has mostly involved reselling MSP platforms and remote management tools to VARs. The new relationship with USA.NET allows Tech Data's VARs to brand USA.NET's hosted Exchange services as their own.

According to a Tech Data spokesman:
The offerings (pricing matrix by # of mailboxes per end-user account plus additional services like Outlook calendar, advanced security, archiving, etc. and Blackberry support) are all sku'd up in our product catalog.
The reseller purchases and activates that through Tech Data. Tech Data then generates a monthly bill for the VAR based on a usage reporter from USA.NET. The VAR marks up the service and brands it as they see fit.
Also, the VAR is not tying up any capital by purchasing a year-long license. It's all delivered monthly based on usage by each account. From the end user's point of view, everything is coming from the VAR.

Data Center Providers

Still, distributors aren't the only game in town for hosted Microsoft applications. Intermedia, a hosted data center provider in New York, launched a software as a service partner program during last week's MSPAlliance's Managed Services Summit in Chicago. Intermedia's partner push includes hosted Exchange Server services.

Many other MSPs and data center providers are launching similar efforts.

Here Comes Microsoft

Meanwhile, Microsoft itself is preparing to launch its so-called Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), which includes hosted Exchange services.

Recent rumblings indicated that BPOS will debut sometime in October. But Microsoft recently removed a blog post about the impending launch, notes ChannelWeb.

Still, it sounds like BPOS will hit the market this year -- creating plenty of new opportunities (and potentially even more competition) for MSPs seeking to sort out their Microsoft software strategies.

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