Microsoft Makes Cloud Pitch to Managed Services Providers

What a difference a year makes. During Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2010, incoming Channel Chief Jon Roskill conceded that he was still getting up to speed on the managed services market. Fast forward to this week's WPC 2011 conference in Los Angeles, and Microsoft has rolled out the red carpet to selected managed services providers. Here's the update.

Jenni Flinders, VP of US partner strategy and programs at Microsoft, is meeting with selected MSPs and hosting influential channel partners during keynote gatherings. Moreover, Microsoft has been working more closely with HTG Peer Groups and other influential industry organizations to make sure leading MSPs are well-represented at WPC 2011.

I suspect about 15,000 people are here at WPC 2011. (I need to double-check that figure.) Attendees range from system builders to VARs and ISVs (independent software vendors), with some MSPs mixed into the crowd. Microsoft's growing interest in MSPs is easily explained: Within the channel, MSPs have already developed monthly recurring revenue (MRR) expertise, so MSPs are a prime target for Microsoft's Office 365 and Windows Azure cloud initiatives.

Still, some MSPs attending the WPC 2011 remain skeptical of Microsoft. During a breakfast discussion today, two MSPs told me that they see a three-year window to compete against Microsoft and larger cloud computing companies. Instead of partnering up with Microsoft, both MSPs are turning to third-party providers of hosted Exchange and other services because they want to control end-customer billing -- a capability that Microsoft and Office 365 so far do not support.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is set to start his keynote within 30 minutes or so. MSPmentor will be back with updates.

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