Microsoft has more than tripled the number of indirect Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) partners, appointing Synnex, Dicker Data, Avnet, Distribution Central and SaaSplaza, a Microsoft Dynamics specialist.
These five new CSP partners join Ingram Micro and Rhipe, which were the first two distributors appointed to the program in April 2015.
The news significantly expands Microsoft's ability to sell cloud services such as Office 365 and Azure through the channel. The distributors can provide monthly billing for Microsoft cloud services, and can also wrap other products and services around the Microsoft stack, as well as offering support.
The CSP program currently includes Office 365 SKUs, Azure infrastructure-as-a-service, Enterprise Mobility Suite and Dynamics CRM Online. The next version of Dynamics ERP will be launched first on Azure as a managed service.
Today's dramatic increase in distributors is evidence of Microsoft's aggressive growth targets in cloud. "CSP success is one of our key lenses around the cloud," said Phil Goldie, Microsoft Australia's director of partner business and development. "It fundamentally lines up the way customers want to buy with the way partners want to sell. It is the hero motion around selling to the midmarket and SMB."
While there is "no programmatic distinction" between the seven distributors, they will focus on different areas, said Phil Goldie. When the vendor went to market with an RFP, it asked distributors "are you going to be about massive partner and customer reach across multiple products, or will it be unique scenarios across individual products?"
Dicker and Synnex are mainstream indirect partners, with broad bases of midmarket and SMB resellers. Like Ingram and Rhipe, they'll sell Office 365 alongside Azure.
Synnex is already a major Microsoft distributor, as one of only two authorised Surface distributors and is also a volume licensing partner. Synnex bolstered its Office 365 business only last week with the appointment of Barracuda Networks, which provides Office 365 backup deployment solutions.
Dicker Data is an authorised distributor of Microsoft OEM software, and boasts a dedicated configuration centre located at its Sydney head office. The company is "a top-performing CSP indirect partner in New Zealand", added Goldie. In Australia, Dicker already represents complementary vendors such as BitTitan, which supports cloud migrations.
Driving Azure sales
Meanwhile, Avnet, Distribution Central and SaaSplaza are being positioned as "Azure-focused indirect partners". While in theory they could provide any products available on CSP, the three companies have each agreed a business plan with Microsoft focused on growing Azure.
Office 365 has been the fastest-growing product in Microsoft's history, and leads the company's nearest competitor, Google. However, in the infrastructure-as-a-service market, Microsoft Azure plays second fiddle to Amazon Web Services, which had two-year head start in Australia.
According to US-based Synergy Research Group, AWS had a 31 percent share of the public cloud market in Q4 2015, with Microsoft a distant second at 9 percent. Synergy gave IBM Cloud and SoftLayer a 7 percent share, followed by Google at 4 percent.
Microsoft launched Australian availability zones for Azure in October 2014; today's CSP announcement indicates the latest salvo in the public cloud war and an attempt to catch up to AWS.
Distribution Central is the only name on the list that joins the Microsoft channel for the first time. Microsoft expects DC to focus on the midmarket space and specialise in hybrid cloud scenarios.
"Their DC CloudSelect platform offers a fully automated aggregation, integration and customisation point for both cloud and other ICT services with integrated billing, delivering an outstanding user experience that makes the delivery of cloud products and services easy and simple," said Goldie.
"DC CloudSelect is also available white-labelled for their channel partners and we see this as key differentiator to help drive demand for Microsoft Azure."
Avnet will expand its existing footprint in the Microsoft channel, having been the first Australian distributor admitted to the vendor's Cloud OS Network earlier this year.
The distie offers a multi-channel cloud commerce platform with an aggregated billing platform "and the Avnet cloud marketplace can be white-labelled for partners. We see great opportunity for Avnet to showcase their strength in IoT, analytics and security," added Goldie.
SaaSplaza is the most highly specialised of all the new names. The global Dynamics expert is headquartered in the Netherlands and moved into the Australian market in 2014. The company was named as a one-tier CSP last November – a reseller of cloud services – and now transitions to the two-tier role.
"SaasPlaza is focussed on Dynamics on Azure cloud solutions and already has extensive Microsoft Dynamics engineering and support capability. We see an opportunity for SaasPlaza to work with midmarket customers to bring their Dynamics solutions to Azure by becoming a CSP indirect partner," said Goldie.
With all of Microsoft's Australian distributors now onboard with CSP – plus some new names – the announcement will bring fresh competition to Microsoft's cloud channel, where Ingram Micro and Rhipe had held a duopoly for the past 12 months.
Lee Welch, Ingram Micro Australia's general manager for cloud and software services, said the distie been "very successful" with CSP. "It is measured in transacting partners and seat count. We have the second-highest adopted Ingram Micro market in the world after the US. The adoption rate in Australia has been huge. That is testament to our team but also the maturity of the Australian market - it is incredible."
As of February, some 1,000 Australian channel partners had signed up to Ingram Micro's cloud marketplace, which launched in June 2015.
"The progress we have made with Ingram and Rhipe has been off-the-charts good," said Goldie. "We have accelerated the business with those two partners faster than we thought, customer acquisition has been faster than we thought."
Goldie stressed the expansion shouldn't overcrowd the market. "If you look at Office 365, even with all the momentum, it is still not that heavily penetrated in SMB. We think these additional wholesale layer partners can help us growth that via CSP."
He pointed to Sydney-headquartered Harbour IT as one reseller to have done well out of the CSP program. Harbour IT has 52 Microsoft SPLA customers, covering more 15,000 users. "Since joining the CSP program through Rhipe, Harbour IT’s net new customers has grown by 28 percent," said Goldie.
"Harbour IT have also taken advantage of Rhipe’s ‘marketing-as-a-service’ offering to help drive customer uptake and generate new leads. Rhipe’s overall net-new partner growth from CSP is 42 percent."