Microsoft said Monday that it is significantly expanding the managed security services it now offers to customers, in a move some partners say may spark friction between them and Microsoft.
The software behemoth has been offering a limited amount of expert services for about three years now via its Microsoft Threats Experts program.
But with recent high-profile cyberattacks across the globe and heightened corporate concern about security in general, Microsoft has decided to offer three expanded services under a new category called Microsoft Security Experts, the company said in a blog post Monday morning.
The idea behind the push to is provide customers with more human interaction and intervention when it comes to helping them with their growing security needs—in addition to the security software products that Microsoft offers customers, according to company officials.
Microsoft declined to say how many experts it is hiring for the expanded security services nor how much the company is spending on the program.
One of the new service categories, called Microsoft Defender Experts for Hunting, is designed for companies with robust security operations but that still feel they need extra help hunting for threats on their systems, the company said.
Another new category, Microsoft Defender Experts for XDR, is for companies that want to extend and enhance their existing detection and response services amid increasing cybersecurity threats.
And the third category, Microsoft Security Services for Enterprise, is aimed at “large enterprises looking for more comprehensive, high-touch managed services,” the company said in its blog post.
In an interview with CRN US, Rob Lefferts, corporate vice president of Microsoft 365 security and compliance, said his company is not competing against channel partners.
Instead, the new Microsoft Security Experts program will “augment” what channel partners are currently providing and “lighten the load” on them at a time when the overall number of cyberattacks is soaring, said Lefferts.
Ultimately, partners will be able to offer the expanded Microsoft services to customers as a way to boost their own businesses, he said.
“We really need people to work together,” said Lefferts.
Leffer added Microsoft worked very closely with its channel partners and others to design a new managed services program that helped them, not hurt them.
But he acknowledged there could be instances of friction between Microsoft and partners moving forward—and he indicated Microsoft is willing to make future adjustments to its services.
“We‘re going to learn a bunch more and we’re going to take those learnings to really make sure this is a platform” that will allow partners to provide “more robust offerings,” Lefferts said.
Brian Beyer, chief executive of Red Canary, a managed detection and response company, said he was impressed with Microsoft’s outreach to partners before launching the new services program.
“It’s really complementing what we’re doing,” said Beyer, whose Denver-based company has been a Microsoft partner for about five years.
He acknowledged there may be some overlap between the services provided by Microsoft versus services offered by partners.
“There will be part of it that will be competitive,” he said, adding it’s only “natural” there will be some friction.
But he said Microsoft has hundreds of thousands of business customers using its products around the world and “it can’t possibly help all of them” via its new services, he said.
Rick Smith, head of Renactus Technology, a US-based MSP, said Microsoft’s expanded security services are “definitely competition” that will “put the onus on us to step up our game.”
But Smith, who co-hosts a weekly podcast called “MSP Unplugged,” said he’s taking a “wait-and-see” attitude.
“Will it present some competition to us? Yes,” Smith said of Microsoft Security Experts. “But will I really be threatened by it? No. I don’t think so.”
Smith said he doubts a giant like Microsoft can give the same level of one-on-one attention to customers as his company and other channel partners can provide. “Everything is about relationships,” he said.