UPDATE: Microsoft Partner Network Cost: How Much To Join the MPN?
WEB EXCLUSIVE: The short answer? It depends. For most U.S. solution providers, the MPN costs between $0 and $5,260. We break down the perks of seven cost levels so you can determine where your firm will get the most bang for its buck.
[Ed.'s Note: This article has been updated from the original version, published in March 2011, to reflect recent changes in Microsoft's MPN pricing tiers.]
One thing many would-be Microsoft resellers or solution providers wonder when they think about joining the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) is how much it will cost to join. It's a simple question with a unique answer for each of the hundreds of thousands of existing members of the program, once you count all the soft costs of signing up (such as training and certifications), time spent on program administration, fees for specialty programs and other investments.
But there is a short answer: The MPN costs $0, $329, $429, $999, $1,850, $3,800 or $5,260 to join, depending on how deeply a firm wants to engage in Microsoft's program. (All figures are average prices in U.S. dollars. Actual rates vary by country or other factors and aren't just dependent on exchange rates.)
In November, Microsoft changed some of the pillars of its prices for partners to participate in the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN). Here are some of the key prices for U.S. partners under the new structure and details of what those fees include. Click on the links below to jump directly to a price level:
$5,260 -- Gold Competency
Attaining one of 25 Microsoft competencies is Microsoft's suggested path for partners to differentiate themselves. Each competency comes in a silver or gold level. A gold competency is the MPN's top tier for non-alliance partners. On Nov. 19, 2011 the enrollment fee for the gold competency went up 38 percent from $3,800 to $5,260. A partner pays only for the first gold competency; every one thereafter comes at no additional charge. If a partner had earned and paid for a silver competency first, then the partner only pays the difference to get to the $5,260 ($3,410).
There are other investments beyond the base price to get to the gold competency level. The company has to employ or contract with four Microsoft Certified Professionals (MCPs) who don't count toward any other competency. The exception here is the Midmarket Solution Provider competency, which only requires three unique MCPs for gold. (The Small Business competency, which only requires two, has its own special price -- see below.) Two people must pass a sales and marketing competency assessment. The gold level also requires a partner to make a minimum revenue commitment and get references from five customers.
The Microsoft Dynamics-based competencies, ERP and CRM, have slightly higher requirements -- six MCPs and the requirement to buy a Partner Service Plan, which includes training, tools and support.
Benefits for all gold competency partners are 50 Partner Advisory Hours, up to 100 internal-use software licenses per product, 10 Visual Studio Premium with MSDN subscriptions, the highest search rankings in Microsoft directories, the gold competency logo and eligibility for upper tiers of solution-based sales incentives. [Back to price list.]
$3,800 -- Small Business Gold Competency
The one broad market gold competency with a different price tag than the others is the Small Business Gold Competency. To acknowledge that many of its best partners serving small businesses are themselves small businesses, Microsoft kept the Small Business Gold Competency at 2010 rates even as it raised the rest of the gold competency registration prices on Nov. 19, 2011. It's also a nod to the much smaller outlay some of those partners are used to paying. Prior to the introduction of the competency, the best way for a partner to signal their expertise in small business solutions was the Small Business Specialist designation, which could be had for about the cost of an Action Pack. Benefits are similar to other gold competency benefits in terms of internal use rights (IUR) and MSDN subscriptions, but some requirements are also lower. The main one? Only two unique MCPs are required for this gold competency, compared with four MCPs in most other gold competencies. [Back to price list.]
$1,850 -- Silver Competency
The next tier down in the MPN is a silver competency. It costs $1,850, an amount that has not changed since Microsoft introduced the MPN.
In addition to the registration fee, a Microsoft partner company has to employ or contract with two MCPs. An employee or contractor must pass a Microsoft Licensing overview assessment and an employee or contractor has to pass a sales and marketing competency assessment. The partner company also has to put in the time to chase down three customer references. As with the gold competency, whether a partner company earns one silver competency or dozens, it never costs more than the initial $1,850 a year. Benefits include 20 Partner Advisory Hours, up to 25 IUR per product, five Visual Studio Premium with MSDN subscriptions, three TechNet for Microsoft Competency Partners subscriptions, higher search rankings, licensing-related sales incentives and the silver competency logo for use on outbound marketing materials.
Unlike with the gold competency, the Midmarket Solution Provider competency has the same requirement on MCPs as other competencies. See the next section for the Small Business silver competency, which is a special case. [Back to price list.]
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$999 -- Small Business Silver Competency
A dedicated competency for Small Business had been a popular cause among partners for years, but one of the implications of its creation in 2012 was a price increase. While small business-focused partners were able to join the Small Business Specialist Community for little more than the cost of an Action Pack, competency fees are generally much higher. In a nod to that challenge for smaller partners, Microsoft created an introductory rate of $999 that cut the silver competency fee almost in half for the Small Business competency. That introductory fee was set to expire on Dec. 31, 2012, but now Microsoft is extending the offer until June 30, 2013. While the registration cost is different, the benefits are similar to other silver competencies. [Back to price list.]
$429 -- Action Pack Development & Design (Or $619 with Physical Media)
Probably the best bargain in the old Microsoft Partner Program (MSPP) was the Microsoft Action Pack Subscription (MAPS). The program survived with some modifications when the MSPP turned into the MPN and remains a great deal.
For developers, MAPS turned into Action Pack Development & Design for $429 per year. Partners who need physical media rather than digital distribution pay $619. The subscription covers IURs for most of Microsoft's client and server software, along with an MSDN subscription and developer tools. [Back to price list.]
$329 -- Action Pack Solution Provider, Cloud Accelerate
Action Pack Solution Provider
For IT pros, MAPS morphed into Action Pack Solution Provider, which is essentially a TechNet subscription with some added benefits for solution provider-focused partners.
The licenses in the Action Pack are enough to equip a partner's 10-person office with the full suite of Microsoft software to experiment with every day and demonstrate to clients.
All software in the Action Pack SP is provided via digital delivery. If you want discs mailed to your office, it costs $469 a year.
Microsoft also offers two broad market tiers for partners to begin representing Redmond's cloud offerings. The higher, paid tier is Cloud Accelerate. The least expensive way to participate in Cloud Accelerate is by subscribing to the Action Pack Solution Provider. Other ways to qualify include subscribing to Action Pack Development & Design or earning a silver competency. The ability to qualify through a $329 Action Pack Solution Provider subscription represents a price cut for Cloud Accelerate, which originally cost $1,850 to join.
Benefits of Cloud Accelerate include reams of internal-use licenses -- 250 seats of Office 365, 250 seats of Dynamics CRM Online, 100 seats of Windows Intune and Windows Azure resource allowances. Other benefits include a Cloud Accelerate logo, five Advisory hours for support, priority listing in Microsoft Pinpoint and Online Services Advisor incentives and accelerators. [Back to price list.]
Free -- Microsoft Partner Network, Cloud Essentials Pack
Microsoft Partner Network Community
It's free to join the Microsoft Partner Network Community, the most basic level of the MPN. All that's required to join at this level is for a company to fill out a short company profile and agree to Microsoft's terms. Benefits include access to Microsoft partner newsletters, eligibility for technical and business training, and listings in Microsoft's Pinpoint and Solution Finder partner directories.
(Ed.'s Note: We'd be remiss not to mention that if you join the MPN, one of the best resources you can sign up for is also free -- Redmond Channel Partner magazine. We're independent of Microsoft and give you news, information and tips in your mailbox each month and online every day. Subscribe here. End self-serving RCP plug.)
Cloud Essentials Pack
The lower tier of Microsoft's cloud program for partners is the Cloud Essentials Pack, which is also free to join after signing up for the MPN. After signing an online sales agreement and taking some online training, Cloud Essentials participants get IURs for 25 seats of Office 365, 25 seats of Windows Intune and 25 seats of Dynamics CRM Online. Those seat amounts are much lower than when Cloud Essentials originally launched -- when it included 250 seats each for the Business Productivity Online Suite (the predecessor to Office 365) and Dynamics CRM Online. The Intune allowance, however, has gone up from an original 10 seats. Cloud Essentials also includes the same Windows Azure resource allowance as the paid Cloud Accelerate. [Back to price list.]