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Microsoft, HP Invite VARs To Host

In case there was any lingering doubt, we can confirm this week that Microsoft is serious about this SaaS -- or even Software Plus Services -- stuff after all. And despite some early concerns, it's becoming clearer that partners won't be as shut out as they might have thought.

This week, Microsoft and HP revealed an initiative aimed at preparing VARs to undertake what's called private-label hosting. Basically, VARs resell applications hosted in datacenters by Microsoft-approved managed service providers (or MSPs, of course); HP and Microsoft provide some technical infrastructure and handy tips for getting started.

The nice thing here for VARs, other than getting some assistance in moving into a hot, new technology model, is that they can put their names on these hosted services. That's the nature of private label -- VARs brand hosted offerings as their own rather than selling a product with somebody else's name on it and just settling for a referral fee. With private label, VARs don't have to give up their identities as trusted advisers to customers.

For MSPs, too, there are advantages. Despite considerable efforts from the good folks at the MSP Alliance, managed service providers still face a bit of an uphill battle overcoming the bad impressions a few of the bad apples in their industry have left with customers. HP and Microsoft, with this new program, are giving MSPs a little endorsement in selling to VARs. Private-label sales to VARs already is and should continue to be a nice revenue stream for many MSPs; a positive word and some technical help from Microsoft and HP should only help service providers' cause in attracting VARs as customers.

Of course, this new initiative doesn't make everything OK. Microsoft is still planning to host its own applications and therefore compete pretty directly with MSPs, as well as with VARs. And unless Steve Ballmer has changed his mind since July, Redmond doesn't plan on giving a competitive inch to its partners-slash-competitors.

Still, if anything, the Microsoft-HP initiative has the look of a bit of an olive branch to the channel at a time when a lot of partners are still not totally sure how cloud computing will affect their businesses or how, exactly, they should participate in it. And that doesn't seem like a bad thing.

Will you take advantage of the Microsoft-HP hosting offer? How are you preparing your business to deal with cloud computing? Let us know at lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on December 11, 2008 at 11:55 AM


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