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Elite Partner Hosting Program, Microsoft Cloud OS Network, Growing Quickly

Microsoft's elite hosting program quadrupled to 100 partners in the year since its launch, with new partners fueling a 40 percent expansion in the number of service provider datacenters and contributing to a 20 percent boost in customers.

Microsoft unveiled the new enrollment number for the Cloud OS Program as part of its TechEd Europe 2014 event in Barcelona.

The Cloud OS Network consists of service providers that offer hybrid cloud solutions encompassing private clouds, service provider clouds and Microsoft Azure. The network, rolled out in October 2013, is an effort to build an elite community of partners around the Cloud OS that Microsoft rolled out in September 2012.

Cloud OS Network partners are an elite group among Microsoft's tens of thousands of hosting partners, rarer even than the 2,500 partners in the Gold Hosting Competency.

"When you look at the Cloud OS Network, you're looking really at the premier service provider player. The datacenter is their business," said Marco Limena, vice president of Hosting Service Providers at Microsoft.

While the 75 new service provider partners are a big addition in terms of raw enrollment numbers, their contribution to the overall datacenter and customer footprint is incremental compared with the two dozen large service providers Microsoft launched with a year ago.

With the first 25 Cloud OS Network partners, Microsoft claimed 425 datacenters and more than 3 million customers. Now, with 100 partners, those numbers slide up to 600 datacenters and 3.7 million customers.

Meanwhile, Microsoft's overall hosting business has been growing strongly since Microsoft redefined its previously core Windows Server operating system as only one component of a Cloud OS that also includes Azure and service provider clouds.

"We've had 11 consecutive quarters of double-digit growth," Limena said. "The overall ecosystem has 26,000 hosting partners. We added 5,000 in the past 12 months."

That broader ecosystem is getting interesting, as well. "The definition of a channel partner and a customer is really blurry," Limena explained. "When I look at the 26,000 partners, we are looking at a very diverse and agile ecosystem of players. Many of them are the traditional Web hosters that have been with us for a long time or the Exchange hosters who have been with us for a long time. But more and more in recent times, we are adding players like solutions integrators, ISVs or enterprise companies that see hosting not as their business but as more of a means to an end. For example, some enterprises are using hosting to extend capabilities to the supply chain."

Limena promises more activity in the coming months in this strategic area for Microsoft. We'll keep you posted on the news.

Update: In the original version of this blog entry, I implied via an indirect quote that Marco Limena said Cloud OS Network partners are a step above Gold Hosting Competency partners. That assertion was mine not Marco's and incorrectly compared two related, but not directly comparable, partner groups.

Posted by Scott Bekker on October 29, 2014 at 3:31 PM