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Microsoft: 20,000 Partners Transacting in CSP

The relatively new Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program has officially become the primary way that partners sell Microsoft cloud products, a Microsoft executive said.

"Today we have more than 20,000 partners transacting through CSP," said Gavriella Schuster, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group, on Tuesday in a year-end update for media and analysts.

"Our cloud solution provider program, or CSP, which puts our partners at the center of the customer relationship, is our strongest go-to-market offering yet," Schuster said, and also described CSP as "our primary mode of transaction with our customers at this time, and it continues to grow month over month."

The remarks echo similar statements in July during the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), when Schuster said more than 17,000 partners were transacting in CSP. At the time, she also hinted at the strength of CSP versus the other through-partner cloud sales channels -- saying that during the month of May, partners had sold more services through CSP than through Open, Advisor and Syndication.

After years of partners asking Microsoft for permission to bill customers directly for Office 365 and other Microsoft cloud services, Microsoft began rolling out its CSP program in stages beginning in early 2015. The CSP model allows partners to offer a full stack of services, both Microsoft and non-Microsoft, with one contract, one bill and one point of contact for support.

A key to making CSP a volume play was the introduction of the indirect, or two-tier, model, whereby distributors and global hosting partners act as the point of contact on Microsoft services for a broader set of CSP reseller partners. The introduction of that part of the program in late 2015 set the stage for a major scaling up of CSP. Schuster said the 20,000 partners currently represent 470 percent growth from the 3,500 transacting partners of a year ago.

While the partner numbers selling through CSP represent a channel scale that few in the industry can match, Microsoft has thrown around bigger numbers in the past, and it's unclear what some of those other partners are doing now. For example, at the 2015 WPC, then-COO Kevin Turner said there were 75,000 partners transacting in the Microsoft cloud.

During this week's call, Schuster also pointed to evidence that partners were becoming more engaged with the Microsoft cloud by enrolling in competencies, the partner designations of specialization that require enrollment fees, training, testing, case studies and other steps. Without providing raw numbers, Schuster said that the number of partners with a gold or silver cloud competency had increased 86 percent year over year and that there was a 53 percent increase in the number of partners with three or more cloud competencies.

Posted by Scott Bekker on December 07, 2016