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Microsoft taps partners to sell Azure and take on Amazon in cloud

Microsoft taps partners to sell Azure and take on Amazon in cloud

Microsoft distributors will soon be able to resell the company's Azure cloud IaaS, Microsoft announced today in a blog.

The move is welcomed by at least some Microsoft partners who are excited about the opportunity of offering customers more services. Previously Azure users had to buy directly from Microsoft.

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Microsoft is allowing its distributors to resell Azure by expanding the company's Open Licensing practice. This allows the distributor to resell an Azure license to a customer. Vendors will use tokens which are worth $100 Azure credits that will be distributed to customers. Doing so will give resellers the ability to manage Azure clouds for customers, as well as bundle other services on top of the Azure virtual machines, storage and databases. Resellers can bundle an Office 365 app, or backup and recovery services, for example.

Customer may be more inclined to buy services like Azure through a partner that they have an existing relationship with as opposed to buying directly through an Enterprise Agreement with Microsoft.

Aidan Finn is a technical sales lead for Microsoft reseller MicroWarehouse Ltd. in Ireland and in blogging about the news today noted that it will make Azure more appealing, particularly to small and midsize businesses that may not be big enough for an EA but perhaps don't have the in-house expertise to consume cloud without assistance. Some partners were even already buying blocks of Azure services and reselling them without the official Open License, Finn said. "The move to Open was necessary," Finn wrote in an email. "The opportunity to resell a service product brings partners into the fold, and gives them a reason to be interested. Without a resell opportunity, Azure could have appeared like a competitor to some partners."

The move seems like a natural one for Microsoft to make to take advantage of its large channel market, which is a differentiator for the company compared to some of its biggest rivals in Amazon and Google.

"The mechanism sounds a bit awkward, with the purchases via fixed denomination tokens rather than direct, resource utilization-based billing, but giving more efficient access to its large partner channel to its portfolio of cloud resources is good utilization of an existing strength for the company," Stephen O'Grady, an analyst and RedMonk wrote in an email.

Microsoft announced that Open Licensing will be available starting in August.

Senior Writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing for Network World and NetworkWorld.com. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW. Read his Cloud Chronicles here.  

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