Azure in CSP

If you work for a Microsoft partner then there’s a good chance that you’ve heard of CSP. This is a new method for reselling subscription services such as Office 365, CRM Online, EMS, and Azure (and more) instead of direct billing (by Microsoft) or Open (resold) licensing agreements. The benefit of CSP is that:

  • A partner can resell Microsoft services, therefore making a margin, and ideally wrap it up in deployment/management services.
  • The customer gets the post-usage monthly invoice that they expect from the cloud instead of pre-paying for services for a year (Office 365 in Open) or pre-buying credits (Azure in Open).

My employers (MicroWarehouse Ltd in Ireland) are a Type 2 CSP reseller, meaning that we distribute CSP to “breadth” partners that do not have a CSP agreement. They, in turn, add a margin and sell CSP services to their customers. We’re fully on-board with this service, selling services like Office 365 and EMS.

But, I am not recommending that Azure is sold by our customers (resellers) via CSP. Why?

Azure Resource Manager (ARM)

Most folks still haven’t heard of or understand what ARM is. ARM is a new way for you/Azure to deploy resources in Microsoft’s cloud, and is sometimes referred to as Azure v2. Before now, we use Service Management, which is also referred to as Classic or Azure v1. The two are quite different. For example:

  • Azure Backup and Azure Site Recovery (2 of the most popular features with our customers) are fully available in Service Management but only available via PowerShell in ARM.
  • Other features like RemoteApp won’t be in ARM until the Summer (allegedly – I say “allegedly” because some features were meant to be in ARM now, but are not).
  • The designs of VMs are very different – resource providers are used, and the networking is very different. Endpoints are replaced by a PowerShell-only load balancer that is quite complex.

PowerShell fundamentalists and radicals will scream that techies should have enough there now, but the training I have run recently affirms my view on PowerShell. I love using PowerShell, but few outside of the conference-going community (a small percentage) have the first clue, and probably never will. The GUI is required still to make the product sell.

CSP and ARM

So here’s the gotcha. For some reason, Microsoft decided that customers who get a subscription in CSP will only be able to use ARM. Meanwhile, customers that have direct/trial, EA or Open subscriptions can deploy in either ARM or Service Management.

So, if your business currently or possibly will be using IaaS components, then I’m advising that you do not acquire Azure via CSP. If you’re in the SME world (less than 250 users) then stick with Azure in Open. If you’re over 250 users then go EA. And partners – avoid direct billing and trials (only convert into direct billing) because there’s nothing in it for you. You can start/continue to resell other online services via CSP, but Azure is just not ready yet, and we can blame some mysterious decision making by Microsoft for that. Hopefully we’ll get feature parity between Service Management and ARM soon, and then I’ll chance my recommendation about Azure in CSP.

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10 Comments on Azure in CSP

  1. Dave Smith // May 1, 2016 at 9:17 PM // Reply

    You obviously have you ever tried using Azure under Open? Try getting usage reporting for your tenancy for anything over 30-days. Under Open, you are unable to get any detailed usage reporting for anything older than the current month. It is a TOTAL mess.

    • Totally incorrect. I’ve been using/distributing Open since day 1. Log into the account portal and you can download the billing spreadsheets from there.

  2. Troels Leth Petersen // May 2, 2016 at 1:23 PM // Reply

    Well – now both Backup and Azure Site Recovery are available in CSP (via the ARM portal). So no worries about selling via CSP anymore.

    Cheers, Troels

    • See above. If you want to sell partial solutions, then CSP is right for you now. If you’d like to allow people access to their failed over services via RemoteApp, then keep on waiting.

  3. In the meantime, while RemoteApp – which is basically powered by RDS – remains unavailable, why not deploy a RDS farm with RDWeb to get started anyway. In parallel spin up RemoteApps when it becomes available and geadually switch over apps.

    • It’s a licensing issue for many – You must have RDS CALS, but that’s not enough. RDS CALS via volume licensing must have Software Assurance to access a cloud service. Otherwise you get RDS SALs via SPLA-R.

  4. Just to be clear Aidan, are there any issues with migrating a classic (v1) VM to ARM, or is that not possible too? So basically, any Classic version services will not be migrated to a CSP subscription (not purely backup/asr)?

    • You can migrate two ways:

      – MigAz, which is unsupported (but works very well and is used by MS Azure Center of Excellence in some cases) and will export your VM deployments as ARM, which are then imported to CSP.
      – “Platform Supported” migration. Zero downtime, keep your public IPs. First you convert to ARM in the old subscription, then migrate the resource groups to CSP. Can be quite tricky because there are lots of asterisks.

      Classic backup vaults and recovery services vaults cannot be migrated to ARM or moved to another subscription.

  5. We are a customer looking into using Azure with CSP instead of self-managing through our EA. I was wondering if your thoughts on Azure CSP have changed since you wrote this or now that RemoteApp is being discontinued?

    • Yes, completely. All we push now is CSP. There’s really nothing missing in IaaS, except for Azure AD Directory Services support for ARM VNets, but that’s a very small niche.

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