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.