Your role as an MSP is to deliver service and functionality that your clients demand while still managing to make a profit. So, in a world where cloud-based services providers offer nearly anything a client could potentially desire, serving as an educated, intelligent strategic advisor to navigate these options on behalf of your client requires relationships with a number of vendors.
Luckily, most cloud services providers have fully baked partner programs that provide not only structured business arrangements for you to resell or refer their services to customers but also support, education and sales tools to help your business scale while still delivering top-notch customer service.
For many of these companies, joining a partner program is the only way to include them in your suite of solutions. And while it may initially be a hassle to join them, their value should become apparent once you start reselling their services.
Here is a quick look at what some of the leading programs have to offer and what it takes to join them:
Amazon Web Services is the dominant cloud computing provider, and fitting its stature as the largest cloud company, Amazon also has a multi-tiered program. These include increasingly challenging requirements as firms look to climb into the elite ranks, with a specific – and exclusive – partner program just for MSPs.
The MSP Partner Program is built on top of the AWS Partner Network, so MSPs will first need to join that free partner program as a Consulting Partner and upgrade to the Standard Tier. That upgrade costs $2,500 per year, requires $1,000 in monthly AWS billings and a number of accreditations and certifications.
From there your company will need to upgrade again to the Advanced Tier to unlock the Managed Service Provider Program; this upgrade requires even more accreditations and certifications, as well as $50,000 of monthly AWS billings and six customer references. Your firm will also need to pass a partner capabilities audit administered by a third party, with a lengthy list of requirements spanning from business health topics that include succession planning and employee satisfaction to documentation of technical capabilities.
If you can make the cut, the program offers education, training and marketing opportunities, as well as usage credits for development and proof of concepts. Between getting support and insight into new features from technical account managers, to cooperating on sales opportunities, being one of the select few that reach this status with the largest cloud platform definitely has its benefits.
MSPs looking to join the Google Cloud Partner Program will take the Service Partner Track, which has two tiers: Partner and Premier Partner. All program members start at the Partner level and are only elevated to the Premier Partner tier after proving their worth and potential at the introductory Partner level.
Partners get margin on products they sell with limited incentive opportunities and receive training, tools and support. Premier Partners have access to more incentives, get preferential listings in the partner directory and have access to co-marketing and exclusive lead generation opportunities, as well as dedicated partner managers and prioritized technical support. Premier Partners can even access low-interest loans to grow their business.
There is a high bar to joining either Google program, as companies must provide updated business plans, meet annual new customer acquisition goals and complete training and technical evaluations. Your company will also need to deploy and support a minimum of three Google Cloud customers to be considered.
In addition to reselling the cloud computing power of Google Cloud, partners can also resell and build services on top of other Google cloud-based offerings including G Suite, Maps, Enterprise Search, Android and Chrome. And partners have access to Authorized Training Partner programs, featuring hands-on labs.
Since Partners are required to maintain a certain level of Google business to join and remain a member of the program, MSPs should not apply for the program until they are sure their business will have enough Google deployments to warrant membership.
Microsoft has had reseller programs in place for decades given its enterprise IT legacy, but it has kept up with the times and now has programs that fit with the cloud mindset. Microsoft’s unique advantage is that they offer their own traditional IT products in addition to cloud computing services.
Resellers cannot only resell Microsoft Azure, they can offer Windows 10, Office 365, Dynamics 365, Visual Studio and more. This one-stop shopping appeal makes Microsoft an attractive program for MSPs looking to increase their value as a trusted advisor throughout their clients’ organizations.
Microsoft’s Cloud Solution Provider Program has multiple options, but the fundamental split is between direct resellers and indirect resellers. The Indirect Reseller program provides a quick and easy onramp to reselling Microsoft Cloud Services – Indirect Resellers do not need the same organizational resources or administrative infrastructure as the Direct program and can focus their efforts purely on consultative sales.
Microsoft Direct Resellers need fully staffed sales, billing and support teams and infrastructure that can provide first-class service to their customers. The companies in this program must have a services business model and the ability to scale as their customer portfolio (and individual customer needs) grow.
Compared to other Microsoft programs, the Cloud Solutions Provider option gives MSPs the most flexibility, which is a great match for the dynamic nature of their business. For example, only the CSP program lets you add or remove seats on a monthly basis (vs. annual). And billing is purely pay-as-you-go, which eliminates risky financial commitments based on forecasts of deals that may or may not close or grow according to plan.
Neither program is free, but this Business Modeling Tool gives interested firms the ability to preview the upfront and ongoing costs of each model.
Other Cloud Services Provider Partner Programs
Microsoft, Google and AWS are definitely the “big three” you need in your portfolio, but there are other solutions you might also want to include in your partner strategy.
The Oracle Cloud Managed Service Provider Program lets Oracle PartnerNetwork members with approved Cloud Designation run Oracle and non-Oracle workloads on the Oracle Cloud. There are sales incentives and technical support and marketing opportunities, so if your current or prospective client base is heavily invested in Oracle systems, it might make sense for you as an MSP. However, there is a significant monthly minimum ($50,000) across at least three customers to maintain program status, so it will require a commitment to join and remain a member.
IBM is another option for running cloud-based bare metal and virtual servers for customers running a variety of operating systems. The program offers white-labeling options and discounts of 5-20% depending on your volume. Resellers must join IBM PartnerWorld to get started and take advantage of training and co-marketing opportunities. IBM also offers a specific government reseller program that meets the stringent security requirements and dedicated server needs of state or federal organizations.
The Rackspace Reseller Program lets you design, build and resell custom Rackspace solutions and bring in commissions from those sales. The rates vary depending on whether your MSP is an Associate, Premier or Preferred Partner. Rackspace’s partner program includes AWS, Microsoft, VMware and OpenStack offerings, as well as a variety of email solutions.
A Worthwhile Hassle
Partner programs will increase your margins, provide access to better support and training and probably help you win more deals. But joining and maintaining these memberships take a much bigger commitment than just filling out a form.
Make sure partner program membership is part of your MSP strategy… and just as importantly that you are committed to exploring and exploiting all they have to offer.
The Unigma Reach
Cloud management and billing vendor Unigma has a number of partners, so if you work with us you can leverage these relationships, which include Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure.