How can MSPs manage and monetize public cloud services? Perhaps Microsoft's new Managed Applications in the Azure Marketplace can answer that question.
The approach represents a first for the public cloud, Microsoft claims, allowing MSPs to push beyond deployment and setup to address managed opportunities.
Experts like Jamison West, a long-time Microsoft partner and former MSP owner, sound impressed. As he put it:
"Microsoft continues to innovate, and embracing Managed Applications via the Azure platform is a clear continuation of the XaaS story. IT providers continue to dramatically reduce costs in support of traditional infrastructure. Forward-thinking providers are rapidly finding ways to shift from “Infrastructure Vendor” to “Business Partner”, and cloud computing, including the availability of hosted Managed Applications, is another big step in that direction."
With Managed Applications in the Azure Marketplace, MSPs, ISVs and SIs can build turnkey cloud solutions using Azure Resource Manager templates. Both the application IP and the underlying pre-configured Azure infrastructure can easily be packaged into a sealed and serviceable solution. This enables “Ap/Ops,” offering both the application and operations together in one package, Microsoft claims.
Another benefit to Azure partners is that they can deploy these turnkey solutions in their own Azure subscription as a sealed service, which is fully operated and maintained by the partner across the solution lifecycle. In addition, only the minimal level of access is granted, specifically for the sealed solution and its lifecycle operations.
How It Works
According to Gaurav Bhatnagar, program manager, Azure Compute, managed applications can now be published and made available at the Azure Marketplace on the Azure Portal.
Once published by the partner, they are available for any commercial customer with an Azure subscription. This enables MSP and ISV partners to market their solutions to a broader market. Partners are responsible for maintaining, servicing and upgrading the applications, once deployed by a customer.
Partners publish their Managed Applications to Azure Marketplace using the Cloud Partner Portal. The main components required are
- the template files, which describe the resources that will be provisioned, and
- the UI definition file, which describes how the required inputs for provisioning these resources will be displayed in the portal. The required files are packaged in a .zip file and uploaded through the publishing portal.
There are no additional fees for partners publishing Managed Applications into Azure Marketplace or customer Service Catalog. The partner needs a Microsoft Dev Center account before they can publish. Publishers of managed applications can associate a flat monthly cost with the solution they’re providing in the marketplace. This additional cost will show up as a separate line item on customer’s Azure invoice.
Managed Application Billings & Management
Customers are billed for the consumption of the Azure resources which are part of the Managed Application, using their regular billing construct. For example, if as part of the Managed Application, a virtual machine gets provisioned in the customer's subscription, the customer will be charged for the virtual machine usage. Similarly, the fees partners charge customers for lifecycle operations will show as a new line item in customer’s Azure invoice.
The resource group containing the resources which are part of the Managed Application is “locked” for the customer. The customer has read-only access to the resources in this resource group. As a result, the customer cannot accidentally delete or update the resources which are part of the Managed application. The publisher of the managed application, however, gets either the required permissions which enables him to maintain, service and upgrade the application in the customer’s tenant.
Microsoft has partnered very closely for this launch with Cisco, OpsLogix and Xcalar. The offers from these partners are already live and published on the marketplace and can be consumed. Managed Applications service is available in all globally available Azure regions.