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Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) and the ABCs of modern Microsoft cloud licensing

Microsoft | Posted on October 3, 2017

How the Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program helps partners add value while their customers gain flexibility

Technology acquisition continues to evolve – away from infrastructure and towards web services – and vendor licensing and partner programs with it.

In recent years, Microsoft has recognized how customer buying habits have changed to meet the rapid pace of innovation. To align with them, Microsoft developed the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program. It’s all part of a larger trend moving away from traditional software licensing. By 2020, Gartner predicts that 80% of software vendors will abandon licensing and maintenance for subscription models.

While understanding how CSP solutions will impact you as a customer is important, according to Luke Black, Manager of Microsoft Programs and Marketing Operations at Softchoice, customer knowledge of CSPs varies.

In our recent Modern Microsoft Licensing webinar, Black and co-presenter John Byrne, Softchoice’s Managed Services Advisor, peeled back the CSP curtain. They discussed how CSP works and the benefits customers can see from solutions using to build solutions.

What is CSP?

Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) is a non-contractual monthly, cloud subscription platform on top of which partners can build and support solutions. Today, three Microsoft cloud solutions are offered as CSP solutions: Office 365, Microsoft Enterprise Mobility +Security and Azure.

CSP customers gain the flexibility of scaling Microsoft technology up and down in a cloud environment, but with the support of a solution provider. Customers aren’t locked into the long-term commitment of an Enterprise Agreement (EA) or other volume licensing programs.

The program also changes the service and support model. The solution provider, and not Microsoft, is responsible for technical issues, service, and support. This allows partners like Softchoice to layer extra value onto the solution.

Why is the CSP program needed?

There will continue to be organizations for whom a three-year commitment to Microsoft around on-premise solutions makes perfect sense. But increasingly businesses need the ability to scale up and down and a simple way to do it, Black noted. “It’s all about simplification.”

“We all want to do more with less,” he said. “That’s why there’s a need for this modern licensing and a platform like Cloud Solution Provider.”

If you’re familiar with existing Microsoft license agreements, you are likely used to managing disparate agreements across many commercial systems. CSP solutions remove that complexity. They provide a single platform from which to buy and manage Microsoft cloud solutions, available from multiple entry points.

Who are CSP solutions ideal for?

According to Black and Byrne, CSP solutions are excellent options for customers who:

  • Purchase direct from the Microsoft Office Portal – If you already buy through Microsoft’s online portal, or who want to, CSP continues that, but with added value coming from the solution provider.
  • Don’t want contractual agreements – CSP is perfect for those adamantly opposed to long-term commitments, or who want to be billed only for what they use month-to-month.
  • Don’t mind buying separate on-premise licenses – While it’s on the roadmap, on-prem licenses are currently not part of CSP offerings. They are expected to be incorporated in the first half of 2018.
  • Need shorter-term cloud subscriptions for testing – Customers on EAs today can add cloud subscriptions, but there’s often still a long-term commitment involved. CSP solutions let you test out the cloud environment without being locked in.

What are the benefits of CSP solutions?

While CSP is a partner program, the ultimate beneficiary is Microsoft’s customers. It allows solution providers to offer greater value above and beyond the software purchase.

CSP solution customers can pay for as much or as little service and support as they need. For example, at a minimum, a partner might offer 24 x 7 live support. The real benefits come, however, when further value and managed services are layered onto a solution, Byrne suggested.

For example, navigating and managing the many updates and changes that come when using Software as a Service can be an overwhelming, full-time job. At the same time, traditional support often requires going through a script describing your environment.

Partners, on the other hand, have knowledge of both your environment and Microsoft solutions to provide strategic advice. A trusted solution provider using the CSP model can help customers achieve faster time to value and happier users. And can do so this while reducing risk and complexity and offering efficient, predictable costs.

Through a CSP solution, like Softchoice’s Keystone for Office 365, your partner can provide you with the administration, actionable insights and ongoing mentorship to get the most out of the solution in your specific environment.

To learn even more about CSP, or for a refresher of what you heard in the webinar, you can watch it here.

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