MSPs say Microsoft's target audience, the largest enterprises, doesn't diminish the threat to their livelihood ... yet.
Microsoft, according to published reports, has added e-mail, Sharepoint and desktop management to its 2-year-old managed services line that it offers directly to enterprise customers.
But independent MSPs (managed services providers) and other partners are taking a measured approach to the news. The Microsoft business has a scant four customers, with three of those announced only recently, published reports say. And the target audience, the largest enterprises, makes it less likely the offering would compete with those of traditional MSPs.
I can see how that would play to large enterprises," said George Vahle, executive vice president at The I.T. Pros, a San Diego-based MSP. "But MSPs play in the smaller enterprise. However, I dont like the idea that vendors would be directly targeting customers."
And while the I.T. Pros is a devoted Microsoft shop, Vahle noted that his company takes a wait-and-see approach to any new Microsoft technology.
"Microsoft Version 1.0 is definitely not as good as Microsoft 3.0, and that has been evident in many of their releases," he said. The I.T. Pros will likely take up the 3.0 release once available.
Microsoft was unable to provide a spokesman for comment on the MSP program or the new customers before press time.
But reports said the companys first customer was Energizer Holdings, the company behind the Energizer brand of batteries. Three new customers have been signed, including XL Capital of Bermuda; the other two are unnamed.
Because these are large enterprises, MSPs dont believe the Microsoft MSP direct program poses much of a threat.
"I dont think that VARs should be threatened by Microsofts entry into managed services as Microsoft is focused on larger customers," said Don Begg, CEO of DoITSmarter, a former MSP that has transitioned into a platform provider for other MSPs. "In fact, MSPs with appropriate branding could take advantage of this. However, I do think it is important that resellers mitigate risk by protecting their customer base. The best way to do this is to begin to develop their brand as a managed service provider and to move their customers to managed services as quickly as possible."
And it would be difficult for a company as large as Microsoft to scale such a program, and support for it, to many small customers.
Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org