Microsoft this week announced it has extended its Microsoft Gold Certification program to Application Infrastructure Providers, claiming it the first such certification for AIPs.
The program, which builds on the ASP Gold Certification Microsoft launched about a year ago, covers AIPs that provide managed Web hosting, managed Web applications and Microsoft .NET services for service providers and end users.
To achieve the certification, AIPs go through a series of steps that include an audit of their operations by a third party assessment firm, according to Enrique Fernandez-Laguilhoat, director of certified partner programs for Microsoft in Redmond, Wash.
"Basically three things are important to us: that their processes are reliable and solid, then we look at customer satisfaction—we talk to them and then check on scalability of the infrastructure, then partners are required to have a direct line of support with Microsoft and use additional tools," he described.
The benefit to end customers is some level of assurance that a certified AIP has implemented an adequate methodology and achieved a certain level of customer satisfaction, believes Sunny Vanderbeck, president of divine Managed Services in Dallas.
"There are a thousand different flavors of hosting and companies providing it. Its unclear what you get and hard for customers to do the due diligence—especially if they dont run a mission critical infrastructure themselves. These [Gold-certified AIPs] are the companies that have the operational procedures and policies, and they know the customer experience will be consistent," he said.
Vanderbeck said the onsite audit includes "all the operations of the business to insure theres a good data center, good security practices, good code fix and hot rollout. It covers the product of what our business is—from electrical connections up to how do we support the customer and do escalations."
AIPs benefit not only from the vote of confidence from Microsoft. They also get help with business development, sales support training, priority lead referrals and other joint market and sales activities.