CSP: A New Way to Consume Azure

I didn’t know you guys worked with Microsoft? 

Yep. In fact Cloudreach has been a Microsoft partner since 2009, and we’ve built, migrated and operated countless environments in AWS built using platforms like Windows Server, Exchange, SharePoint, Dynamics AX, etc.

Back in 2015, we established a practice focused on Azure following a period of intense investment (we’re talking billions of $$$) by Microsoft in their platform. Our thinking, and that of the analysts and customers we spoke to, being that it had simply become mature enough for enterprises to take it seriously.

Fast forward to 2016, and we’re now a Cloud Platform Silver partner, with an ever-expanding list of Azure clients across the cloud adoption lifecycle, ranging from consultancy services focused around governance to 24/7 managed operational services. Typically we’re working with large organisations who have embraced both Azure and AWS, where separate segments in their business have differing cloud requirements.

 

What’s this CSP thing?

If you’re used to buying anything from a Microsoft partner (and almost every organisation will be), you’ll probably be familiar with the concept of an "EA". That is, an Enterprise Agreement whereby you would pre-pay an upfront amount agreed with your account manager and you would "call off" against that over a course of a year. This upfront commitment would entitle you to a discount – great. But, if you didn’t use it – what then? It’s not really a model that fits well in the dynamic world of public cloud with true utility based pricing.

So step forward the model of CSP (Cloud Solution Provider) whereby Microsoft are phasing out the EA over time (don’t panic, it’s not immediate!) in favour of a "pay in arrears on a monthly basis, based on what you use" model. CSP is a programme designed to empower trusted partners like Cloudreach to own the end to end relationship with the client and provide a single point of contact (and contract) for billing, support, delivery and operational services.

 

Is it new?

Relatively, in Microsoft terms, but in reality it’s quite well established now. It was launched for O365 and EMS (Enterprise Mobility Suite) in 2014, and rolled out to Azure during 2015. Expect CSP to be the future of Microsoft cloud service consumption – i.e. paying for what you use, when you use it, rather than trying to estimate a commitment level in advance.

As an experienced provider of similar services for other major cloud vendors, Cloudreach have been awarded Direct CSP provider status, i.e. we can be your direct provider of Azure accounts, bills and support without the need to work with a traditional Microsoft licensing organisation.

 

Any watchpoints?

Well, it’s worth noting that Microsoft are undertaking a pretty impressive migration of services from what you might term as Azure v1.0 to Azure v2.0, the latter powered by the impressive ARM (Azure Resource Manager) control plane. CSP is only compatible with ARM, so there may be the odd service not available in CSP for a few months while this migration work completes.

It’s also important to state that this isn’t a "just flick a switch" model to move from an EA to CSP. The recommended approach is go "CSP first" for net new services right now, and then migrate across services from your EA at the time of renewal.

 

Cultural transformation

Having worked increasingly closely with Microsoft over the past 12 months, it’s been great to see not just this technical and process transformation with Azure and CSP, but also the cultural change which is underway. I was in Redmond recently and met with several product development teams, many of whom were using devices from Apple and releasing SDKs using Ruby first rather than .NET. There was clear and open discussion of open sourcing some really cool code they’d built.

Who would have imagined any of this in the Ballmer world of the not too distant past?

 

Future

I believe that models like CSP are the only sensible way to consume cloud services, and am delighted to be able to offer Azure to our clients through this model. Get in touch to find out how we can help.