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Microsoft Expands Cloud Services Partner Network

Microsoft on Monday stepped up its services push by announcing a partner-driven effort to deliver hosted Microsoft applications in 19 countries.

The partners -- including Accenture, Avanade and EDS, among others -- will provide the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) of applications to organizations of all sizes. The offerings include "standard" and "dedicated" services, based on an organization's size.

"The standard offering is designed for customers with less than 5,000 seats who want rapid service adoption and a standardized administrative console and user experience," explained a Microsoft spokesperson by e-mail. "The dedicated offering is designed for customers with more than 5,000 employees who are interested in having a dedicated architecture that has most of the server features and offers more customization. Each customer has its own server or box within the datacenter."

Customers can select Microsoft or a BPOS partner, regardless of the organization's size, according to the rollout plan. Microsoft currently lists more than 4,000 online services partners.

Microsoft and EDS plan to deliver enterprise-class communications via the Internet cloud to millions of users in large multinational corporations. EDS, an HP company, has integrated Microsoft's BPOS into the EDS Workplace Service offerings. The two companies plan to leverage combined resources, including datacenters and network expertise, to support demand.

Accenture and Avanade will join the effort as Microsoft Online Services partner advisors for large enterprises. They will help customers migrate from on-premises solutions to cloud services via BPOS.

Other BPOS partners announced on Monday are IT Solution Partners BV, Solvi Srl, Tam Tam, Wortell, YouSaaS and Zipper. All will sell the suite and help with customization, consulting services, migration and managed services.

BPOS cloud offerings will be hosted in Microsoft's datacenters and will run on the Windows Azure platform, which is currently in beta. Customers and partners can build applications on top of the Azure platform.

Microsoft's cloud computing platform consists of three main components. The Windows Azure "operating system" sits at the bottom of the stack. Azure Web Services, along with identity and storage services, constitutes the middle layer of the stack where developers can deliver finished solutions. The top layer includes two major initiatives: Live and Online Services for customers needing managed IT support.

The current Microsoft BPOS offerings include Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Communications Online and Live Meeting. Services based on those applications can be purchased in bundles or individually through Microsoft's partner network.

About the Author

Herb Torrens is an award-winning freelance writer based in Southern California. He managed the MCSP program for a leading computer telephony integrator for more than five years and has worked with numerous solution providers including HP/Compaq, Nortel, and Microsoft in all forms of media.

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