Microsoft plans to host services, not become integrator

While Microsoft’s software-plus-services plans call for it to host corporate infrastructure and application services, the company does not plan to become an integrator.

Microsoft’s service delivery model will rely heavily on partners to provide online services built on Microsoft offerings or to offer extension services to base functionality, such as customizations to Dynamics Live CRM.

Partners will host their own services on their own systems and offer customer support, but Microsoft will also sell partners’ space within its own data centers for hosting services.

But in those instances, Microsoft will be a subcontractor and the partner will deal with the customer’s needs.

The upshot is that Microsoft is expecting partners to occupy a specific role it does not want to play — that of aggregating services from multiple providers into single applications and vouching for that application’s integrity, guaranteeing service levels and providing support.

“I think you will see more people in the prime contractor role doing integrations, such as monitoring service-level agreements across multiple entities,” says Jeff Price, senior director in Microsoft’s server and tools business. “In most cases, that won’t be Microsoft. In most cases, that will be companies like Computer Science Corporation (CSC) and HP. They may offer an integration of hosted Exchange from Microsoft and hosted ERP from someone else.”

Even in the services model, corporate users won’t waver on their need to have “one throat to choke” when something goes wrong, and Microsoft has no intention of being that throat when there is a mix of software and services from other providers — some of which would likely be built on other vendors’ products or even open source software.

“There is so much focus on the applications and the technology, but the whole service and support aspect is going to be more and more important,’ says Robert Krygowski, director of product management for CSC.

CSC already fills that service integrator role in that it provides services that include functionality from other providers. In those instances, CSC supports the application as a whole and the customer never deals with the behind-the-scenes providers.

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