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Cisco and Microsoft are pooling their collective resources as part of an effort to make the lives of managed service providers (MSPs) simpler.

The two companies announced the Cisco Cloud Architecture for the Microsoft Platform, which combines an instance of Microsoft Azure Pack and Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure to create a unified platform for service providers.

By working together, the two companies are enabling service providers to more easily deploy infrastructure resources inside their own data centers or to take advantage of cloud service providers that Cisco has already established relationships with, said Nick Earle, senior vice president for global cloud and managed services sales at Cisco.

To that end, Cisco also announced that 14 additional cloud providers have agreed to join Cisco’s Intercloud partner ecosystem, bringing the number of Intercloud providers to more than 60 with a footprint of more than 350 data centers across 50 countries.

Through this agreement, MSPs that partner with Cisco not only gain access to Microsoft server software, but also software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications and Microsoft platform-as-a-service (PaaS) software, said Aziz Benmalek, general manager for hosting service providers at Microsoft.

Benmalek concedes that Cisco and Microsoft have been collaborating with each other for years, but for the first time, the two companies are allocating engineering resources to make it less costly to be an MSP.

For MSPs, the alliance is significant because, on top of familiar Cisco networking equipment, it creates a framework that enables them to provide access to an application development platform in the form of PaaS software from Microsoft.

As cloud computing continues to evolve, it’s become apparent that MSPs have an opportunity to more easily extend the reach of the services they offer to the application level.

The degree to which each MSP will want to manage services in the cloud will obviously vary, but as IT gets more complex to manage in the age of the hybrid cloud, it would appear that demand for managed services is on the rise. This may account for why there is suddenly now more focus from vendors on the health and well-being of MSPs than at any time in recent memory.

Michael Vizard has been covering IT issues in the enterprise for 25 years as an editor and columnist for publications such as InfoWorld, eWEEK, Baseline, CRN, ComputerWorld and Digital Review.