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Sales executives at Microsoft Exchange Server hosting
giant Intermedia say Microsoft’s release of its Azure Services Platform will
likely open new doors for solution providers, particularly those that are
managed service providers or are dabbling in software development as ISVs.

It is those types of solution providers that will most benefit from the
momentum behind moving some applications and infrastructure into the cloud,
according to Intermedia. And with a big name like Microsoft behind such an
initiative, customers may be more likely to make the move.

"One of the biggest barriers for channel partners has been their question
of whether it’s OK to move data to the cloud or not," says Danny Essner,
director of marketing at Intermedia. "Microsoft’s launch of Azure provides
one more proof point that will help channel partners" make that sale, he
says.

Indeed, Intermedia
pointed out the benefits
of Microsoft’s market entry into the hosted Microsoft
Exchange business in spring 2008, even when Microsoft’s move made it
competitive with Intermedia.

Intermedia is a top provider of hosted Microsoft Exchange and other SAAS (software
as a service) hosted applications, specializing in end-user businesses of 20 to
200 seats. Intermedia also counts more than 3,000 of its own channel partners,
from very large Fortune 500 companies to small "guys in a garage"
solution providers.

Essner says Microsoft’s Azure is not competitive with Intermedia’s SAAS
offerings.

"We think it is very complementary to us," he says. Essner points out
that cloud computing is quite distinct from SAAS. Cloud computing represents
the platform for applications, while SAAS consists of the applications
themselves.

Intermedia allows its channel partners to private-label its hosted application
services, and ownership
of the end customer
is something that solution providers have said is
important to their future in SAAS sales.