Getting Started with Azure Plan for Microsoft Partners

Everything partners need to know about Azure Plan—how it works, why it is a win-win for partners and their customers, and how to onboard customers today.

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    The Microsoft ecosystem of cloud services is constantly evolving. One of the biggest recent changes was the switch from Azure subscriptions to the Azure Plan offering.

    This guide covers everything partners need to know about Azure Plan—how it works, why it is a win-win for partners and their customers, and what you need to know about onboarding customers today.

    What is the Azure Plan?

    Microsoft has built a new commerce experience under its Microsoft Cloud model over the past several years. The initial phases of that rollout were very partner-focused, with less emphasis on customers. That has changed. Today we see the ability for clients and partners to benefit together in a friendly ecosystem.

    Azure Plan is the new model for partners and their customers to work together. Microsoft’s goal in releasing the model was to streamline the overall management process and enable more self-service options.

    How does Azure Plan impact partners?

    Under the old Azure subscriptions model, you had to provision new offerings one at a time—provision one for a customer, then another, and another. The lack of central management made this process rather inefficient. And in the end, you were left with a long list of license codes and no clear record of which was tied to which customer.

    In Azure Plan, you are looking at one single Azure tenant with sub-tenants under it, so you have centralized management over everything.

    Also, under old Azure subscriptions, the management option was “admin on behalf of,” which was about it. You still have that under the Azure Plan, but you now also get Azure Lighthouse by default, introducing new management capabilities for CSP and MSP partners.

    How does Azure Plan impact your customers?

    Gone are the multiple subscriptions and bills. Now, your customers see one bill with subcategories broken out. They can easily purchase third-party products and have them billed under their Azure subscription.

    So, for example, let’s say you are building out a customer firewall subscription and want to add Sophos. You can do that, and the subscription and software will tie back to their Azure subscription. It is very easy to consolidate every billed offering.

    What do partners need to know about cost management in Azure Plan?

    For tracking costs under Azure subscriptions, the only thing you had to go by for direct cost management was in the Partner Center, which was only available to Tier One providers anyway. Otherwise, you had to go off what was available in your indirect provider’s portal.

    Under Azure Plan, you get a full cost management solution. You can perform full cost analyses across each subscription and your entire plan. It is much easier to finetune usage.

    For example, some clients may want to run 24/7, 365 days a year. Others might only want service five days a week, 9-to-5. Under the Azure Plan, predicting those costs, seeing the predicted spend, and tailoring availability for each customer’s budget and needs becomes much easier.

    How do partners add offerings for customers under Azure Plan?

    Adding new offerings is like how it worked under old Azure subscriptions. For direct partners, log into the Partner Center and spin up a new subscription.

    For indirect partners—many of the partners in the Microsoft ecosystem—will still just contact their sales rep at whatever indirect provider they’re working with to have a new subscription spun up.  If those partners are working with an indirect provider with a web portal, all they will have to do is log in, type in Azure Plan, click purchase, and spin that subscription up.

    How do you manage existing Azure Subscription customers?

    It is a simple process that is smooth for customers and partners. There is no migration downtime so you can do it during the workday. A partner contacts their Tier One provider to make the change on the backend. No server rebuilds, reinstallations, or relicensing. It is purely a backend subscription change.

    How does billing work in the Azure Plan?

    There are a few important changes surrounding billing that partners need to understand. Previously, Azure consumption was sold in a “buy at x, sell at y” model. Both partner and indirect provider margins were built into that space. Under the Azure Plan, the model is “buy at z with partner credit.” So how partners see revenue does change, but overall margins have not.

    The cost management data you will see has changed too. The APIs from Microsoft are completely redone and improved to pull in more data to provider portals. You have access to a whole range of new data that you can parse through and easily build reports.

    Azure Plan is part of Microsoft’s roadmap for the future

    Azure Plan is a major, positive update, but it is just one point on Microsoft’s roadmap for their cloud services. Much of the new functionality is now groundwork for what is coming next.

    We will see a lot more cost management and customer-centric functionality. That might make partners wary, but it shouldn’t. The goal is still to find win-win-win solutions for Microsoft, partners, and customers. Instead of simply being technical experts, partners can function more as trusted advisors who will be in more of a position to cross-sell and up-sell services.

    Stratos Cloud Alliance can help guide you along that roadmap

    Stratos Cloud Alliance can guide Partners on selling, implementing, and supporting all offerings under the new Azure Plan. We provide you with all the sales support, enablement, and services you need to build a profitable cloud solutions business.​ So whether you are a new Partner just starting or a seasoned managed service provider with a big lift and shift Azure project to tackle, Stratos Cloud Alliance provides all the resources you need free of charge.

    Are you ready to help your customers leverage the latest features in the Azure Plan? Contact Stratos Cloud Alliance today.