While Microsoft is attempting to distance itself from other software-as-a-service (SaaS) players, the Redmond software company is trying to help other software makers move to the SaaS distribution model.
On April 16, Microsoft unveiled the Microsoft SaaS Incubation Center program -- an initiative designed to match up independent software vendors (ISVs) interested in adopting the SaaS model with hosters who have the infrastructure and know-how to support SaaS-based applications.
Microsoft's move in this space comes at an interesting time. A number of industry watchers and players believe Microsoft is poised to field its own hosted Exchange, SharePoint, SQL Server and other similar offerings, which will make the Redmondians head-to-head competitors with its evolving set of hosted-software partners.
At the same time, Microsoft is actively encouraging its ISV and hosting partners to get out of its way and migrate their offerings upstream and move away from providing base-level hosted services, like simple disk-spaced storage.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is doing everything it can to differentiate itself from existing SaaS players, by emphasizing that it is pursuing a software plus services (S+S) strategy, of which SaaS is simply one delivery component.
The newly minted Microsoft SaaS incubation program supplements two existing Microsoft efforts. At the core of all hosted ISV solutions will be the Microsoft Solution for Windows-based Hosting for Applications, according to the Softies. The incubation initiative also builds atop the SaaS On-Ramp Program, which provides ISVs with tools and resources to get their hosted SaaS solutions more quickly to market.
"Microsoft touches about 20,000 ISVs traditionally and about 5,000 hosting companies," said Michael van Dijken, lead marketing manager for hosting solutions with Microsoft's Communications Sector. With the new SaaS incubation program, "we'll give these hosters a way to create a one-stop shop" aimed at ISVs, who need help with everything from building out a datacenter infrastructure, to technology consulting and licensing.
Microsoft will announce eight incubation-hub partners on April 16, four of which will be U.S.-based and the other four, European. (The initial set of incubation hub partners: 7Global, Affinity, Navisite, NTT Europe, OpSource, Siennax, VisionApps and WizMo.)
Over time, Microsoft incubation hubs will be able to provide assistance with multiple services, as well as a variety of partners, including VARs and telcos, in addition to ISVs, van Dijken said.
If you were an ISV or hoster, would you be interested in working with Microsoft to evolve your SaaS solution and strategy, given that Redmond might end up one of your biggest competitors in the not-too-distant future?
Van Dijken says Microsoft's ISVs have always had to walk the fine line between partnering and competing with Microsoft, and the current services world is no different. Do you agree? Is Microsoft safe to partner with on the SaaS front?