In the Microsoft model, companies sign up for MOS via a portal where they also indicate their partner contact, according to Mitchell Ashley, CEO of Converging Network, who examined the Microsoft contract.
Microsoft then provides the service, the billing and Tier-1 support only to the customer's IT staff.
The partner can then add value services, such as directory synchronization or platform customizations.
Microsoft feels that is where the real value will come for partners, who will get 12 per cent of the revenue from an online subscription contract the first year and 6 per cent each subsequent year.
"The opportunity is less about the 12 per cent and 6 per cent and more about the work partners can do on top of the solution," says Eron Kelly, director of product management for Microsoft's business online services group. "One of the great value propositions that partners will get familiar with is the power and flexibility of SharePoint as a platform. They don't spend time and money on deployment but on customization and implementation."
Of course, those customization options won't be there initially.
"I can't say if [the revenue sharing] is worthwhile, we have a different model" says Chris Damvakaris, vice president of sales and business development for Apptix, which provides hosted Exchange and SharePoint services but also has partners who offer private-label varieties. "Whether it is worthwhile or not will depend on what the provider is looking to do with the customer. Is it an ancillary service or something that cements the customer relationship?"
Others say the target group of partners will be those that offer other services beyond collaboration.
"I think the set of partners will be those that think this is nonstrategic to them and they won't mind referring away this business," says GroupSpark's Agarwal.
Users say what will be important is how their needs are met beyond the technology.
"Service is paramount for us," says Kevin Sonney, director of IT for iFloor, who is exploring use of SharePoint. "I will look at Microsoft as a hosting provider, but every customer has things they do uniquely and the provider needs to be flexible to handle these one-offs. I don't know if Microsoft has that flexibility."
Sonney, who already uses managed Exchange services from Azaleos, also says integration with other platforms is key for his environment that includes Apache Web servers and Linux. "We need to make sure Microsoft or any provider has the ability to tie together the cloud services and our [local] systems."