Microsoft has announced a new ‘Customer Agreement’ model for Azure that appears to hurt its partners. Under the new programs, organizations can purchase Azure services directly from Microsoft or via a portal rather than going through a partner.

This model is going to replace current agreements. Once their license runs out, admins will get an email from Microsoft and a sales rep will be in touch.

Among other things, Microsoft promises this system will be simpler, more flexible, and provide better cost management tools. However, it will also hit its partners hard. This model essentially cuts out the middle-man, with partners seemingly relegated to post-sale solutions and “value-added presales services”.

Hard Times Ahead

Analysts like Gartner’s Stephen White believe this will result in diminished growth and lower profits for Microsoft’s partners. However, it’s worth noting that organizations don’t have to go down the Customer Agreement path. It still has the option of purchasing through partners, and in some regions, the MCA won’t be available.

“Given the absence of use rights advisory services required for Azure, the role of the licensing advisor is somewhat diminished,” explains White. “Options still exist however. Multiple programmes (EA/MCA/CSP) require analysis, support and service options assessed, and the myriad of workload classes and specifications require considered choice. The channel’s role aiding selection and right sizing thus remains.”

The Microsoft Customer Agreement will go live as early as March in some regions. You can read more about the changes in the official blog post.