What if there was a better way for channel partners to manage Office 365, Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) cloud software suite? Chris Pyle, president and CEO of Champion Solutions Group, thinks he has the answer. It's called 365 Command, powered by MessageOps.

Hosted in Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud, 365 Command offers three core capabilities to channel partners -- particularly those that want to wrap managed services around Office 365. Those capabilities include:

  • Administration: The service helps administers and help desk staff to perform common tasks that would otherwise require Windows PowerShell scripting knowledge.
  • Reporting: Channel partners can generate reports to show such information as mailbox sizes, archive sizes, quotas usage and more.
  • Partner Scalability: Channel partners can administer all of their Office 365 customers from a single login.

Pyle demonstrated 365 Command last week at the Tech Data TDCloud conference near Tampa, Fla. Roughly 100 attendees -- mostly VARs and MSPs -- seemed genuinely impressed with the service. Pricing starts at $19.95 for up to 50 seats per minth. Price-per-seat costs drop to $0.10 per month when partners scale to more than 1,000 seats. Partners can cancel the month-to-month service at any time.

Roughly 600 customers and partners uses the platform. Those customers and partners managing 365,000 mailboxes from all over the world, Pyle indicated in an email to Talkin' Cloud.

The Bigger Picture

After Office 365 experienced some channel turbulence in 2011 and early 2012, Talkin' Cloud believes the cloud suite has turned the corner and is now gaining traction with channel partners. Two examples:

  • Champion Solutions Group has roughly 250,000 seats under management; and
  • AgileIT has 25,000 seats under management.
  • Plenty of additional MSPs have more than 10,000 seats under management, Talkin' Cloud has heard.

Changing Times

But here's the irony: Once Microsoft delivers Office 365 Open in the next few weeks or months, partners can set their own pricing and manage end-customer billing. To differentiate, partners will need to wrap more services around Microsoft's cloud suite. And that's where 365 Command could enter the picture.

Pyle notes that 365 Command can empower VARs and MSPs to deliver the following services:

  • Password resets (with options that never expire)
  • Set mailbox permissions
  • Set mailbox folder permissions
  • Forward mail to an alternate mailbox
  • Create shared mailboxes
  • Report on mailbox sizes, archive sizes, quota usage and mobile devices

Other Options?

One thing I still need to explore: How does 365 Command differ from remote monitoring and management (RMM) software, such as Level Platforms, which offers some Office 365 management capabilities? Frankly, I don't know the answer to that just yet.

But we're checking. And we'll stay in touch with Pyle to see how the 365 Command strategy performs in the weeks and months ahead.