At first glance, next week's Microsoft Management Summit (April 16-20, Las Vegas) is designed for corporate IT managers who want to leverage Microsoft System Center and/or Windows Intune. But take a closer look at the conference and you'll see cloud services providers (CSPs) like Cari.net, Hosting.com, Hostway and Rackspace Hosting surfacing at the gathering. For Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), the backing of cloud services providers is particularly critical amid all the recent OpenStack and CloudStack hype from the open source cloud market.

On the one hand, each CSP at Microsoft Management Summit offers private cloud solutions built on Windows Server, SQL Server and System Center. But on the other hand, each CSP business strategy is quite different. For instance:

Cari.Net offers iBizPanel, which allows resellers and channel partners to white label all of CARI.net’s services. With CARI.net’s partner program, partners receive 25% off all services. If resellers increase their margins by 25% by focusing on a niche market or offer value added services this can increase margins to 50%, Cari.net claims.

Hosting.com apparently is preparing a real-time referral tracking system for channel partners. According to a teaser for the service, "With our online referral tracking system there's no more wondering whether a referral has been closed or not, no more twisting in the wind, waiting for the commission check to arrive.  Everything you want to know is available to you online, 24/7."

Hostway claims to have the largest and most widely used public cloud solution built on Hyper-V – FlexCloud Servers. Hostway also claims to have the industry’s only API for a Hyper-V public cloud environment. And Hostway was named Microsoft’s Hyper-V Partner of the Year -- a key claim to fame at the Microsoft Management Summit.

Rackspace (NYSE: RAX) is perhaps best known for its OpenStack initiatives. But a lot of folks overlook Rackspace's growing Microsoft-oriented business -- from Windows cloud servers to hosted Exchange. Also of note: Sources say Rackspace is developing at least two database as a service (DaaS) cloud platforms -- one for MySQL, the other for SQL Server. Talkin' Cloud has heard the database cloud services are in beta now, with actual launch expected in the next couple of months or so.

Microsoft's decision to promote hosting partners and CSPs at the Microsoft Management Summit is intriguing. On the one hand, the CSPs compete with Microsoft Office 365, Windows Azure and SQL Azure on some fronts. But on the other hand, Microsoft Channel Chief Jon Roskill has stated that Microsoft will emerge as the top provider of cloud software. And it will take close partnerships with CSPs for that to happen.