Microsoft Promotes Golden ASPs

Microsoft Corp scrapped its longstanding partner program today in favour of a new scheme that accommodates ASPs and software vendors alongside resellers and systems integrators.

The Microsoft Certified Partner (MCP) program is a successor to the current Microsoft Certified Solution Provider (MCSP)
program, which has been in place since 1992 and currently has 31,000 members worldwide.

Announced worldwide today, the new MCP program will officially launch on Jan 1st. But prospective ASP partners are already scrambling to pass the new criteria and get their badges in place long before Microsoft begins marketing the scheme to end users in the New Year. The vendor has pledged to invest more than $1 billion in partners in 2001.

Most sought-after is the new Gold Certified Partner badge, an elite certification reserved for Microsoft’s most trusted MCPs in certain specific areas. Four Gold areas have been defined at launch. They are Commerce, Enterprise Systems, Support Service and Hosting Services – the last of which is the category that applies to ASPs.

To qualify for Gold, partners must not only pass stiff requirements for the numbers of Microsoft-trained staff; they must also be able to produce three recent customer references that demonstrate their track record for their chosen area – no small feat for ASPs, many of whom are startups with only a short history of trading.

Nevertheless, Microsoft has today named around a dozen ASPs at launch who have already completed the process and are now Gold Certified Partners under the new scheme. The companies are drawn from those who’ve participated in pilot trials of hosting Microsoft products, particularly Exchange, over the past year.

The successful companies include European ASPs NetStore Group, Equant, Telecomputing and Interliant, and US providers

Almost a hundred other ASPs are already believed to have started working through the Gold accreditation process, including around thirty in Europe.

However, the program recognises the global trends in hosting by not requiring that an ASP’s technical experts be located in the country where services are provided. So long as an ASP has local customer references, its is OK for the technical resource to be located elsewhere, even on another continent, Microsoft officials told ASP-News.

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