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'Big Win' For MSPs: Microsoft Launches Azure Lighthouse Management Solution

Microsoft says the new capabilities will allow MSPs to dramatically cut back on customer on-boarding time and simplify management of customers on the Azure cloud platform.

Microsoft is launching new Azure management capabilities for managed services providers that aim to dramatically reduce customer on-boarding and bring all customer estates into a single view, the company announced Thursday.

Microsoft announced the new solution for MSPs, Azure Lighthouse, just ahead of the company's Inspire 2019 partner conference next week in Las Vegas.

[Related: Microsoft Azure: 5 Key Takeaways On The Partner Opportunity]

Azure Lighthouse "puts Azure management features of all your customers into one pane, one view," said Toby Richards, general manager of Microsoft’s partner co-selling and go-to-market programs for its One Commercial Partner organization, in an interview with CRN. "What partners would say is, that's going to reduce our customer on-boarding time by 71 percent. Which is tremendous."

Azure Lighthouse provides an improved managed experience for the Azure cloud platform, offering enhanced automation and efficiency, according to Microsoft.

The solution's capabilities will enable cross-tenant management of customers with improved visibility and control, enabling partners to service more customers and larger workloads, the company said. "This marks the first time Microsoft has architected a solution at this scale, with partners and for partners," Microsoft said in its announcement.

Lighthouse "brings all of your customer clients all into one integrated experience," Richards told CRN. "It's not only great from a customer on-boarding perspective, but it also allows you to build into new managed services that really take advantage of that feature, to be able to apply that across all your customers. So we're really excited about that."

Microsoft is making Azure Lighthouse available to partners starting this month.

At Washington, D.C.-based New Signature, "we’re definitely bullish on the capabilities of Azure Lighthouse," said Reed Wiedower, CTO of New Signature, an Azure Expert MSP and No. 407 on the CRN Solution Provider 500.

"The principal challenge facing all Azure Managed Service Providers is that working with multiple customers at scale, or even large single customers, we encounter lots of subscriptions proliferating," Wiedower said in an email to CRN. "Having to hop between consoles, or set up custom rights for specific accounts that can span multiple subscriptions to allow operations across tenants, is unwieldy and prone to error."

With Azure Lighthouse, MSPs can easily define a set of permissions and apply them to an internal group of staff, he said.

Notably, customers can see those rights when they sign up for the management layer, so they can be fully confident of what MSPs can and cannot do to their digital estate, Wiedower said. This effectively transfers the risk of move/add/changes from the customer side to the partner side, he said.

For example, when a consultant departs an organization, the MSP would deprovision their account and remove their access. A customer would never need to do something to ensure the departed employee can’t access their systems, Wiedower said.

"The purpose of Lighthouse, of course, is to allow us to take actions across multiple customers, and multiple subscriptions," Wiedower said. "We’ve verified this works and are already using it – it’s a big win for any MSP looking to gain efficiencies through scale."

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