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Microsoft didn't overhaul the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) this year, but it may as well have.

Consider this: The Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program that's rolling out at scale right now completely changes the way Microsoft interacts with the majority of its partners on the products that Microsoft considers most strategic to its future -- Office 365, Microsoft Azure, Dynamics CRM Online, Enterprise Mobility Suite and Microsoft Intune.

First is to have the bill to the customer go directly from the partner to the customer rather than from Microsoft to the customer.

Partners have always had concerns that Microsoft would use a direct billing relationship to upsell and cross-sell services to a partner's customer, cutting the partner out.

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Those partners are called 2-Tier distributors or cloud distributors.

A partner can be a 1-Tier partner or a 2-Tier reseller.

The 1-Tier partner is approved by Microsoft and orders seats on behalf of customers directly from Microsoft, rather than through another partner type.

The addition of cloud products to the Open program over the last few years did give some partners the ability to bundle services, bill customers themselves and, therefore, own the relationship.

At the same time, though, the yearlong commitments the partners had to assume on the licenses didn't match customers' monthly payment preferences, and could leave partners hanging if a customer canceled.

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