What’s the best way to keep your status as alpha dog among information technology (IT) vendors, when Google, Amazon, Yahoo!, and other nontraditional IT providers are vying for your place? Invest some of your vast store of capital in incubating allies whose products and services are based on your technologies. In a nutshell, that’s Microsoft’s latest answer to its competitors on the cloud computing scene, in the form of the BizSpark program.

As Caroline Marwitz reported in “Microsoft Offers Nearly Free Software and Tools,” the highlight of the BizSpark program is that eligible startup software companies will get almost-free access to Microsoft tools and server licenses of applications that will enable the startups to develop, test, deploy, and host their solutions.

Making Inroads into Cloud Computing
There’s another side of the BizSpark story, though—and it reveals something about how Microsoft intends to play in the ongoing cloud computing/SaaS industry saga. Microsoft wants to win the goodwill of up-and-coming developers by giving them everything they need to build and bring to market hosted applications and services. By populating the market with new solutions based on Microsoft products and services and eventually Microsoft’s cloud technologies, the Azure Services Platform and the Live Framework and Live Mesh technologies, Microsoft is doing what it has traditionally done best: Make inroads into a new market (and, if all goes as planned, eventually dominate it) by forming a wide network of partnerships with developers and service providers.

Enabling Easy Access to Hosting Providers
A key aspect of BizSpark, and one crucial to helping Microsoft further its SaaS/cloud computing goals, is its hosting-provider partners. Participating BizSpark startups that want to take their business or product online can obtain discounted hosting services from a network of more than 20 Microsoft hosting provider partners.

Rackspace Hosting, OpSource, 7global, and NTTPC Communications are among the initial hosting provider partners, and Microsoft expects more partners to come online later this year. Many of the hosting provider partners also are part of Microsoft’s Software + Services (S+S) Incubation Center program, which assists ISVs in delivering service-based solutions. It’s clear that Microsoft wants eliminate the financial and knowledge barriers for startups to enter the SaaS world, the better to have more Microsoft-based SaaS solutions out there.

Learn more about…
Windows Azure and Azure Services Platform

Microsoft Live Mesh