I spent the weekend at a Microsoft internal event hearing from the makers of the next generation of cloud services to be available from Microsoft. It's too soon to discuss details but wanted to share some of my excitement about what's coming nonetheless.
Regarding Business Productivity Online Suite, the current online services provide an excellent value and deliver the key features that many users need. That said, there are differences between Exchange on premise and Exchange Online and in some cases, those features are important to users. Understanding these differences is key to having a smooth migration experience. This requires reviewing the service descriptions at microsoft.com/online and the deployment guide at quickstartonlineservices.com which is available to Microsoft Partners.
So what's the news? As Microsoft has been saying from day 1 with BPOS, our vision is to work continuously to close the gap so that our online services offer parity or near parity with on premise services. I can say with authority that the next release of our services will make significant progress in closing that gap.
What does that mean? It means that you can look at Exchange 2010 and SharePoint 2010 on premise servers and get a good idea of the kinds of features, administration, and capabilities of future cloud services. Yes, there will still be differences as there are unavoidable impacts from large scale, multi-tenant hosting as it is fundamentally different in significant way than a single tenant, on premise implementation. Those differences, however, are soon to become a lot less significant.
If you considered a company's suite of on premise solutions and services as a portfolio, with the new services to be available later this year, Microsoft will significantly expand the percentage of that portfolio that can be moved to the cloud. This means a dramatic increase in the size of the opportunity for Partners as there will be more markets, and greater opportunity to provide customizations, deep integrations, and automate administration with the new services.
This is good news for IT Pros who are concerned that servers moving to the cloud means their skills will not be needed, when in reality - their skills are simply "relocated" to managing cloud services. That's different that managing servers, in that you don't need to manage anti-virus implementation or service pack applications, and fight the never ending process of maintaining security and high availability. These tasks are now managed for you in a very high end data center with millions of dollars of equipment and ISO 27001 certification and SAS70 type I and II audits among others. (http://blogs.technet.com/msonline/archive/2010/02/24/microsoft-online-services-announces-new-certifications-bpos-federal-for-us-government.aspx)
The result is that IT Pro's are released from doing mundane, ongoing maintenance and freed to focus on high-value projects that can make a significant business impact. Not to mention that IT Pros that "speak cloud" are going to be in high demand as millions of users, thousands of new services, and hundreds of data centers come online. (One tip - Powershell is your friend.)
The forecast is sunny for cloud services.
Provided by Brett Hill at BrettBlog