SharePoint Managed Services and the View from the Cloud

I spoke to Scott Gode, VP of Marketing and Product Management at Azaleos. In addition to helping migrate customers to Microsoft Exchange 2010, SharePoint 2010, and Lync, Azaleos is also a Microsoft expert and deployment partner for Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS) and Office 365.

Are you seeing interest in the cloud?

“With customers, there is that uncertainty and fascination … that people are feeling facing the cloud. Should it be public cloud—BPOS? Private cloud—data center? A lot of BPOS/Office 365, it’s very much helping customers learn what’s best for them. BPOS-S is a fairly straightforward migration—Microsoft works with the customer. BPOS-D is more complex and we do BPOS-D professional services.

The times when we see BPOS being purchased, it’s really not purchased with SharePoint or OCS in mind—companies are looking at it for email. For the cases where they want a robust SharePoint implementation, they say ‘if I want a robust environment, that’s a private cloud.’ Again the majority of those companies are 1,000 seat-plus companies. Their needs for security and document management are for far more robust solutions.

To customers, it’s not the features of Office 365 that are important, though there are great improvements. Talking to CIOs/VPs about Office 365, it’s more of yes, the back-end infrastructure has been designed for the cloud; yes, you’re getting 2010 versions; yes, you’re getting the option to have a hybrid environment, you’re not locked into an all-or-nothing proposition.”

What are you seeing so far in people’s reactions to the beta of Office 365?

“I just had a prospect ask me about FAST Search in Office 365—FAST is pretty processor intensive. FAST Search will not be in SharePoint Online for Office365. With Lync and OCS (Office Communications Server)—obviously BPOS—the biggest missing piece is that OCS and Live Meeting were an add-on or afterthought, specifically the voice components. That’s not an inhibitor for deployment, but people wondered. Fast forward to Office 365: Microsoft has done a lot to add OCS functionality, but if you want Enterprise voice you have to buy a separate Lync server.

Whenever we sell Lync as on-premises, we recommend they not do the telephone piece—start off with IM. Then maybe six  to 12 months afterwards try connecting Lync—a staged best practice. With Office 365, one of the biggest surprises that we encounter from customers who may come close to BPOS is the lack of management dashboard or control. It’s simply not there in BPOS and is not improved in Office 365. Part of Microsoft’s rationale is, ‘hey, you’re paying us for op ex and simplicity, you’re buying into this notion so why do you need to have detailed insight into the moving pieces?’ That’s one of the trade-offs. Low cost equals minimum requirements that IT admins get to see.

With SharePoint Online vs. SharePoint in BPOS, what I’m seeing is that the app dev honeymoon is slowing down. Customers are saying ‘I’ve got my apps and I have my ROI, but I haven’t thought about my storage.’ This requires admins play a more active role as opposed to devs playing a more active role. If you apply that to BPOS or Office 365, there is still a set of constraints about apps that can be used in SharePoint Online—you have to not use apps or you have to put apps in sandbox for several weeks. It’s rational for Microsoft, but for enterprise customers it’s a show stopper and cancels ROI for them.”

 What about going with a hybrid environment—on-premises and hosted?

“A hybrid environment is much more directly applicable to the Exchange scenario than to the SharePoint or Lync scenario. Most apps I see for SharePoint, it’s not an app used for one department, so it’s hard to take out for a hybrid environment.”

Why do companies come to you?

“Customers are saying ‘we’ve got email under control but need help with SharePoint—we have licenses but we don’t have the skill set.’ Our model is one of the monitoring and management of systems—no hosting. We act as outsourced IT admins for implementation. In the enterprise, it’s rare that IT loses jobs when we’re hired. Especially in the Exchange space, the person moves over to another job.”

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