Over at The Register, they have tell of a outage that struck today and left over 900,000 people unable to access their apps and data for about an hour today, starting 12:00 pm PST (so about 20:00 GMT).

While it perhaps hasn’t affected many UK companies, having that many business users, particularly in the States offline, “paralyzes a small fraction of the world’s economy” to quote El Reg. In these tough economic times to have almost 1 million man hourswasted in a day (and that’s just the directly affected number, the knock on could well increase that number significantly) isn’t a particularly great advert for SAAS.

It does however help strengthen Microsoft’s strategy of Software PLUS Services (S+S), rather that Software AS a Service (SAAS). Microsoft’s S+S is based on users having some software installed on-premise and then complementing that with online services so if a style outage was to hit Microsoft-customers would have a much better chance to stay productive. Perhaps they wouldn’t have access to ALL the features but some are definitely better than none!

See my first impressions of using Microsoft’s S+S BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite) here.

Predictions for Microsoft in 2009

Mary Jo Foley has come up with her list of what she thinks Microsoft will, and won’t, do in 2009 and it looks like a pretty good list.

However the one I disagree with most is number 10:

“10. Become so completely consumed by Apple envy that it over-invests on the consumer side of the house. In 2009, Microsoft’s failure to tend to its enterprise knitting will begin hurting its business software/services sales.”

Although it’s clear that MS are looking to grow in many consumer based areas, I really don’t think they’ll let the corporate Enterprise market slip and/or lose focus. This area is where MS earn the most money and the most respect so they MUST keep tending to it and with all the releases we are already looking at for 2009 including OCS 2007 R2, Office 14, Sharepoint 14, VStudio 2010, SQL 2010, Biztalk 2009 and many more, I’d say that the Enterprise market is being pretty well looked after already.

On top of this is Microsoft’s Software+Services push, which is a HUGE focus for them as evidenced by the WPC 2008 and later events I attended at Reading campus. The US launch was November ’08 and has already taken off very well and the UK launch is due around May time. MS are getting partners ready to take S+S to the marketplace in a confident, well balanced way and I truly believe this will be a huge part of 2009 for anyone involved with MS on a corporate level; whether as a customer, partner or competitor. I’m going to say that Microsoft’s S+S will be a contributing factor to helping the UK get out of the credit slump faster than expected…how’s that for a prediction?! 😉

I also think the Zune will start to make an appearance in Europe. I’ve already heard that France is slated to be the next country to get the Zune and I can’t imagine that the UK can be far behind if that is true.

I would put a top 10 list together but so many would be the same as Mary Jo’s it hardly seems worth it!

Microsoft Online Services

Microsoft Online Services are getting ever closer to being a reality in the corporate world, with the official US launch on Monday (17-11-08). The UK launch will follow in the Spring so around March/April 2009.

The first acronym was SAAS or “Software-As-A-Service” with perhaps the biggest example being, the CRM system. This is an online only model where the customer doesn’t have anything “on-premise” (installed at the customer site) and instead it is all in the “Cloud” (the internet). Microsoft realised that that doesn’t always suit all customers..they often like to have at least some portion of the software installed on-premise too, be it for Disaster Recovery, integration with other existing systems, high levels of customization and many other reasons so they invented Software+Services. The “Plus” is the key..customers can have the software on premise, in the cloud or a mix of both giving them a greater level of flexibility.

Microsoft Online Services AKA BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite) provides corporate users with Microsoft hosted versions of the software, accessed via the internet. The products included in the BPOS Suite are:

  • Exchange Online
  • Sharepoint Online
  • Office Communications Server (OCS)*
  • Live Meeting

*It’s to be noted that OCS isn’t available as yet and will be making an appearance a little while into 2009.

Mary Jo Foley has a new post with info on future S+S offerings from Microsoft. Their stated aim is to have a web-based service to match all their exisitng on-premise offerings and it looks like ForeFront Security and System Center Management tools are the next in the line up. This would likely encompass anti-virus, web/content filtering, firewalls, online backup, disaster recovery and more-quite a good string to their bow.

Some people might wonder what the point of this is and while there are many reasons that customers will looks at BPOS, here are what I see as the 2 key drivers.

The Small to Medium Business (SMB’s)

I first took a real look at BPOS over at the WPC in Houston and right away I could see the potential for SMB’s. These are customers typically around the 50-100 user mark (although they could be smaller/bigger) who love the features of (usually) Sharepoint server and can see that collaboration, enhanced search, wiki’s, portals and more would benefit their business by increasing efficiency. However, they often can’t afford the initial monetary outlay for Sharepoint and/or don’t have the people to deploy, configure and maintain a Sharepoint installation.

Typically this brings an end to the matter until the customer increases in size to make the internal administration do-able or they find a chunk of cash down the back of the sofa 😉 BPOS however, will be a perfect solution as it can resolve both the afore mentioned issues.

Because BPOS is hosted at Microsoft’s DataCenters in The Cloud, the customer doesn’t need to worry about learning the skills to deploy and configure the software at installation, ensuring they have the people and time to perform ongoing maintenance, deploying updates & patches-Microsoft will take care of all that.

Because BPOS is charged on a monthly basis, this allows customers to spread the costs over the course of the 12 months, rather than paying it all in one hit up-front.

The Busy Corporate

In some ways this is similar to the first example but it applies to bigger companies. Most corporates around the 300+ user mark have a very long to-do list..upgrade network switching, implement SAN (Storage Area Network), desktop refresh, move to a virtual infrastructure and so on. Added into/onto a list like this, deploying something such as Sharepoint or Office Communications Server can seem a daunting, perhaps impossible task to system admins. They’ll need to purchase and deploy new servers, perhaps upgrade parts of the network to cope with the increased demand, add extra security and plenty more which can mean that the timescales for deployments such as this are quite lengthy and keep growing.

BPOS can cut through all that. The busy admins don’t need to do anything other than grant users access to the services. As they don’t need to deploy, upgrade or install anything-the implementation timescales can be drastically reduced, which is good for all involved.

BPOS will allow companies to realise the many benefits that these Microsoft products can offer them much quicker than is currently possible.

Although the BPOS suite includes all the mentioned products, they are also available individually which gives customers the flexibility to have, for example, an on-premise Exchange server with a Cloud based Sharepoint server. Alternatively you can have the same product both on-premise and online so a big corporate HQ could have Exchange onsite, while their satellite offices could use the MS hosted version.

As for the licensing side of things, I do have some info. Customers that have current Software Assurance (SA) will be able to purchase the services at a reduced cost to reflect their already increased investment in MS technology, and they will need to keep their SA current alongside their BPOS licensing. This means should they choose to move away from BPOS at a later date, they will still be fully licensed for the most current perpetual versions of the software too. Customers that don’t have SA will have to purchase a User Subscription Licence (USL) to gain access to the BPOS suite. Should they choose to revert back to soley on-premise software, they won’t retain any entitlement to the software (as it is a non-perpetual subscription).

Many people view S+S as a bit of a black art or perhaps a fad but I really think this is a watershed moment for anyone that uses software. The companies that embrace Software+Services from the start, be they MS partners or end users, will really have an advantage over their competitors in the long run. As a Microsoft Gold Partner I’m very excited about the new things that BPOS will bring along 🙂

*Update* I heard today direct from Microsoft that Dynamics CRM will be available as an online version in July 2010, so a little while yet.

If you have any questions or comments about moving to a Microsoft hosted solution, please feel free to leave a comment and I’ll help you out as best I can!



Symantec buy MessageLabs

Symantec is set to buy MessageLabs for $695m in cash, with the deal expected to close by the end of the year (2008).

The British email security firm is set to be merged with the Symantec Protection Network to provide a comprehensive SAAS (software as a service) solution. You can read more over at The Register.

Veritas, Altiris, Vontu and now Messagelabs..Symantec have, over the last few years, become a huge software company with a very wide ranging portfolio which is something of a double edged sword really…it allows partners to provide a more holistic solution to their customers which benefits all parties involved; but equally it means Symantec’s focus is spread quite thin…

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