Microsoft BPOS: Sharepoint Online 2010


Sharepoint 2010 is due for release around April time 2010 and the Online version will become available through BPOS around September time I do believe.

When the 2010 version of Sharepoint (and Exchange & OCS) hit online, they will be SO much more fully features than the current 2007 versions; they will in fact be almost the same! This will be especially notable with Sharepoint as their is a large disparity at the moment:

Read Comparison of Sharepoint Server & Sharepoint Online

Sharepoint Online 2010 will include all the Business Intelligence (BI) aspects such as:

  • Excel Services
  • Forms Server
  • Dashboards
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s)

and more :-) As a BPOS Partner this is great news…the BI features are becoming more interesting to more people and not having these features can be quite a big barrier to Sharepoint Online adoption. That’ll all change next year which is great news :-)

Licensing

Wave 14 will bring some changes to the BPOS licensing too…there will be Standard and Enterprise USLS…just as there are for the on-premise CALs.

However, the split of features between the 2 will be decidedly different. The Enterprise CAL will include:

FAST Enterprise Search

There are also rumblings that it will include some part of, or ways of linking to, Microsoft’s Data Warehousing technology “Project Madison”. This would certainly fit with the BI capabilities inside Sharepoint…

I’ll be doing a post dedicated to Madison soon so keep your eyes peeled for that :-)

This is all great news, for partners, customers and Redmond as, come H2 of 2010, Sharepoint Online will be a formidable challenger in the world of S+S/SAAS BI and should be pretty great. I, for one, am excited :-)

Props to W Cornwill for the Britney pic!

Sharepoint Online & Groove


This week I ‘ave been mostly…using Groove.

Groove has been the one bit of MS technology that I’ve never taken a look at before and I’ve always thought it was a bit pointless…but not anymore! Now I think it’s awesome and perhaps the best product they’ve got, alongside Sharepoint. I’ve had it installed for years as part of Office ’07 but I have literally never opened it up until this week. The thing that prompted me was this post here over on Dutch Technet about using it with Sharepoint Online and as MS Online is my big thing-I figured it was worth investigating.

Groove is essentially a collaboration tool that let’s you create “workspaces” and then invite co-workers and/or external people to join; you can then share and edit files, chat via IM, track issues, play chess (!) and more-all with a minimum amount of effort. As an example, I’ve created a MS Online/BPOS workspace and have invited the various people involved @ MS-this way we can share info, ask questions and keep updated much easier than simply via email.

The Technet post revealed to me that you can link Groove to Sharepoint and thus share files from your site collections without the hassle/cost of giving users direct access to Sharepoint…even better, you can do this with Sharepoint Online too!

Comparison of Sharepoint Server & Sharepoint Online


While Sharepoint Online is an excellent product and fits the bill nicely for the vast majority of customers, there are certain features it lacks when compared to it’s regular on-premise brethren; this is mainly down to the multi-tenant environment of the standard datacenters.

moss-online-comparison

Green = Sharepoint Online Blue = On Premise Server Only

As you can see, the Search & Business Intelligence sections are practically non-existent online which may put some people off. However if you need those features then you can utilise MS Online in it’s full Software PLUS Services mode and have an online AND an on-premise server together. It will be interesting to see if Sharepoint Online features more Search & BI functionality once “Wave 14″ hits as Sharepoint On-Premise will have a whole raft of new features in these areas…

Microsoft state:

In the current release of the services, the following actions are not supported:

·         Use inline code, build coded workflows, or develop Office InfoPath forms with coded business logic.

·         Deploy features, solutions, pluggable authentication providers, Web Parts, site definitions, or other modifications that require deployment and configuration on the server.

·         Modify built-in SharePoint files, web.config settings, security policy, and other elements.

·         Make configuration changes that affect the Web server or the Microsoft .NET Framework.

·         Make changes or add capabilities that require a custom database or changes to the database schema.

Microsoft BPOS Trials Announced


Today at Cebit, Microsoft announced the availability of trials of their Online Services-BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite) in 19 countries (Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom). This follows on from the US launch in November 2008.

BPOS is an online offering of some of Microsoft’s most popular software including Exchange Online, Sharepoint Online, Live Meeting Online and Office Communications Server Online, and it is something I am very excited about.

As a Microsoft Partner I envision that Microsoft Online Services will help more customers access the benefits of these MS technologies, particularly the smaller customers as they will benefit greatly from the lower costs, reduced/removed hardware and management costs and the ease of implementation. Having said that these are all attractive benefits to even the largest customer who can use them to increase productivity and reduce costs, something which is even more important in today’s economic climate!

A great example of this is the case study that MS released today of their work with GlaxoSmithKline and their adoption of MS Online Services. GSK are migrating 100,000 users from Lotus Notes over to MS Exchange Online with a number of users taking the “Deskless Worker SKU”-a new product that gives limited access to Exchange and/or Sharepoint for users who don’t need full access and is thus available at a reduced cost:

“The move to Microsoft Online Services will help GlaxoSmithKline cut operational costs by an estimated 30 percent and create a variable cost model that will provide increased flexibility in the future,” said Ingo Elfering, vice president of Information Technology Strategy, GlaxoSmithKline.

A blog post by GSK about why they swapped to BPOS can be found over at the MS Online Blog here. A great Q&A with the GSK CIO can be found here.

On a personal note, I’ve been trialling BPOS at work for a few months now and it is absolutely fantastic. It gives me a lot more freedom that a standard premise based solution as well as cutting down on hassle such as VPN clients etc. We’ve had great success talking to our customers about it and I think we, as an industry, will see a great take up of this new way to consume MS technology.

Microsoft BPOS-A first hand look


Today I was finally able to set up our test account for Microsoft BPOS and it was definitely worth the wait. I’ve not been playing around with it for long but already I’m highly impressed with the amount of features and how easy it is to use. All the most common options you will need, such as create site, add user, increase storage are contained in easy access menus and are pretty much exactly where you’d expect them to be :-)

Within 5 minutes I’d added users to the system, created a new Sharepoint Site Collection and then added said users to the Sharepoint site…and I’m no Sharepoint Administrator! I then proceeded to add multiple documents to the Sharepoint site which was easy and very quick-just as quick as an on-premise solution as far as I can tell.

There are some things missing such as Excel Services, forms etc as well as the ability to run custom code, so it won’t fit everyone-but on the whole it covers what people need very well.

Moving on to Exchange, I’ve just signed in to OWA and without having to do any configuration either as a user or admin (other than setting the size of the mailbox), I’m up and running and firing emails off all over the show :-) 

For business that want to run BPOS alongside their existing on-premise installations, it is very simple synchronize your Active Directory (AD) and/or Exchange Global Address Lists as well as migrating existing mailboxes across to Microsoft Exchange Online. These are all done via wizards and having seem them demonstrated at TVP, they’re pretty simple to use.

I’m very impressed with the user interface and the general “flow” of the entire BPOS suite site, from the perspective of both an admin and a user. My gallery of screenshots can be found here.

cloud2_2

I want to thank Hugh Mcleod and Steve Clayton for this great S+S diagram!

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 Salesforce.com, 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!

Cheers

Rich