Alan Pelz-Sharpe, Sharon Richardson and James Lappin discuss Office 365, Microsoft's cloud offering.
Office 365 is a 'bundle' of cloud services, including e-mail, the cloud version of SharePoint, and Lync instant messanging.
We discuss the challenges that Microsoft have in providing both cloud and an on-premise versions of SharePoint.
Sharon said Microsoft will need to improve the way it moves cloud customers from one version of SharePoint to the next.
The cloud version of SharePoint 2007 had been part of BPOS (the predecessor to Office 365). The cloud version of SharePoint 2010 was not released until nearly a year after the on-premise version. There was no simple upgrade path- instead cloud customers had to migrate over from BPOS to Office 365.
The plus side was that the online version of SharePoint 2010 contains almost the whole range of SharePoint functionality (it doesn't have the SharePoint records centre though). It includes for example most of the service applications (such as the user profile service and the search service).
The main competitor to Office 365 was Google Apps, which doesn't have an on premise version. Google Apps is nowhere near as powerful and as configurable as SharePoint online, and it does not have an on-premise version. Its features have developed very little over the past few years, and such changes as have been made have been deployed by Google without disruption to customers.
SharePoint Online also faces competition from two very different sources:
- The relatively simple filesharing services such as Huddle, Box and Dropbox, which like Google apps do not have on-premise versions
- The powerful, complex and configurable document management products from ECM vendors such as Open text, IBM, Oracle and Documentum, which have on-premise versions as well as cloud versions and hybrid versions.
Alan said that the document management products from the ECM vendors are overwelmingly deployed on-premise. If an organisation is deploying a serious document management system, with a degree of customisation and of integration with other applications, then it is almost certainly going to want that application to be on-premise rather than in the cloud.
Alan Pelz-Sharpe is Research Director of the 451 Group. Sharon Richardson is an independent consultant and founder of Joining Dots Limited. James Lappin is an independent records management consultant and founder of Thinking Records Ltd.