Microsoft Office 365–A Closed Cloud

A few months ago on 19 October 2010, there was a news media event announcing Microsoft Office 365, the revolutionary service from Microsoft that would provide small business and enterprises to move to a services hosted infrastructure in what is loosely termed, “The Cloud.” In fact it was so fast moving, the DNS registration hadn’t hit and was still redirecting to a company that Microsoft had bought the domain name from. For anyone that was searching for the Office 365 site on Microsoft though, they quickly found that it was being hammered quite hard for information by news organizations, business leaders and information technology specialists, all trying to get a little more information on what was spun as a revolutionary service.

Fast forward to the present and we still see news stories like this, “Microsoft Office 365 beta – a suite of business-focused, cloud-based applications” being spun by news organizations such as “topnews.us”.

Maybe I’ve hit the threshold of information overload or just have an acumen for picking up on spin, but I have to say that I’m frustrated with the marketing blitz that’s going on for a closed system.

So what’s Office 365? From everything I’ve gathered through whitepapers, marketing briefs, blog posts, twitter announcements, and print articles, it’s the upgraded version of Microsoft Online Services (aka BPOS Standard).

For starters, what is Microsoft Online Services? It’s a cloud based service known as BPOS (Business Productivity Online Services) Standard which consists of Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, Microsoft SharePoint 2007 Standard, and Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 for a low price with a requirement of five seats.

So wait, what’s Office 365 again? It’s a rebranded offering of MS Online / BPOS Standard with a new name with upgraded versions of the Microsoft Office Online services to include Microsoft SharePoint Standard 2010, Microsoft Exchange 2010, Microsoft Lync 2010 [formerly OCS 2007], and Microsoft Office Web Apps with the addition of a Microsoft Office 2010 Professional license. Why the addition of the Office 2010 Professional license you might inquire? It’s to allow end users to be licensed appropriately to use Microsoft Office Web Apps (while they’re housed in Microsoft SharePoint 2010, they’re still licensed by Office 2010 Professional, go figure). There is a caveat though that’s mentioned in the Press Release – only one seat is required for Office 365 services (no longer are five seats required).

That’s right, if you’re an entrepreneur or a sole proprietor and you don’t feel like having a co-lo system setup somewhere that you’re the Exchange administrator or having to pay for services from two companies (typically one that provides Exchange and Lync and another that does SharePoint) then you’re in luck, you can buy in and use the managed service with ease.

But wait, it sounds pretty cool, how do I get my organization onboard? Well about that… it’s a closed beta at the moment which according to the registration page supposedly sends an e-mail to you after you register. To this date I’ve registered with three different e-mail addresses and received a nice message stating I would receive a response that day. Zero responses received as of yet.

So is it really a closed cloud? At the moment I’d say yes, the cloud is only available to those that are chosen or were given access as certified partners. Anyone else, best of luck making your way into the cloud, you may need a parachute and stealth maneuvers.

So why this post? I guess mostly to remind Microsoft that it would be great for individuals that are used to being early adopters having the option of getting in on the beta to actually provide real feedback. I realize that would increase the information coming back to the product group which may or may not be welcome, but hey, I’d be happy to volunteer my time in providing feedback and troubleshooting to make it a solid platform for the future.

Are you listening Microsoft Online? Let us in Smile

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