The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has decided to adopt Microsoft's Live@edu cloud service, and will deploy it to over 7 million students and nearly 500,000 staff members in the coming months. This makes the Indian government agency Redmond's biggest cloud customer, and grows the software giant's hold over the education space.
In a joint statement Thursday, Microsoft said that the cloud deployment would provide students' access to "high-quality" technical education and collaboration. Live@edu is a hosted communication and collaboration service that offers e-mail services, Microsoft Office Web Apps, instant messaging and storage.
The rollout is scheduled to take place over the next three months and be completed by September, and the service will be made available to more than 10,000 technical colleges and institutes throughout India. The AICTE also plans to deploy Office 365 when it becomes available in the country later this year, which will provide access to Exchange Online e-mail and calendar, SharePoint Online, Lync Online, and Office Professional to augment the existing technical infrastructure, it noted.
"Microsoft's cloud platform will make for a truly progressive ecosystem and contribute to the country's technical education by providing a better communication and collaboration platform for institutes and students," said S.S. Mantha, chairman of AICTE, in the statement.
AICTE is the governing body for technical education in India, and is part of India's Ministry of Human Resource Development. It is in charge of certifying and managing technical colleges and institutes.
The organization said it wanted to deploy a technology system that would provide a platform for students and the institutions to foster efficiency and support broader educational reforms.
"AICTE reviewed solutions from a range of vendors, including Microsoft, IBM and Google. One of the major factors in choosing Microsoft's cloud services was its comprehensive commitment to education across all the company's products and programmes, as well as the system's seamless interoperation with the entire Microsoft product portfolio," the statement noted.
The AICTE added it was also impressed that the company's solution for deploying a system across geographically distributed locations would not add significantly to IT management costs or complexity.
Neil Jackson, director of education for Asia-Pacific at Microsoft, told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail that his company's offering was chosen because it offered a way to integrate many of the current services. "Prior to this deployment, all the institutions that came under AICTE in India had a hybrid system with several different e-mail systems."
"AICTE wanted to manage and organize e-mail under one umbrella to provide an environment for students and faculty to collaborate via a single gateway and a single sign-on. This led to AICTE selecting Live@edu as the platform of choice," added Jackson.
Microsoft increasing its foothold
The other recent significant deployment by Microsoft was in 2010, when it rolled out Live@edu to some 700,000 students in Kentucky, United States--which was billed as the "largest cloud deployment in U.S. history" then according to a blog post by ZDNet Asia's sister site, ZDNet.
The AICTE deal comes just three months after rival Google announced what was its biggest win. In January, Google CIO Jose Olalla in a blog post, announced the deal with Spanish financial services company Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA (BBVA)--which it says has about 110,000 employees across over 30 countries.
In the wider space of cloud services for education, Microsoft claims to be the leader with more than 22 million people using its service. This compares well with the "more than 14 million" users for Google, according to its Web site.