What's next for Microsoft's cloud-hosted business suite?

What's next for Microsoft's cloud-hosted business suite?

Summary: Microsoft has some big changes coming this year for its Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), the Microsoft-cloud-hosted bundle of Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Communications Online and Office Live Meeting.


Microsoft has some big changes coming this year for its Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), the Microsoft-cloud-hosted bundle of Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Communications Online and Office Live Meeting.

A source of mine who was briefed on what's in the pipeline shared some of the details with me, noting that the information he received was current as of November 2009 (meaning the exact dates and deliverables may vary somewhat by the time the company delivers on them later this year and early next).

Here's a slide he shared with me that provides an overview of Microsoft's BPOS roadmap (again, as of last November):

(Click on the image above to enlarge.)

Before delving into the particulars, it's important to understand the distinctions between the two primary SKUs of BPOS. (There's a third, recently introduced Federal BPOS SKU, but that's not part of this discussion.) THe "Standard" BPOS offering is a multi-tenant (multiple customers sharing the same hardware platform). The "Dedicated" BPOS offering, targeted at larger customers -- typically those with more than 20,000 seats -- is built on a set of hardware dedicated for a single customer. Standard BPOS is updated with new features every six to eight weeks. Dedicated BPOS is updated every six to eight months.

The biggest change coming for both Standard and Dedicated BPOS customers is a refresh of services that are part of the "Wave 14" release of products. In other words, Microsoft will be making available to BPOS cloud customers a number of the features that it is rolling out first in its on-premises products, like Exchange Server 2010 (which released to manufacturing at the end of last year), SharePoint Server 2010 (which is due to RTM in April); and Office Communications Server 2007 R2 (which RTM'd late last year) and Office Communications Server 2010, which is expected to RTM at the end of calendar 2010.

The Microsoft-hosted Exchange and SharePoint services will be updated first -- in beta form in the next month or so for BPOS Standard users, and then in final form in the second half of this year. Communications Online users will get only the OC Voice technology from the on-premises OCS 2010 product in this calendar year. The rest of the OCS 2010 features will find their way into the cloud-hosted version of Communications Server in the first half of 2011, according to my source.

What else is coming for Microsoft's growing cadre of cloud customers in calendar 2010? There's a "Lite" version of BPOS coming, that will be targeted at SMB customers with 25 seats or less, as I've reported previously. (I am hearing BPOS Lite is a second half 2010 deliverable.) My source says there's another new SKU, known as BPOS E (Enterprise) coming, as well, that will include Enterprise Client Access License (CAL) features. I don't know any feature specifics about either of these products.

Additionally, Microsoft is telling customers and partners that it is trying to establish a new platform that its BPOS services will run on. I don't think they're talking about the rehosting of BPOS on Windows Azure here, which company officials have said is a long-term goal for Microsoft's Online/managed services unit. Instead, this is more of a developer platform: Something that will provide developers and customers with a more programmable layer, allowing them to interact directly with Microsoft's hosted services via a set of application programming interfaces that bypass the BPOS user interface.

I've heard Microsoft will likely highlight at its Office 2010 launch in New York on May 12 some of the enterprise "three screens and a cloud" scenario that BPOS and the individual, Microsoft-hosted services that comprise that product, will enable. I've also heard that Microsoft is pitching BPOS hard to its customers and its partners in its current and next fiscal years.

Anyone out there gotten the BPOS pitch? What do you think Microsoft is doing right and wrong with BPOS, vis-a-vis its business productivity competitors like Google with Google Apps?

Topics: CXO, Collaboration, Microsoft


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • It's Huge

    When I think of Google Apps I think of agility.
    Granted its got nowhere near the capabilities
    of BPOS but it can be implemented today, by a
    small group of people with a specific need.

    BPOS is most suitable for the enterprise. Even
    for that space it seems to be a lumbering
    giant. I can see the value in a hosted Exchange
    solution. Even a SharePoint if you're already
    using it. But the Office tie-ins seems
    superfluous for future system deployments.
    Perhaps its there only to protect Office sales.

    The acronym is unfortunate. When I see it I
    think "Big Piece of *".
    • *BPOS* acronym.. you got imagination dude...

      I couldn't care less about everything else. But your acronym comment is good. quite imaginative.

      I guess MS doesn't have people like you out there.. to say in on face. :D
      • RE: What's next for Microsoft's cloud-hosted business suite?

        Currently they do not provide for you to download your data to local servers as backup. That I think is a serious flaw in the product.
        raimu koyo asu
      • RE: What's next for Microsoft's cloud-hosted business suite?

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  • RE: What's next for Microsoft's cloud-hosted business suite?

    I think they need to start giving better support, I still cannot un-junk items after 2 days; I haven't gotten a response to my updated support ticket request I sent 12 hours ago...let's try five 9's reliability and 1 hour support response time at the very minimum.
    • Interesting ... I've never had anything less than stellar service

      The longest MS has taken to respond to any of our support tickets is 4.5 hours.

      As a very satisfied BPOS customer and re-seller to many other customers, I, and my clients are nothing but delighted with our BPOS service. In fact, more than 75% of our clients have stated that their experience of BPOS exceeds their experience of running their own infrastructure and most have saved a bundle by using it.

      High praise indeeed.
  • RE: What's next for Microsoft's cloud-hosted business suite?

    I will never, ever use any cloud-based apps or storage...especially if it has the name "Google" assigned to it.
    If it comes down to cloud computing is the only option available to consumers, I will stop upgrading (WordStar here I come).
    I don't believe that anyone can protect my privacy, especially Google, who "Do the right thing" motto can now be changed to "Do whatever it takes". In fact I have stop using Google as my search engine.
    I also will fight to the death (maybe thats a bad choice of words)to keep my medical records from being online.
    I draw the line here and now.
  • Cloud, roadmap to destruction

    I use Cad programs as a ancillary for work done at my company. The information created has value and agreements I have to sign with all my customers dictates that I maintain confidentiality. The NSA and the military both state outright that the web is not secure and that if you want to be secure you MUST stay offline with your data.

    I am amased at how fast the public forgets all the useless stuff that came out of the Dot Com hype of the late 90's and connect the dot's to see that this is the same. How is it the same? The web services offered by these companies offer a model that can't deliver what it promises due to latency, throughput data rate issues and security all of which are out of their control to a large degree. So now we have willfull deception in offering something to individuals and companies knowing they can't fullfill promises but want to charge them for it anyway. So we have the fraudulant side and the useless aps offered up once again.

    The general consensus in the cad community is that the cloud is nothing more than an effort by companies to get users involved in program that will give selling companies a guaranteed cash flow because now your data is held hostage by them. And you will pay without fail and forever if you want acess to your data.

    Forced upgrades/patches to buggy software and so now the upgrade does not work. Your old solution would have been to fix it by a rollback. The new wonderfull solution is to wait. And wait. And maybe wait a really long time if you are just a small percentage of users affected for your cloud provider to get off his duff and fix it. Of course since MBA's and CPA's run the cloud provider they have underpowered their server farm, laid off over paid high priced English speaking qualified tech support for new grads with no experience from India or the Phillipines and they have that little problem today with those nasty Chinese hackers so after all they do not have time for your silly little problem today.

    But you signed an agreement and in the dirty little EULA details it says that your data now belongs to others allong with all your private and proprietary info and that you have no recourse except to pay and shut up.

    My company will have no part of any program that demands I use a web based service to function. It must all be capable of being used as an independent install in my facility or they can forget it. Yes I know finances are there in many ways now but this is voluntary and I can still choose to participate with a PC that is not on my companies network. The applications that effect my daily operations and proprietary info do not go online.

    The cloud is for lemmings literaly and figuratively.
    • BPOS is perfect for you! :)

      I am willing to bet that MS' data centers are FAR more secure than your on-site IT infrastructure. I'm also willing to bet that their disaster recovery and fault-tolerance facilities are WAY better than ANYTHING you have in-house.

      What's more, the chances that you have the budget to make your on-site IT as secure and resilient as Microsoft's data centers are so small as to be improbable at best.

      The safety of on-site data is an utter fallacy. If you want your data secured, there's no reason why you can't encrypt it and store it in the cloud for safe-keeping.

      And, no, if you read your Microsoft online EULA, you'll find that your data is entirely private and isolated from all other customers.

      What's more, unlike some cloud operators, Microsoft promotes a continuum: host what you want on-site, and use as little or as much of their cloud if it suits your needs. Working on classified docs that must be stored on locally hosted encrypted HDD's? Cool - do so. But don't discount the value of offloading all your generic IT services to an operator with a division dedicated to providing world-class data center services.

      Is the cloud fallable, hell yes - it's created by humans after all. But I'd be willing to bet GOOD money that you'd actually be better off using a specialist infrastructure hosting company that is dedicated to keeping your IT infrastructure up and running allowing you to focus on your core business.
  • RE: What's next for Microsoft's cloud-hosted business suite?

    "Cloud Computing" is being killed by Cable companies and other internet providers who intend to sell you monthly bandwidth limits.
  • RE: What's next for Microsoft's cloud-hosted business suite?

    Once again, Microsoft is proving that nobody else does business/enterprise solutions than they do. Please do not mention Google Apps or anything from Google near BPOS, it does not compare in any way, it is simply the same GMail we all already know but rebranded and sold to businesses; it is consumer class, period.
    You want/need enterprise cloud solutions, go BPOS and they offer a fully financially backed SLA that Google does not. Also they detailed all their security certifications that even exceeds DoD and all federal requirements, something Google cannot make mention of having.
    Having said that, the beauty is that nobody is forced into cloud computing, you certainly have the choice of having your own on-site servers so there is really nothing for anyone to complain about.
  • RE: What's next for Microsoft's cloud-hosted business suite?

    I agree with the comments on the BPOS cloud options for data security etc. However, Bpos does not offer a solution ofr the DATA HOSTAGE situation. Currently they do not provide for you to download your data to local servers as backup. That I think is a serious flaw in the product.
  • RE: What's next for Microsoft's cloud-hosted business suite?

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