This year hasn't been a great one for Microsoft's hosted application bundle, known as Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), in terms of uptime. There have been a number of lengthy outages and glitches, including one last week, just a week before the launch of Office 365, the successor to BPOS.
But Microsoft officials believe Office 365 will be more resilient than BPOS for a number of reasons -- especially because of changes that Microsoft is making to the Exchange Online component of the cloud platform.
Many of the issues around BPOS' downtime were due to Exchange Online, acknowledged Eron Kelly, Senior Director of Product Management for Microsoft Online Services and Office 365. The version of Exchange Online that was in BPOS was derived from the old Exchange 2007 code base, he said, and wasn't built from the ground up to be a multitenant platform. But Exchange 2010 is the core of the Exchange Online pillar in Office 365, and it was designed "from the get-go as multitenant," Kelly said during an interview at Microsoft's June 28 Office 365 launch in New York.
Microsoft has been testing its hosted Exchange platform "at very high scale" as part of its Live@Edu hosted offering for academia, Kelly noted. And it has performed well, he said.
Kelly said Microsoft has come a long way in the past few years in understanding how to develop and keep running a scalable multitenant system -- how to engineer it, provision it, fix it, etc. The move to the common Online Service Delivery Platform (OSDP) core -- something that's already underway -- also will make the overall Office 365 platform more dependable and resilient, Kelly said.
Microsoft is so confident that it is multitenant-ready that it is planning to phase out over the next couple of years the Office 365-D (Dedicated) SKU. It isn't doing so within the coming year, Kelly said, but "we expect one more generation of Dedicated, and then ultimately think (almost) all our customers are likely to go S (Standard)."
Office 365, like BPOS, is currently available in three flavors: Standard (S), Dedicated (D) and Federal (F). The “Standard” offering is multitenant (multiple customers sharing the same hardware platform). The “Dedicated” 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. And Federal is the locked-down, FISMA-compliant version for government customers.
Kelly said Microsoft is expecting most of its net-new Office 365 customers to go with the Office 365 S platform.
Kelly also said to expect Microsoft to continue to add more features and functionality to of the components (Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Lync Online, the dashboard and the underlying OSDP) for all flavors of Office 365 on approximately a quarterly basis, as it has been doing with BPOS.
I've heard from more than a few partners and customers over the past months that Microsoft's repeated BPOS downtime were making them leery of Microsoft's cloud-hosted app platform. Do Microsoft's Office 365 commitments (and your experience with the beta) make you current/potential customers any less so?