Microsoft readies new managed services

Did you know Microsoft has a bunch of communication and collaboration services that it is hosting itself on its price list already? Plus, there are some new managed services in the near-term pipeline about which Microsoft hasn't gone public.

A few months back, I speculated on how/when Microsoft would field hosted SharePoint Server, hosted Exchange Serverand hosted Live Communications Server products. My best guess was Microsoft would launch Microsoft-managed versions of these services in the late 2007 or later timeframe.

I was surprised to learn today at Microsoft's TechEd 2007 show that all of these products are already on the Microsoft price list. And there are some new managed services in the near-term pipeline about which Microsoft hasn't gone public, such as a Microsoft-managed business-intelligence bundle consisting of SQL Server, Performance Point and SharePoint Server all integrated together.

Microsoft is taking seriously its own Software+Services strategy and is developing not only a service to accompany almost every one of its existing software products, but also a managed service implementation of a service, according to Ron Markezich, Microsoft Vice President of Managed Solutions.

Microsoft has discussed its managed-desktop services that it has been testing inside Microsoft, as well as with customer Energizer Holdings for the past couple of years. Microsoft has said less about the fact that it also has been piloting Microsoft-hosted Exchange, SharePoint and Live Communications Services with Energizer and the only other managed-service customer Microsoft has named publicly (XL Capital).

In the last quarter, Microsoft signed up two more paying customers for its managed services, Markezich said during an interview at Microsoft's IT pro conference in Orlando on June 4. He said neither customer is yet willing to be named.

"We want customers with 5,000 seats and above," said Markezich. "We started offering these (services) broadly a year ago, but the sales cycle is fairly long."

In order to participate, customers who want to buy these services directly from Microsoft must be willing to obtain an Enterprise Agreement license for the associated on-premise software and then pay a monthly usage fee. Healthcare and pharmaceutical customers are showing considerable interest, as are customers who want to migrate off non-Microsoft platforms, Markezich said.

Microsoft is mulling other managed services, including a managed version of SoftGrid, its application-virtualization product. Microsoft could offer managed SoftGrid as a hosted appliction-distribution service, a desktop-management service or any other number of ways, Markezich said. Microsoft also is thinking through how it could build a managed thin-client service, either based on Terminal Services or one of its virtual-machine products, he added.

Enterprise users: Would you be interested in letting Microsoft run and manage any of your existing or future services?

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