2010 is the year Microsoft got serious about cloud services. Windows Azure opened for real business in November 2009 – OK, just before 2010 – and CEO Steve Ballmer took to telling the world how Microsoft is “all in” for cloud computing whenever he got up to speak. Office and SharePoint 2010 launched in May 2010 complete with the ability to create and edit Office documents from a web browser. Microsoft also announced Office 365, essentially an upgrade of its existing BPOS offering, offering hosted Exchange, Sharepoint and Lync (Office Communicator). Microsoft also announced Small Business Server 2011, including an Essentials edition, formerly codenamed “Aurora”, which is little more than Windows Home Server plus Active Directory and points small businesses towards cloud services for email and document collaboration.
I’d guess that Microsoft’s cloud conversion is driven in part by the progress Google, Salesforce.com and others have made in persuading businesses that hosted internet services make more sense than maintaining your own servers and server applications in many cases.
But what is the impact on Microsoft partners, who have been kept busy supplying and configuring servers, implementing backup, keeping systems running, and then upgrading them as they become obsolete? On the face of it they have less to do in a hosted world, and although Microsoft offers commission on the sale of online subscriptions, that might not compensate for lost business.
Then again, cloud services offer new opportunities, still need configuring, and look likely to be a source of new business for partners particularly at a time when the majority of businesses have not yet made the transition.
I’m researching a further piece on the subject and would love to hear honest views from partners such as resellers and solution providers about how Microsoft’s online services are affecting partner business now and in the future. Or maybe you think this cloud thing is overdone and it will be business as usual for a while yet. You can contact me by email – tim(at)itwriting.com – or of course comment below.