Microsoft Planning BPOS Changes in March

Microsoft described some progress behind its business productivity online suite (BPOS) offerings on Thursday.

The company launched its BPOS suite of online services worldwide in April and currently has more than two million paid seats, according to Kayvaan Ghassemieh, a senior technical product manager for Microsoft Online Services.

Ghassemieh mostly described Microsoft's BPOS Standard offering in a Webinar on Thursday. BPOS services are currently available in 22 markets worldwide. Microsoft supports those services with two datacenters each in North America, Asia and Europe.

BPOS Standard consists of a bundle of services for organizations with between five to 30,000 seats. The suite consists of Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Communications Online and Office Live Meeting.

Ghassemieh wouldn't say how many companies currently use Microsoft's BPOS services but said that "it's over the thousands mark."

Microsoft has long-time hosting experience from running its Hotmail and MSN services. However, delivering other Microsoft software products as services represents a relatively new effort for the company. Microsoft eventually plans to deliver all of its enterprise premises-installed software as services, Ghassemieh said. The current 2010-branded Microsoft products (Exchange 2010, Office 2010, etc.) are all being designed to run as services, he explained.

Microsoft is loosening things up to give its partners greater control in working with BPOS customers. Ghassemieh said that Microsoft is letting its partners "do all management support for customers." Partners can manage BPOS services for customers through "partner order on behalf" and "delegated administration" policies, he added.

BPOS entails a major development-cycle change for Microsoft. Five-year software release cycles have shrunk to release cycles of every six to eight weeks. Microsoft gets partner and customer feedback, evaluates new requests, prioritizes development and then lays out 90-day roadmaps before adding new features to BPOS.

Microsoft is planning various improvements to BPOS, with some new features coming in March. One of those additions will be an expansion of mailboxes to 25 GB. All customers will get this expanded mailbox support sometime in March, although local IT administrators ultimately have control over user mailbox size, Ghassemieh said.

Single sign-on capability will be coming with the next release, Ghassemieh said. Also, Microsoft plans to fix calendar coexistence in hybrid deployments with the next version.

Microsoft also has a list of BPOS features it is currently working on, including IMAP support, the use of public folders, adding API support for other services and beefed-up reporting capabilities. On the latter point, Ghassemieh said that some customers would like to get service outage reports via SMS or a phone call, and Microsoft is working on that possibility.

Microsoft has already fulfilled several customer requests. BPOS now supports Office 2003, the POP3 client, the Mac client sign-in, Blackberry devices (for an extra charge), Exchange journaling via third-party journaling solutions, SMTP relay and the Microsoft CRM router.

IT administrators can manage BPOS using the Microsoft Online Administration Center (MOAC), which enables remote Powershell control plus administrative management via Service Request. Powershell can be used with BPOS for things like bulk user activation and usage reporting. It's a step up compared with MOAC, which was set up to be an interface for small-to-medium businesses, Ghassemieh said.

Finally, BPOS already complies with various regulations and standards, such as the EU Safe Harbor Seal, SAS 70 Type II, ISO 27001, FERPA and HIPAA, Ghassemieh said. Risk management and compliance issues associated with Microsoft Online Services are described here and here, respectively.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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