July 28, 2010

What to Expect from Microsoft & BPOS

The previous several days have been quite busy in the cloud collaboration front, in part because the General Services Administration is shopping for a new email system.  The GSA, as detailed by MJF in today’s article, can be thought of as a key test bed for what the rest of the federal government (and therefore state and local governments) will do in the collab space when evaluating the cloud.  Part of the requirements for their search is FISMA compliance, which yesterday was announced proudly by Google that they had.  This is a good thing indeed, because it now means that the space is going to heat up some more.  On the Microsoft side, FISMA is something they are working to get – which when piled in with the other certifications that MS is tossing around, make for a VERY secure environment.

If you are in a regulated industry, there is no question these certifications are important.  In fact, when I’m doing calls of late, the MS certifications are the first thing out of my mouth because NOTHING ELSE matters if a company doesn’t have these.  MS is very proud of these and should be screaming them from the rafters.  The media darling Google is getting props for their entry into this space, but make no mistake, this is a reactionary improvement to their standard practice and prospective clients should remember that.  They should also remember that Google is not in the business of collaboration – it isn’t their first (search) and arguably not their second (advertising) business objective.  Additionally, it is NOT a reasonable or even fair comparison to equate the offering Google has to Microsoft’s offering – but we do it anyway.

Full disclosure – I use Google Apps – and love it!  It is my personal domain handler and it works fantastic – the price was certainly right.  But I would NEVER recommend it to a partner or client.  It gets all of the love because it is Google and that’s fine, but I want to vomit every time someone compares Google Sites with SharePoint – that’s like comparing tuna fish with space ships.  The other components – well, there are pros and cons of each, but make no mistake – Microsoft has the full blown enterprise app sitting up in the cloud and will soon have alphabet soup for certifications.  Not as an afterthought.  Not as a give and take.  Microsoft and the Azure/BPOS platform will be the premiere enterprise collaboration space – not because the products are better (they are) or because the TCO is lower (it is), but because every Tom, Dick, Harry and Federal Department of Whatever will be able to have the following questions definitively answered with confidence that it is an absolute essential component of the offering:

1. Where is my data

2. Is my data safe

3. Who has access to it

That’s important to the GSA, it is important to FEMA, it is important to the City of Wherever and it is also important to Bob’s Tackle Shop.  Expect it and don’t even talk to another vendor hawking online or cloud based services if they can’t hand you copies of those certifications when they walk through the door.  New world order!