Thursday, May 1, 2014

Office 365: The End of Exchange?

...non fidarsi รจ meglio - my scared cat / gatto
My scared cat / gatto (Photo credit: Paolo Margari)
"Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid!"

That's what I tell messaging engineers and consultants that aren't building their cloud skills.  The days of vanilla on-premises e-mail systems are numbered, and if you're not building your skills you're falling behind.

Just in case you've been asleep for the last twenty years here's what has happened in e-mail:
  1. Starting in the early 90's - only a few people had e-mail, mostly through universities.
  2. By the mid-late 90's - dial-up internet providers started providing IMAP / POP3 e-mail services that you would access through client applications like Eudora or Outlook.  At this point, e-mail was mostly used by businesses.
  3. In the late 90's - ISPs, Yahoo and AOL began providing access to e-mail for customers through rudimentary e-mail web portals.  E-mail became popular with more tech savvy home users.
  4. By 2007, Web 2.0 was a reality and Google had released Gmail.  They began wrapping more powerful web functionality around the service.  The accessibility provided by a friendly and easy web interface further popularized e-mail... most people had e-mail accounts by 2007.
  5. In 2009, after seeing Google successfully launch a hosted e-mail product, Microsoft released Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS).  It was essentially Exchange 2007 hosted on some servers Microsoft owned.  The value proposition of BPOS being designed for business was pitched to customers.
  6. In late 2011, after upgrading Exchange to 2010 and re-writing the software to better tailor it for mass hosting, Microsoft upgraded BPOS to Office 365 and began including rudimentary Office apps hosted in the cloud as well.
  7. In January of 2013 Microsoft upgrades Office 365 again and the Microsoft Office suite took a full leap in to the cloud, providing much enhanced functionality:
    1. After aggressively pursuing certifications and jumping the toughest regulatory and compliance hurdles, Office 365 began accelerating adoption both in business and in people's personal lives.
    2. Offering the full Microsoft Office software suite further distinguished Office 365 from competitors.
    3. The only hosted e-mail service with a true hybrid deployment model, Office 365 now defines the hosted e-mail experience for large enterprises.
So, its plain to see that cloud-based e-mail services are only going to expand.  The demand for hybrid deployments that include both on-premises and cloud-based systems is increasing as customers realize that they can move the workloads they are comfortable with putting in to the cloud while leaving others on-premises in traditional hosted systems.  If you're an Exchange e-mail administrator and you're not preparing for hybrid and cloud-based systems you're in trouble.

The cost / benefit equation is an easy sell to IT executives and vendors like Microsoft are making that value proposition to your leadership daily.  You can only use excuses for not moving for so long before the cost savings drive some of your e-mail in to the cloud.  You'd best be ready for it soon or you'll be looking at a new career when you cannot adapt.

Commodore 64
Commodore 64 (Photo credit: shaniber)
Speaking of excuses, lets talk about companies that aren't investigating how cloud can enhance their business.  Want to be like Polaroid or Kodak?  They failed to see the digital camera revolution.  How about Palm Pilot and Commodore?  When was the last time you saw one of either of those?

In my research for this article I came across a great list of excuses to NOT innovate.  I'm going to quote just a few excuses from Mitch Ditkoff's article "The Top 100 Lamest Excuses for Not Innovating".  I suggest you give the full article a read... its hits very close to the mark I believe.  Here are a few of the excuses he found:

5. We won't be able to get it past legal.
6. I've got too much on my plate.
13. There's too much bureaucracy here to get anything done.
14. Our customers aren't asking for it.
15. We're a risk averse culture. Always will be.
34. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
89. We need to focus on the short term for a while.
91. What we really need are some cost cutting initiatives.
95. Maybe next year.

Do any of those sound familiar?  If your organization is using any of those excuses to not go to the cloud or at least evaluate how portions of cloud could be implemented, you should be looking for a new job.  If your employer doesn't use cloud you aren't developing cloud skills.  If you're not developing those cloud skills how will you find your next job?  Employers are asking for cloud skills on top of everything else.  Just go look at the LinkedIn (14,590 postings with "cloud") or SimplyHired (5,484 "cloud" jobs just near Kansas City) job boards and search for "cloud."  You'll see.

And if you are that company using compliance and regulations to not move to the cloud... you know who you are.  Are you using excuses like being in a highly regulated industry like healthcare, financial services, power & utilities?  Check out "Office 365: A snowball's chance in hell?" for a look at how some top utilities are taking a second look at the cloud.

If you are hiding behind these acronyms you need to take another look at cloud.  At least with Office 365 (see the Office 365 Trust Center) I know you have good, compliant, hybrid solutions:
  • ISO
  • ISO
  • FERC / NERC,
  • EU privacy
In a future article maybe I'll talk about how hybrid solutions can meet the needs of highly regulated industries.  Yes, it IS possible to comply with regulations and just move certain workloads to the cloud.

Are you ready for the cloud?  Time's up.  It's here.

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  1. It was disappointing to see that services such as Rocketmail, Hotmail, and e-mail/fax services like were overlooked as advances in the late 90s and early 2000s. These were third party, non-ISP provided, messaging systems. They appear to have been skipped completely, which is unfortunate.

    Granted, Hotmail, which was started in 1996 and acquired by MSFT in 1997, was later tied into Microsoft's MSN service offerings. That covers the ISP category mentioned by Scott. Microsoft also had an e-mail offering called Live@EDU and it was out prior to Google's service offerings for education. My university had it before I could even get a free GMail Beta address; back then you had to be invited to gmail.

    Lastly, what appear to have also been missed were other business e-mail vendors, such as IBM's LotusMail, Novell's hosted groupwise, and hosted mail providers such as Mi8, and

    Scott wrote a good article but, in my opinion, editing out the fluff from 97-2007 deflated the marshmallow.

    Scott's main message is well-defined and very clear:
    Exchange admins - your days are numbered. It would behoove you to learn how to implement Office 365 and Google Apps.

    1. Thanks, Bob. I had planned to include a broader list of services in that 10-year window but the article was already three pages long. You have a good point about Live@EDU - there are many higher-ED institutions that are only recently moving to Office 365 . Also, there are several such as IBM and Novell's services that came and went quickly.

      As you mention, the main gist of the article is really to show a trend from on-premises being the only solution for messaging to it being only a component in a larger messaging architecture. And if you're only skilled with and competent in one portion of that architecture your career is limited as well.



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