Microsoft SaaS: University of Arizona Selects BPOS

Microsoft SaaS: University of Arizona Selects BPOS

When it comes to universities and colleges deploying SaaS (software as a service) applications, most of our recent coverage has involved Google Apps. But Microsoft is looking to make some SaaS noise in the higher education space as well. One prime example: The University of Arizona’s (UA) 18,000 faculty and staff are going to Microsoft BPOS for e-mail, calendaring, and collaboration. Here’s the scoop.

Microsoft BPOS, or Business Productivity Online Suite, consists of hosted cloud versions of many of their most popular enterprise applications like Exchange, SharePoint, and Live Meeting. For UA, it means they can centralize and modernize their “antiquated” e-mail and groupware systems while also eliminating the need for a lot of costly infrastructure in one fell swoop, according to the press release.

“We also have federal programs we need to comply with, so meeting ITAR and HIPAA rules is critical, and we came away more confident that Microsoft can help keep us be compliant,” said University of Arizona Chief Information Officer Michele Norin.

Of course, Microsoft’s press release on the UA deal also took potshots at unnamed “competitors” -- read, Google Apps -- by pointing out the advantages of BPOS, including two-way syncing across desktop, mobile, and web applications and that increased ability to meet compliance laws.

Interestingly, UA plans to offer students access to Office Web Apps and Microsoft Windows Live SkyDrive cloud storage through the [email protected] service. It’s not nearly the same level of functionality the faculty will be getting, but it’s certainly something.

Partnering Up

Meanwhile, Microsoft continues to work with large integrators and service providers on big BPOS projects. Two recent examples involve Capgemini and Computer Sciences Corp. And Microsoft alleges that some Google Apps resellers are jumping ship and embracing Microsoft's alternatives. Plus, Microsoft Channel Chief Allison Watson has been calling on VARs and MSPs to test BPOS and Windows Azure, Microsoft's cloud operating system platform.

Still, BPOS has generated mixed feedback from channel partners. Some VARs see BPOS as a simple stepping stone into the SaaS world. Other VARs see it as a threat because Microsoft is selling BPOS directly to many accounts, and Microsoft ultimately controls pricing and billing for end-customers.

All those variables aside, one thing is clear: Microsoft is out to promote its biggest BPOS wins. And the University of Arizona certainly fits that definition.

Additional reporting by Joe Panettieri. Sign up for MSPmentor’s weekly Enewsletter, Webcasts and Resource Center. And follow us via RSS; Facebook; Identi.ca; and Twitter. Plus, check out more MSP voices at www.MSPtweet.com.
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