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Microsoft BPOS: When Will Exchange Online 2010 Arrive?

Microsoft shipped Exchange 2010 for on-premises customers in 2009. But if you check Microsoft's SaaS platform -- called Business Productivity Online Suite -- you'll notice that BPOS/Exchange Online still leverages Exchange 2007. The big questions: Why do Microsoft's SaaS application releases lag their on-premises alternatives? And when can customers and partners expect BPOS/Exchange Online to run Exchange 2010?

The VAR Guy

March 15, 2010

4 Min Read
Microsoft BPOS: When Will Exchange Online 2010 Arrive?

Microsoft shipped Exchange 2010 for on-premises customers in 2009. But if you check Microsoft’s SaaS platform — called Business Productivity Online Suite — you’ll notice that BPOS/Exchange Online still leverages Exchange 2007. The big questions: Why do Microsoft’s SaaS application releases lag their on-premises alternatives? And when can customers and partners expect BPOS/Exchange Online to run Exchange 2010? The VAR Guy found some potential answers. Here they are.

First, a little background: The VAR Guy sent his questions off to a Microsoft spokeswoman last week. The spokeswoman replied with the following thoughts…

The VAR Guy: When will Microsoft shift BPOS Exchange from the 2007 to the 2010 version?

Microsoft’s Reply: Exchange Online is updated quarterly with new features and capabilities. With the launch of Exchange 2010, we will begin the process of updating Exchange Online. We expect those to be available to Microsoft Online Services customers next year, and customers will determine when their users are upgraded to the new capabilities, without the traditional investment of time and energy required for an on-premises upgrade.

The VAR Guy: When will Microsoft introduce SharePoint 2010 in BPOS? Will the introduction lag SharePoint 2010 on-premise’s delivery by a few months?

Microsoft’s Reply: SharePoint Online is updated quarterly with new features and capabilities. With the launch of SharePoint 2010, we will begin the process of updating Exchange Online. We expect those to be available to Microsoft Online Services customers next year, and customers will determine when their users are upgraded to the new capabilities, without the traditional investment of time and energy required for an on-premises upgrade.

The VAR Guy: Does Microsoft foresee a day when new releases (such as a future Exchange release) arrive simultaneously as BPOS and on-premises releases?

Microsoft’s Reply: Yes.

The VAR Guy’s Analysis

Read between the lines and there are a few key takeaways for solutions providers.

Just last week, Microsoft Channel Chief Allison Watson urged solutions providers to start testing BPOS and Windows Azure (the cloud version of Windows). Generally speaking The VAR Guy agrees: Microsoft partners need to get familiar with BPOS and Azure — either to promote the offerings or to find alternatives. Either way, SaaS discussions with end-customers are unavoidable. So get educated.

Now for the tricky part of the discussion. Microsoft says more than 7,000 resellers have signed up to promote BPOS. Sounds impressive. But The VAR Guy is looking to track down wildly successful BPOS partners. Perhaps they’ll show up later this year at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2010… The VAR Guy will be hunting for BPOS news at the conference.

In the meantime, some of Microsoft’s hosting partners seem to be beating Microsoft at its own SaaS game. A prime example: Intermedia in late 2009 became the first company to offer hosted Exchange 2010. Now, Intermedia is moving in additional directions, calling on VARs to check out hosted Unified Communications as a way to generate higher margins than traditional hosted email offerings.

Secret SaaS Sauce?

How is Intermedia beating Microsoft out the door with SaaS versions of Microsoft’s own applications? Good question. The VAR Guy doesn’t have an exact answer. But here’s an attempt: Intermedia appears to have written its own SaaS foundation software, which allows the company to more easily move from one Microsoft release to the next (for instance, from Exchange 2009 to Exchange 2010).

Ultimately, Microsoft has made it clear that the company wants to simultaneously release upgrades for its SaaS and on-premises offerings. But is there a time frame for such synchronicity? The VAR Guy isn’t sure… …

Naturally, Microsoft wants to make sure the latest Exchange, SharePoint and Office Communications Server releases are fully baked before offering them as BPOS/SaaS applications. The VAR Guy will be waiting to see when Exchange 2010 and SharePoint 2010 ultimately arrive on the BPOS platform for SaaS customers and partners. In the meantime, hosting partner Intermedia appears to be the only hosted Exchange 2010 game in town.

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