I am Dedicated to SharePoint, so why am I only getting Standard love?

By Dave Martin posted 07-22-2011 13:33


Sadly, and I sincerely apologize to the three people who follow my AIIM Blog, my last post was about six months ago and discussed a now old (comparatively and when measured in Web time) technology called BPOS (Microsoft’s Business Online Productivity Suite).

Well what’s old is new again, and I’d like to think that goes for Microsoft’s Cloud initiative as well as my blog posts...

None other than Steve Ballmer announced the launch of the next generation BPOS, under a catchier new moniker: Office 365.   There are a few differences in the two releases, but in summary it would be fair to say that as a whole there is a lot more to it for users than before.  When it comes to SharePoint in the Office 365 Cloud (referred to as SharePoint Online) it would appear that the biggest changes came with Microsoft’s go-to-market.

In my post about BPOS I focused on what I thought was the most relevant version, discussing the Dedicated licensing over the Standard (multi-tenant) licensing, because it was my opinion that this would be what most large organizations would adopt due to the fact that it was the version partners would be best able to add-value to/integrate with.  Not to leave smaller companies out of the discussion, but they usually don’t have the same stringent requirements and complex custom integration requests the large enterprises have. But I get it, it’s these smaller organizations that will be able to take to the Cloud with the greatest of ease and benefit, and now, more than ever, I think Microsoft thinks that as well.

Why?  Because of a decision Microsoft made and it has to do with fruit… of the low hanging variety.  Whatever do I mean by this comment do you ask?  Well I’ll start by citing that one of the most popular questions I get (and have been getting since I wrote my last post on BPOS) is: how do your solutions integrate into Office 365?

This is a difficult question to respond to for a number of reasons. 

Office 365 SharePoint Online, is greatly enhanced over its BPOS predecessor, but perhaps a better way of saying enhanced would be to say, different.  Microsoft is readily offering details on its Standard or multi-tenant version, but not so much around its Dedicated version.  What I’ve been able to find out about the Dedicated version is as follows:  it exists, and, the minimum requirement for users has moved from 5,000 to 30,000.  Yep you read that right, a six-fold increase.

Now I don’t mean to complain or sound negative, but as a guy who works for an ISV that supports numerous integrations with SharePoint you can now see why I don’t really look forward to that question.  I struggled enough trying to connect to BPOS Dedicated environments without breaking the actual concept of, and benefits for, a Cloud environment and the fact that Microsoft is shoving almost every company/customer towards a multi-tenant version of SharePoint Online will continue to make my life a bit more of a struggle.

Okay, that does sound a bit like I’m complaining, but I have a point, I simply ask that you wait for it… and even then it may appear as though I am still complaining, but the line between pleading and complaining is often a hazy one.

The truth is I learned way back in my high-tech career that the beauty of software is that anything’s possible, that’s why system integrators (SI) are such a big part of the Microsoft ecosystem.  But - yes here it comes - the fact that Microsoft is pushing a multi-tenant environment that has no readily available APIs for integration (outside of a Sandboxed option which is very restrictive) and does not support Business Continuity Services (BCS) and well, you can now see my concern.

Do I want to support SharePoint Online in a multi-tenant environment?  Damn skippy!  But it seems as though for now that support will mean complex custom services, which means no real packaged integrations per se – at least in the very near term, and please [to my current customers reading this] rationalize the fact that Office 365 has been out for less than a month.  And I’m not talking about simple integrations like a really cool Web Part that transposes text from 40 different languages into pig Latin, I am talking about high compliance, policy driven site deployment or even something as seemingly simple as providing end-user access to other external (even Cloud based) content repositories from SharePoint Online.

Again, I get it, Microsoft sees the opportunity to hit the low-hanging fruit first, enabling all those folks who know and love SharePoint for what it does best – collaboration.  But the truth (at least in my mind) is that the love for what SharePoint can really do, at least in terms of what we’ve seen from the on-premise version, is sorta what people have come to expect.  And this extends to all of the integrations that were created that extend and enhance SharePoint on-premise.

It’s like someone giving you an Xbox that only plays Atari 2600 games… sure it’s cool for a while - everyone loves retro - but in terms of game-play Combat ain’t Gears of War.

#SharePointOnline #BPOS #sharepoint #office365 #SharePoint