Microsoft reels in new Office/BPOS cloud customers

With Office 365 coming this year, a few companies with diverse motivations have joined the Microsoft online ranks early

With Office 365 due later this year, Microsoft is trying to beat the drums for cloud Office solutions. The only solution available at the moment, BPOS, includes Microsoft-hosted versions of Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and Office Communications/Live Meeting (which are going to change into Lync Server).

Worth noting: BPOS doesn't include the latest versions of Exchange 2010 or SharePoint 2010. If you sign up for BPOS and thus pay Microsoft to run your servers, you get Exchange 2007 and SharePoint 2007 -- legacy software as a service.

Microsoft yesterday sent out a press release identifying four new BPOS customers: Tampa General Hospital, Manpower Inc., Advocate Health Care, and Shell. I kicked around the Web to see what those customers are up to. I was surprised by the results.

Tampa General Hospital is one of the largest hospitals in Florida. Writing in the Office 365 blog yesterday, Shane Ochocny, technology architect at Tampa General, says his group is currently using IBM Lotus Notes, but the hospital has decided to drop Notes -- a commendable decision, by just about any estimation -- and go with BPOS Exchange 2007, er, Microsoft Exchange Online. Tampa General also plans to roll out SharePoint and Lync "in the coming months."

Manpower, Inc., runs a big temp service, with services for outsourcing, training, and the like. It has 30,000 employees and 400,000 clients per year. According to IDG News, in 2009 Manpower started migrating to Exchange Online, consolidating diverse email platforms. By the end of this year, Manpower expects to have 80 percent of its user base migrated and consolidated under Exchange Online, with the full job finished next year. That's three years to migrate 30,000 employees -- no word about using other parts of BPOS.

Advocate Health Care, with more than 27,000 employees, was running the iPlanet messaging system, along with Lotus Notes. Slalom Consulting helped Advocate make the move to Exchange Online. According to a Microsoft Case Study, the conversion started in January 2010 and ended in June 2010. Again, I couldn't find any indication that Advocate was deploying other parts of BPOS.

Last month, Shell announced it had reached an agreement with Microsoft and a Deutsche Telecom subsidiary called T-Systems. According to the contract, starting in April, Shell -- which runs a large SharePoint operation right now -- will start to buy SharePoint 2010 services from T-Systems. It's not using SharePoint 2007 -- the version in BPOS -- but SharePoint 2010. The move is seen as part of Shell's ongoing efforts to outsource back-office operations.

Those are Microsoft's four new BPOS customers. One's going to migrate from Lotus Notes to Exchange. The other's in the middle of migrating from a hodgepodge of email systems to Exchange. The third migrated from Sun iPlanet to Exchange nine months ago. And the fourth is outsourcing its SharePoint 2010 operation to a Deutsch Telecom subsidiary.

I wouldn't call that a stampede to the Office cloud. Office 365 is going to have to do better than this.

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