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Azaleos Rolls Out Exchange E-Mail Services

Azaleos Corp. now offers hosted and installed e-mail solutions based on Microsoft Exchange technologies.

Seattle-based Azaleos on Tuesday described its ability to provide e-mail services based on Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), which includes the Exchange Online service, as well as through the traditional approach of installing Exchange Server on the customer's premises. Customers can also use a combination of those two approaches as part of the service.

The company has its own proprietary method of monitoring on-premises servers so that organizations don't have to maintain Exchange Server. The whole new offering is called Azaleos' "managed hybrid services."

A hybrid approach combining on-premises installed Exchange Server and Internet cloud-based Exchange might be taken when organizations face regulatory requirements or other scenarios where that architecture makes sense. It may even be the preferred approach at the enterprise level, although software-as-a-service (SaaS) e-mail is still relatively nascent, according to Burton Group analyst Bill Pray.

"The answer for nearly all of the enterprises I have spoken to is to seek a hybrid model of both SaaS and on-premise, where they segment their e-mail needs," said Pray via e-mail. "Once the vendors solve some the interoperability issues in a hybrid model, enterprises will start outsourcing some of their e-mail services."

Azaleos promises 99.9 percent uptime as part of its service level agreement. The company operates two network operations centers for 24x7 remote management of Exchange Server and currently provides its services to companies ranging in size from 250 seats to 25,000 seats.

"The whole concept revolves around putting -- or helping the customer to put -- a server in the customer's back office," said Scott Gode, vice president of product management at Azaleos. "Configuring it, architecting it and setting it up in a best practices manner. Turning on that Exchange Server, and then monitoring and managing that e-mail server so that it maintains a minimum of three nines uptime."

Gode explained that Azaleos is one of Microsoft's top 35 managed partners in the U.S. market. Moreover, the company is one of Microsoft's top two partners in the world to help customers migrate to BPOS. Customers tend to want to try out cloud-based services slowly to fit their business needs, Gode said.

"One of the big selling points for our concept is that a lot of companies aren't yet ready to trust the cloud," Gode explained. "They aren't quite yet ready to jump feet first into a cloud service -- whether it's because of security concerns or on-premises data regulations…and so we kind of give them a best-of-both-worlds option."

Azaleos' current managed hybrid service offerings are based on Exchange Server 2007. However, the company has been part of the Microsoft Technology Adoption Program on the upcoming Exchange 2010 product and has been providing feedback to Microsoft.

"We've been playing around with [Exchange 2010] for quite some time and are very encouraged by what we see and are quite excited about the upcoming release later this calendar year," Gode said. "Our plan is that as soon as the BPOS version of Exchange 2010 is available, we will then rev that service."

The on-premises version of Exchange 2010 may ship somewhat sooner than the online version of Exchange 2010, according to what Gode has heard from Microsoft. He expects to see the beta of the on-premises version of Exchange 2010 appearing in the fourth quarter of 2009. The beta of the online version of Exchange 2010 will be expected in the fourth quarter of 2009, followed by a ship date sometime in the first half of 2010.

In addition to supporting Exchange, Azaleos offers remotely managed services for Microsoft Active Directory, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server and Blackberry Enterprise Server. The company is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner.

Microsoft's shift into providing its software over the Internet cloud initially caused concerns among some of its partners. However, Microsoft has changed its stance to provide its partners with the same cost-structure percentage, according to Gode. Microsoft also lets its partners remain as the point of contact with the customer, he added.

Still, Microsoft and its partner relations seem somewhat unclear in this new "Software plus Services" world, even as Microsoft builds new server farms to support BPOS, such as the new datacenters recently completed in Chicago and Dublin.

"Eventually, these providers [partners] will not be able to compete on price due to the economies of scale that Microsoft can realize," Pray explained. "Which means to continue providing SaaS Microsoft offerings, these partners will have to provide add-on services that Microsoft doesn't (customization, management, relationship, etc.), or find a different business model…or exit the market."

Azaleos already seems on track. The company's managed hybrid service can be ordered with a number of add-ons, such as archiving, filtering, and disaster recovery services, among others.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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