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Gartner Lays Out Evaluation Criteria for Office 365 Moves

Organizations looking at Office 365 software-as-a-service offerings from Microsoft have a lot to consider, according to a recent talk by Gartner Inc.

Guy Creese, a research vice president at Gartner, outlined some of those considerations in a Webinar, "The Hidden Gotchas of Office 365," presented late last week. It's available on demand here.

Creese said that the purchasing process is still really complicated with the Office 365 offerings. It takes months to negotiate, he said, and it's not always easy to transfer licenses between the traditional perpetual licenses associated with Microsoft's server software and the new subscription-based licenses offered via Office 365. He added that the rental costs associated with Office 365 subscription licensing can add up over time such that organizations may be paying more over five years' time for an Office 365 subscription than they would if they had purchased perpetual licenses.

Organizations can try telling Microsoft that they only want to buy what they're going to use in Office 365 and then they can ask for a price guarantee, perhaps over three years' time, Creese said. He suggested that some users in an organization could get the lower cost Kiosk licensing as a possible way to save on costs.

In general, organizations should decide if they can live with risks of using SaaS software. Creese suggested implementing only part of Office 365, such as Exchange Online and Office 365 ProPlus and Office Online (formerly known as "Office Web Apps"). However, he said that organizations should be wary of using Yammer, SharePoint Online and Lync Online. Yammer is a cloud-only service, which may not work for some organizations. SharePoint Online and Lync Online lack some of the features found in the server versions.

Online Limitations
Specifically, Creese said that SharePoint Online is OK for use with basic sites but it's not good for complex sites that may have thousands of sites. His short list of SharePoint Online "gotchas" included:

  • No farm capability;
  • No full-trust solutions;
  • No custom site definitions;
  • No claims-based authentication;
  • No distributed cache; and
  • No remote blob storage

Lync Online is good for internal Web conferencing and instant messaging, but it lacks telephony support so organizations using Lync Online would need to have a PBX system in place, Creese explained. His shortlist of Lync Online "gotchas" included the following:

  • No telephony;
  • No integration with non-Microsoft instant messaging systems;
  • No more than 250 contacts (Lync Server supports 1,000); and
  • Users can have a home on either Lync Server or Lync Online, but not both

Evaluation and Planning
Creese recommended that organizations create migration, deployment and exit plans before subscribing to Office 365 services. He noted that Microsoft provides migration support when moving to Office 365 services, but it doesn't provide support for organizations exiting the service. IT pros should run a pilot and adjust as necessary. Creese said that most of his clients have had to make some tweaks when using Office 365 services.

Gartner publishes evaluation criteria for SaaS infrastructure for its clients, which is written from the customer's perspective over three years' time. The publications examine factors such as identity, integration, management, security, storage, network, pricing and billing, service levels and SLAs, and support and communications. The criteria are classified into "required," "preferred" and "optional" categories and the enterprise-class recommendation is the one that satisfies all of the required criteria. Examples include an evaluation of Microsoft Hyper-V, which scored 97 percent, while VMware vSphere 5.5 scored 100 percent.

As for Office 365 services, they met 68 percent of the required criteria, according to Gartner. The analyst and consulting firm checked more than 140 features in making that assessment, Creese explained.

Overall, Creese said that organizations are getting pressure from Microsoft's sales team to move to Office 365, even though it's "not fully baked." Various signs are pointing to an Office 365 push coming from Microsoft. For instance, Microsoft has indicated that it isn't necessarily planning to commit to another release of SharePoint Server. Creese also described an Office 365 subscription as "a prerequisite" for editing documents with the new Office for iPad.

End user support is also changing in favor of Microsoft's services. Office 365 ProPlus, which is the Office productivity suite that's offered via Office 365 services, provides per-user licensing on up to five PCs or Macs and up to five tablets. However, the Office 2010 perpetual license just provides licenses for up to three devices. The latest Office 2013 product offers a perpetual license for just one device, Creese explained.

Creese also noted a comment from a client, who perceived that Microsoft's software discounts have been going away on the perpetual licensing side, while showing up more on the Office 365 side.

Creese's talk was a prelude to Gartner's Catalyst event, happening in August. Gartner will present various sessions on Office 365 at the Los Angeles event.

About the Author

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

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