Microsoft Rolls Out New Cloud Platform Roadmap

Microsoft announced a "cloud platform roadmap" Web site late last week that aims to provide insights about its server and cloud software development efforts.

The new customer-facing public Web site was launched to provide "a comprehensive view of the wide range of improvements and developments across the Cloud Platform business," according to Takeshi Numoto, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise Marketing Group, in an announcement.

The site is very wide ranging in terms of the products included. It has lists of recently available product features, software previews, work currently under development and the development work that was cancelled by Microsoft for the following services, according to Numoto:

  • Microsoft Azure
  • Microsoft Intune
  • Power BI
  • Visual Studio Online

It also shows the status of Microsoft's work on some of its server products, as well as its integrated development environment product:

  • SQL Server
  • System Center
  • Windows Server
  • Visual Studio

Lastly, the site shows work being done on Microsoft appliance products:

  • Analytics Platform System
  • Cloud Platform System
  • StorSimple

Numoto explained that Microsoft has accelerated its product development efforts in recent years. Consequently, it wanted to a new way to communicate what was coming "in the next few months" so that its customers can make plans. The roadmap is one effort along those lines.

Missing Links
Some server products apparently are not part of the new cloud platform roadmap. For instance, Exchange Server and SharePoint Server weren't described in Numoto's account and they weren't listed at the cloud platform roadmap page at press time. Microsoft also has an Office 365 roadmap portal page that's used to describe its development efforts on that front, which was announced in June last year. You won't find those server products listed at that roadmap either.

Users of the two roadmap portals get a list with abbreviated details, although there are links to get more information. The lists may be somewhat surprising, though. For instance, the cloud platform roadmap doesn't list the DirSync tool, which is used to copy local Active Directory listings to Microsoft's Online Services, as being item subject to cancellation. Microsoft had announced back in December through its blogs that DirSync and Azure AD Sync would eventually get replaced by the Azure Active Directory Connect tool, but that detail is not included as part of the cloud platform roadmap information. The DirSync tool does show up in the Office 365 roadmap, but it's only listed as being "launched" with new password hash sync capabilities.

Microsoft lately has announced some product deprecations through rather obscure support articles. For instance, Microsoft gave notice through support articles that SharePoint Online features such as Notes and Tags, Tasks, and Sync to Outlook features were being dropped, as well as InfoPath Web forms and the Public Website feature. Online Services customers are entitled to get a year's advance notice for any "disruptive" product changes as part of Microsoft's product lifecycle support policy. However, the SharePoint Online product changes listed above seem to have been directly communicated to customers via the Office 365 "Message Center," which is a management portal used by IT pros, as well as via support articles that few might find, rather than by public announcements, blogs or via the Office 365 roadmap.

The Roadmap as "Curated List"
Likely, it would not be practical for Microsoft to list all of its product changes in its roadmap portals, and that's not what it's trying to do. The new cloud platform roadmap turns out to be a "curated list," according to Microsoft parlance, meaning that Microsoft lists what it thinks will be important for its customers. It also leaves out competition-sensitive details from the roadmap listings, too.

Here's how a Microsoft spokesperson described Microsoft's approach with the new cloud platform roadmap:

Items in the canceled tab include product or service updates that are no longer being developed or have been indefinitely delayed. However, The Cloud Platform Roadmap will not be an exhaustive list of all our products and service releases, but a curated list that includes our key investment areas that customers and partners need to be aware of, and product developments in areas that solve previously expressed customer and partner pain points. Also, for competitive business reasons, we may not publish some product and service enhancements on the public roadmap site in advance, but we will update the Cloud Platform Roadmap after the sensitive announcements are made.

Perhaps Microsoft's roadmaps will become more useful in time. With the sheer bulk of Microsoft's Azure cloud computing developments seeming to pour out of Redmond month after month, something will be needed for its customers to keep track of all of the moving parts. However, organizations looking to find a comprehensive listing for changes to Microsoft's Online Services and server products will likely need some other means of keeping track at this point.

For those wanting an alternative overview of Microsoft's product plans, check out the roadmap that gets updated annually at sister 1105 Media publication Redmond Channel Partner. It was recently updated this week to show Microsoft's Windows 10 plans for the year, among many others.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.


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