Cloud Takes Different Shapes for Two Exchange 2010 Deals

Many organizations are grappling with whether to offload the hosting of their e-mail system to a vendor such as Google or Microsoft, to a third-party-hoster or to go with a premises-based managed services offering. Two enterprises -- both with nearly 20,000 users -- this week said they are taking diverging paths to deploying large Microsoft Exchange 2010-based networks.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it is displacing an underperforming hosted Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 service with a private-cloud deployment of Exchange Server 2010. Simultaneously Microsoft announced that the University of Arizona is going the other route -- it has decided to standardize on Redmond's Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) to provide 18,000 faculty and employees with e-mail and scheduling services.

Neither are blockbuster deals but they underscore the decisions many organizations looking to upgrade their aging e-mail systems are confronting and the different paths they are choosing. "It really is something that has to be taken on a case-by-case basis," said Scott Gode, a vice president at Azaleos Corp., which won a $3.4 million bid to manage the CDC's new Exchange Server 2010 platform over the next year, with an option for another year.

Seattle-based Azaleos offers managed Exchange services in which the e-mail system resides on the customer's premises, while Azaleos manages the messaging platform on behalf of those enterprises. Gode believes the CDC deployment is one of the largest Exchange 2010 deals to date outside those rolled out via Microsoft's Technology Adoption Program (TAP).

"We think it's one of the largest, if not the largest, Exchange 2010 deployments in a private cloud architecture so far," Gode said in an interview. Azaleos will transition the CDC from an Exchange Server 2003 deployment archived by IXOS (recently acquired by enterprise content management vendor Open Text Corp.), according to the request for proposals (RFP).

"The CDC has experienced issues with stability, performance and adaptability with the hosted mail system -- including the IXOS archival platform," the RFP stated. "CDC anticipates the new system to be flexible, expandable, reliable, and provide high-performance metrics."

In addition to Exchange Server 2010, the new platform will consist of the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) and SANs based on EMC storage, which will replace the IXOS archiving platform. Azaleos will provide monitoring and availability services and is expected to provide 99.9 percent uptime, the RFP noted.

"They took a specific strategic decision to bring it in-house to establish their own sort of on-premise cloud," Gode said. "While Microsoft is pushing [with BPOS] to make it more public, in the case of CDC, they're going in a reverse direction in trying to bring it more under control."

By comparison, the University of Arizona determined that controlling an Exchange implementation would be too costly and would take up too many internal resources, said CIO Michele Norin, in an interview. "We were considering standing up our own Exchange environment and decided against that," she said.

The cost of deploying Exchange Server 2010 for its campuses would have exceeded $1 million on top of unspecified annual costs, she said. The BPOS service will cost about $500,000 per year.

The University of Arizona had first considered going with Google Apps -- the platform used by the students -- but when the IT organization compared it with BPOS, the Google platform lacked certain capabilities, such as mobile features allowing employees to delegate their calendars. "BPOS had an advantage," Norin said.

For Microsoft the win is a minor but notable coup as Google Apps continues to gain momentum by partners and customers alike, as reported this month.

Norin said the system was procured through Dell Services, which provides the university's Microsoft Campus Agreement through a state contract.  It will be rolled out in the Fall, she said.


About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.


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