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SharePoint Shops Eying Windows Azure as Office 365 Alternative

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A vast majority of Redmond magazine readers are holding off on moving their SharePoint infrastructures to the cloud and the small portion that are typically opt for Office 365. However a growing number of those planning on running SharePoint in the cloud are looking at Windows Azure at the expense of Office 365.

To be sure, even the majority of those planning to move to SharePoint in the cloud are leaning toward Office 365. But an online survey of nearly 500 readers last week showed a surprising and interesting trend: While 66 percent of current SharePoint online users have Office 365 subscriptions (compared with 14 percent using Windows Azure and 15 percent using other cloud providers), of those planning to run SharePoint in the cloud in the future, 55 percent will opt for Office 365 and nearly 29 percent will use Windows Azure.

That points to a segment of SharePoint shops that are turned off by the lack of code portability from older versions of SharePoint. By standing up their own SharePoint servers in Windows Azure, they get the benefit of running their custom or shrink-wrapped apps in the cloud.

"People don't do customization of SharePoint Online using the old method because the product limits what they can do," explained Forrester analyst John Rymer, who, along with colleague Rob Koplowitz, released a study late last month of their own enterprise customer reluctance to move SharePoint to the cloud. "Integration, for example, is pretty limited, and Microsoft will not accept 'just any random code' and the rules indistinct."

Most SharePoint experts I talk to agree with this but whether or not Office 365 is a real deal-breaker depends on the customer's application and overall requirements. "If you want to use all of the content management capabilities, deeper integration into other line of  business systems, those are the kinds of customers that will continue to run SharePoint either in their own servers or Windows Azure," said Adriaan Van Wyk, CEO of K2, a provider of a SharePoint workflow app for Office 365 that uses Windows Azure.

When I shared the data with Forrester's Koplowitz, he was intrigued by the number of respondents who are looking to run SharePoint in Windows Azure. "That's a real interesting data point," he said.

For now, only 15 percent of respondents to Forrester's August survey said they were using Office 365 SharePoint Online, up just 3 percent over last year, prior to the release of the enhanced service. That's relatively consistent with our survey, which shows just 17 percent of our readers are running SharePoint in any cloud service.

While smaller organizations are the most obvious candidates to go to SharePoint Online Office 365, especially if they don't have a collaboration solution, larger shops have more complicated decisions to make. Whether or not larger shops are using Office 365, Windows Azure or third-party infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) or managed services providers (or any combination of those), the largest trend is toward hybrid implementations where they are adding capacity to existing SharePoint infrastructure incrementally.

"We're probably seeing 80 percent of our customers go hybrid cloud in some way, maybe for example moving My Sites and some of their extranets to the cloud, and keeping their line of business integration on premise for now," said Ben Curry, managing partner at Summit 7 Systems. Curry and a number of other SharePoint MVPs will be sharing their views on this in two weeks at the SharePoint Live! conference in Orlando, Fla., which, like Redmond magazine, is produced by 1105 Media's Enterprise Computing Group.

Are you among the growing number of SharePoint shops looking at Windows Azure (or other IaaS providers) to make your foray into the cloud? Or do you find SharePoint Online Office 365 more appealing?


Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 11/04/2013 at 3:34 PM


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