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Why the University of Arizona Chose BPOS

A Q&A with university CIO Michele Norin.

Six months after the City of Los Angeles gave Microsoft a black eye when it chose Google Apps to replace its Exchange e-mail platform, Microsoft had a victory of its own. The University of Arizona shunned Google Apps, even though it had initially planned to deploy the platform for its faculty.

University of Arizona CIO Michele Norin explains why the University went with Microsoft Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS) instead of Google Apps.

Q. What made you decide to choose BPOS?
A. We had made a decision a little over a year ago to move our student community over to the Google Apps environment, and so we launched an analysis to study whether that might be a suitable solution for our faculty and staff e-mail environment as well. We ended up putting together a group of people to compare the two environments and solution sets -- BPOS and Google Apps -- to help consider or pull some data points or facts around some particular requirements that exist in our faculty and staff's environment that maybe don't exist in our student arena. So there were some unique pieces there that we needed to have looked at, and out of that analysis we concluded that the BPOS solution is going to address our needs.

Q. What were some of the metrics that pushed BPOS over the top compared to Google?
A. Part of it is just the level of integration we wanted to have in our environment. We don't have a very high bar for that, though, I will say, because our current environment is pretty disintegrated, so anything we get there, people are going to love. But we have a pretty complex, diverse environment when it comes to how people interact with e-mail and how people use the calendaring systems. We have external federal regulations that we need to comply with. So among all of those factors, we came away more confident -- at least at the moment -- with what we feel we can get out of the BPOS solution to address those levels of complexity.

 "Google clearly wants to know where they came up short from their perspective."

Michele Norin, CIO, University of Arizona

Q. Do you have Exchange in-house at this point?
A. We have some of our units that have their own Exchange system specific to their college or their departments, so we have a little bit of in-house experience with it, but not at the institutional level.

Q. It sounds like you went into this expecting to go with Google. Were you surprised Google didn't measure up?
A. I don't know that I was surprised. I think that there's definitely an attraction to the Google environment and there are definitely advantages there. It's not like we wouldn't have had an advantage in that space. As we dug into the things that we really needed to make sure we could accomplish, we just came out with a stronger perspective for BPOS.

Q. What were some of those advantages that Google Apps has that BPOS still lacks?
A. I think the notion that at a basic level you can use that environment, where students can use it the way they need to use it. We don't have to do a lot of planning on our side for them to use that environment. We could have taken that approach, where we ship everybody over there and have at it. You can use it as you need to in that arena, but we didn't feel our community would find that totally acceptable. Some do, but we wanted to have a little more structure around it.

Q. I'm sure you're familiar with the City of Los Angeles contract late last year. Did Google use that to try to sway you?
A. It wasn't that competitive. They were here early on. They came in and did some presentations and demos for us, and eventually we had Microsoft come in and do the same thing. But it didn't feel like it was that competitive, necessarily. I think there are questions coming up now. Google clearly wants to know where they came up short from their perspective.

Q. What was Dell's role in this deal?
A. They're the VAR for Microsoft. We used them to secure our Microsoft Campus Agreement licensing agreement program and we'll use them for the BPOS environment as well. [They're] the mechanism to acquire the service.

Q. Did you consider an on-premises solution?
A. Yes we did. We had been looking at that prior to this exercise. We were considering standing up our own Exchange environment and decided against that.

Q. Why?
A. One [reason] is cost, because we'd have to invest a considerable amount up front. The other is, we're looking for opportunities to redirect our folks to other priorities and rely on external expertise, so this just became one of those opportunities.

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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