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Microsoft Wins Bid To Provide Hosted E-Mail to San Francisco

In the latest public-sector cloud win for Microsoft, the city of San Francisco has chosen to migrate 60 departments and agencies to Microsoft Exchange Online over the next 12 months.

Currently, according to San Francisco CIO Jon Walton, 15,000 of the city's 23,000 employees are using two Lotus Notes systems, with the remaining users spread out across five Exchange servers. The adoption of Exchange Online would consolidate the seven on-premises e-mail systems.

The transition is already underway, with more than 300 employees using the cloud-based e-mail product.

The city has agreed to pay Microsoft $1.2 million a year to provide e-mail service to its employees. Walton said the fee represents a significant savings, which has helped the city's Department of Technology reach its 20 percent budget reduction target.

"There is some inherent cost in support, hardware, software and infrastructure to run multiple e-mail systems," Walton said.

In addition, the move to Exchange Online leapfrogs the city to a newer version of the technology, Walton said. Pushing e-mail to the cloud also boosts availability in the event of a disaster.

"It creates a disaster-resilient solution," Walton said, noting that e-mail messages and data would be protected in the event of a disaster in San Francisco.

However, cloud computing is subject to mishaps. Late last month, Amazon Web Services suffered a much-publicized multiple-day outage that resulted in some customers' data being lost. VMware followed suit when its newly launched Cloud Foundry offering experienced some downtime. And last week, customers of Microsoft's BPOS cloud service, which includes hosted e-mail, experienced an outage. Walton said he worked through the issue with Microsoft, which is providing service credits to the city in light of the outage.

Walton said the city considered three solutions for its e-mail upgrade: Google, Lotus Notes and Microsoft's offering. Walton said Exchange Online fit well with the city's IT strategy. He pointed out that San Francisco already uses such Microsoft products such as Office and SharePoint. The city also deploys applications on Microsoft's Azure cloud platform.

"We really see it as the best fit for where we are going over the next five years," Walton said of the Microsoft e-mail cloud.

Over time, San Francisco may bring additional applications to the cloud. Other elements of Microsoft's BPOS suite include SharePoint and Office Live Meeting for Web and video conferencing. Walton said the city's initial contract with Microsoft covers e-mail and archiving services, but he added that expansion from that core system may occur. The options include SharePoint, instant messaging, and video conferencing, he said.

About the Author

John Moore is a freelance writer based in Syracuse, N.Y.

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Reader Comments

Tue, Nov 22, 2011 Tuft San Francisco

The above about City of SF going to bpos is interesting. Interesting in that the long term cost and positive fluff about bpos was all to paint the pretty picture. From someone on the inside, the picture is not that pretty and the costs are so much higher than the $6.50 per month per user as reported. This is just another int he long line of public CIO's wasting millions of tax dollars for their own gain and not in the best interest of the City they work for. Mr. Jon Walton is wasting millions of dollars on a sub-par product that does not serve the needs of its users and not in the best interest of the City when public services to health, schools and parks are being but due to budget deficits. Under Mr Walton's leadership SF's Department of Technology is not only wasting millions of tax dollars on this project but also adding yet another email systems to the current infrastructure. To date, since January 2011 there have only been about 1200 of the 23,000 email user in S F county. There has not been one clean seamless or painless cut over. The cost per user per month is closer to $9.00 and this cost does not include the cost of additional long and short term assets including; project managers, hardware, and contractors to support the increased level of user support calls. The 'cloud' is suppose to reduce TCO costs, but that is not what the reality is. In fact the cost has gone way up and will actually more than double the current cost of the existing messaging infrastructure. Mr Walton and the Department of Technology also have no plan to completely move all user to the BPOS solution since it does not meet the security needs of the Public Safety and health departments. In the end there will be an additional messaging systems added to the already complex infrastructure. Along with the additional email systems there is additional cost to support it. SF's e-mail costs with the addition of BPOS will skyrocket from the pre BPOS costs of $1.2 million a year to the almost $3 million per year. Regards

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