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Channeling the Cloud

Microsoft Pushes 'Cloud-First' Approach with SharePoint 2013

Microsoft this month is releasing SharePoint 2013 to volume licensees, a move that sets the stage for partners to accelerate their customers' shift to the cloud.

SharePoint 2013, combined with Office 2013, will test the limits of how far organizations are willing to go to phase out their premises-based software in favor of shifting everyday work to a services-based model.

That's not to suggest that your customers will or should scrap their SharePoint deployments in favor of Office 365 or some other instantiation of the Microsoft collaboration platform that's subscription-based or hosted elsewhere. It's not an either-or proposition. But make no mistake: Microsoft wants your customers to gravitate to the SharePoint Online component of its Office 365 service.

"We really recommend moving to the cloud for the best experience overall," said John Teper, the Microsoft corporate vice president known as the "father of SharePoint," speaking in his opening keynote at the annual SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas last month. "We understand not everyone is there yet. This will take time. People who want to run their own servers, that's great. We have the best server release we've ever done in SharePoint 2013. The thing you should take away from our cloud focus is all we've learned about optimizing the system and deployment and monitoring, we've put into the server product and put into the deployment guidance."

The SharePoint 2013 "Cloud-First" model follows in the footsteps of Microsoft's promise that it will deliver infrastructure software and applications as a cloud service first or simultaneously with the release of the premises-based version of its key products. That came to life with last year's Dynamics CRM/Dynamics CRM Online duo. Now Microsoft is employing the same approach with the latest version of SharePoint Online in the Office 365 service and SharePoint 2013.

One of many distinctive new cloud features in SharePoint 2013 and SharePoint Online is the new SkyDrive Pro, an evolution of the SharePoint Workspace. SkyDrive Pro raises the bar in synchronizing content between SharePoint Sites and workers' various devices. SkyDrive Pro is modeled after the consumer-based SkyDrive service covered in last month's column ("Windows 8 and Office 2013 Bring SkyDrive to the Fore"), except it's built into SharePoint and customers and partners can manage it.

Experts are predicting more-rapid-than-usual uptake for the new release of SharePoint and Office 365, primarily due to the major overhaul of the SharePoint experience, which brings enterprise social networking to the forefront. And that's where Yammer comes in -- the popular social networking company Microsoft just acquired for $1.2 billion. Microsoft announced it's bundling the popular cloud-based enterprise social networking service into SharePoint 2013 and Office 365 in addition to offering it as a standalone product and the company plans further integration.

In the annals of the Microsoft cloud transition, 2010 will be remembered as the year CEO Steve Ballmer proclaimed the company is "all-in." With the revamp of SharePoint and Office, 2013 could be the year we get a better sense of how many Microsoft partners and customers are all-in.

More Analysis by Jeff Schwartz:

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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