Cloud Takes Different Shapes for Two Exchange 2010 Deals

These deployments show that not all cloud migrations are a one-way street.

Many organizations are grappling with whether to offload the hosting of their e-mail system to a vendor such as Google Inc. or Microsoft, use a third-party hoster, or go with a premises-based managed services offering. In late May, two enterprises -- both with nearly 20,000 users -- disclosed how they're taking diverging paths to deploying large Microsoft Exchange 2010-based networks.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it's 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 the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) to provide 18,000 faculty and employees with e-mail and scheduling services.

Neither is a blockbuster deal, but both underscore the decisions many organizations looking to upgrade their aging e-mail systems are confronting -- and the different paths they're choosing.

"It really is something that has to be taken on a case-by-case basis," says Scott Gode, a vice president at Azaleos Corp. Azaleos 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 the Microsoft 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 explains. 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 CDC's request for proposal (RFP).

 "We think it's one of the largest, if not the largest, Exchange 2010 deployments in a private cloud architecture so far."

Scott Gode, Vice President, Azaleos Corp.

"The CDC has experienced issues with stability, performance and adaptability with the hosted mail system -- including the IXOS archival platform," the RFP states. "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 notes.

"They took a specific, strategic decision to bring it in-house to establish their own sort of on-premises cloud," Gode says. "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."

Back to School
By comparison, the University of Arizona determined that controlling an Exchange implementation would be too costly and would take up too many internal resources, says CIO Michele Norin (see "Why the University of Arizona Chose BPOS").

"We were considering standing up our own Exchange environment and decided against that," she explains.

The cost of deploying Exchange Server 2010 for its campuses would have exceeded $1 million on top of unspecified annual costs, Norin says. 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 says.

Norin says 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 adds.

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.