Azaleos Rolls out Hybrid Exchange E-Mail Services

Company's approach combines Microsoft BPOS and monitored on-premise Exchange.

Azaleos Corp. now offers hosted and installed e-mail solutions based on Microsoft Exchange technologies.

Last month, Seattle-based Gold Certified Partner Azaleos unveiled its ability to provide e-mail services based on Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS). BPOS provides customers with the option of the Exchange Online service, the traditional approach of installing Exchange Server on the customer's premises or using a combination of those two approaches as part of the service.

The company has its own proprietary method of monitoring on-premises servers so that organizations don't have to maintain Exchange Server. The new offering in its entirety is called Azaleos' "managed hybrid services."

A hybrid approach combining on-premises installed Exchange Server and Internet cloud-based Exchange might be taken when organizations face regulatory requirements or other scenarios where that architecture makes sense. It may even be the preferred approach at the enterprise level, although Software as a Service (SaaS) e-mail is still relatively nascent, according to Burton Group analyst Bill Pray.

"The answer for nearly all of the enterprises I've spoken to is to seek a hybrid model of both SaaS and on-premise, where they segment their e-mail needs," Pray says. "Once the vendors solve some the interoperability issues in a hybrid model, enterprises will start outsourcing some of their e-mail services."

Inching Toward the Cloud
Azaleos promises 99.9 percent uptime as part of its service-level agreement. The company operates two network operations centers for 24-7 remote management of Exchange Server, and currently provides its services to companies ranging in size from 250 seats to 25,000 seats.

"The whole concept revolves around putting-or helping the customer to put-a server in the customer's back office," explains Scott Gode, vice president of product management at Azaleos.

Gode says that Azaleos is one of Microsoft's highest-volume partners worldwide for helping customers migrate to BPOS. Customers tend to want to try out cloud-based services slowly to fit their business needs, Gode notes.

"One of the big selling points for our concept is that a lot of companies aren't yet ready to trust the cloud," he says. "They aren't quite yet ready to jump feet-first into a cloud service-whether it's because of security concerns or on-premises data regulations. So we kind of give them a best-of-both-worlds option."

Azaleos' current managed hybrid service offerings are based on Exchange Server 2007. However, the company has been part of the Microsoft Technology Adoption Program on the upcoming Exchange 2010 product and has been providing feedback to Microsoft.

"We've been playing around with [Exchange 2010] for quite some time and are very encouraged by what we see, and are quite excited about the upcoming release later this calendar year," Gode says. "Our plan is that as soon as the BPOS version of Exchange 2010 is available, we'll then rev that service."

The on-premises version of Exchange 2010 may ship somewhat sooner than the online version of Exchange 2010, according to what Gode has heard from Microsoft. He expects to see the beta of the on-premises version of Exchange 2010 appear in the fourth quarter of 2009. The beta of the online version of Exchange 2010 is expected in the fourth quarter of 2009, followed by a ship date sometime in the first half of 2010.

In addition to supporting Exchange, Azaleos offers remotely managed services for Microsoft Active Directory, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server and BlackBerry Enterprise Server.

Pressure on Partners
Relations between Microsoft and its partners are slightly strained over BPOS due largely to Microsoft's ownership of the customer through direct billing. Microsoft recently finished building data centers in Chicago and Dublin to support BPOS and other hostinginitiatives, such as dedicated Exchange hosting and the Azure Service Platform.

"Eventually, these providers [partners] won't be able to compete on price due to the economies of scale that Microsoft can realize," Pray says.

"Which means to continue providing SaaS Microsoft offerings, these partners will have to provide add-on services that Microsoft doesn't [customization, management, relationship, and so on], or find a different business model-or exit the market."

Azaleos already seems to be on track for both the hybrid model that Microsoft encourages partners to pursue and for offering add-ons. The company's managed hybrid service can be ordered with archiving, filtering and disaster-recovery services, among others.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.