This case study is from TJ Keitt's and my social business playbook report, “The Road To Social Business Starts With A Burning Platform.” A social business uses technology to work efficiently using a common collaboration platform -- without being constrained by server availability or storage capacity. Here’s the story.
If you've already consolidated dozens of email systems from every vendor and era onto a single managed instance of Exchange 2007, made the shift to support 70 or more state agencies by operating as an ISP, and crunched 20 SharePoint instances down to a single scalable data center, what else is there to do? After all, you've already achieved a high state of IT operational efficiency and process optimization.
If you are Ed Valencia, CTO and Deputy Commissioner, and Tarek Tomes, Customer and Service Management, Assistant Commissioner, the State of Minnesota’s IT department (MN.IT), you step back and ask, “Has what we’ve done really helped the business communicate and collaborate efficiently and effectively?” They knew they could do more by moving their collaboration workloads into the cloud.
So they took a gamble that Microsoft's Office 365 Dedicated offering was ready for the State of Minnesota. Office 365 Dedicated has opened new doors for people throughout the State of Minnesota government. Agencies can collaborate with one another because the common collaboration platform integrates the disparate directories of the different government entities. For example, the Governor can send a message to every agency in the executive branch through this common platform.
In another token that the movement toward converged infrastructures and vertically integrated solutions is becoming ever more mainstream, HP and Microsoft recently announced a line of specialized appliances that combine integrated hardware, software and pre-packaged software targeting Exchange email, business analytics with Microsoft SharePoint and PowerPivot, and data warehousing with SQL Server. The offerings include:
HP E5000 Messaging System – Microsoft Exchange mailboxes in standard sizes of 500 – 3000 mailboxes. This product incorporates a pair of servers derived from HP's blade family in a new 3U rack enclosure plus storage and Microsoft Exchange software. The product is installed as a turnkey system from HP.
HP Business Decision Appliance – Integrated servers and SQL Server PowerPivot software targeting analytics in midmarket and enterprise groups, tuned for 80 concurrent users. This offering is based on standard HP rack servers and integrated Microsoft software.
HP Enterprise Data Warehouse Appliance – Intended to compete with Oracle Exadata, at least for data warehouse applications, this is targeted at enterprise data warehouses in the 100s of Terabyte range. Like Exadata, it is a massive stack of integrated servers and software, including 13 HP rack servers, 10 of their MSA storage units and integrated Ethernet, Infiniband and FC networking, along with Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Parallel Data Warehouse software.
The General Services Administration made a bold decision to move its email and collaboration systems to the cloud. In the RFP issued last June, it was easy to see their goals in the statement of objectives:
This Statement of Objectives (SOO) describes the goals that GSA expects to achieve with regard to the
1. modernization of its e-mail system;
2. provision of an effective collaborative working environment;
3. reduction of the government’s in-house system maintenance burden by providing related business, technical, and management functions; and
4. application of appropriate security and privacy safeguards.
GSA announced yesterday that they choose Google Apps for email and collaboration and Unisys as the implementation partner.
So what does this mean?
What it means (WIM) #1: GSA employees will be using a next-generation information workplace. And that means mobile, device-agnostic, and location-agile. Gmail on an iPad? No problem. Email from a home computer? Yep. For GSA and for every other agency and most companies, it's important to give employees the tools to be productive and engage from every location on every device. "Work becomes a thing you do and not a place you go." [Thanks to Earl Newsome of Estee Lauder for that quote.]
Facebook made yet another big announcement today. The company introduced a new communications systems aimed at enhancing digital dialogue between friends and family. It isn't yet live, but you can request to be an early user of the new system here. To get a sense of what Facebook's new messaging platform is about, check out its official 4-minute video at the end of this blog post.
Since it involves a new Facebook.com email address, some people shrugged the new functionality off as a weak email tool. They're right — but that's like complaining an apple makes a poor orange. The new platform is a poor email client because it isn't intended to be an email client. Instead, this is a new form of communications; as Mark Zuckerberg said (more than once) "This isn't email," and he's right. Here's why it's worth paying attention to the new Facebook messaging platform:
It's a Gmail wounder. There's been a lot of buzz about Facebook's messaging platform being a "Gmail killer." It isn't, but it's certainly going to wound Gmail and other popular email clients. With the combination of individuals’ social graphs and Facebook’s new functionality, Facebook will succeed at pulling away some time and attention from Gmail, but it won't kill Gmail or other email clients. Facebook isn’t interested in being a management or response tool for your flood of bills, email newsletters or other communications; instead, it’s about facilitating and enhancing your personal relationships. Facebook wants to be the platform for personal communications and leave the boring stuff to Gmail and others.
VMWare has got it down: Sell a virtualization solution with anchor applications (and seats) that no service provider can live without, starting with email. This is the call we made when VMWare bought open source email and collaboration provider Zimbra from Yahoo! last February. And now they've delivered with the upgraded Zimbra Collaboration Suite Appliance 6.0 targeted at service providers and other virtual cloud hosters. What it means:
What it means #1. VMWare is solidly in the market to provision service providers with email. Service providers that want to resell Google or Microsoft's email have the benefit of low capital costs and rapid deployment. But service providers that don't want to resell another vendors' cloud services need a solution that runs at low cost on cheap servers with easy peasy provisioning. That's what the Zimbra collaboration appliance promises. Will it deliver? Love to hear from service providers on this one.
What it means #2. VMWare drives another nail into the coffin of on-premises business email. At $5/mailbox/month for cloud email, if you take away client software and mailbox administration costs, our analysis shows that it costs twice as much to host a mailbox yourself than to host it in the cloud. This offering gives service providers around the world the opportunity to compete at that price. So who would use on-premises email? Only someone with stringent requirements, massive scale, or a recent upgrade. Even the federal government is moving to cloud-based email as GSA has announced.
Zimbra has been the sleeper cloud-based email provider for the enterprise. I've known about the Bechtel deal -- roughly 50,000 seats globally -- for some time, but couldn't talk about it. Though it's been a while since I've spoken to Ramesh May, he did share some important facts with me:
1. Zimbra's code base is open source, with a 20,000 active members in the community. The Zimbra code base runs on Linux. It can be downloaded to run on-premises and it also is the foundation of Zimbra's cloud email service.
2. Yahoo! Zimbra was selling an email seat for $28/mailbox/year for 50+ seats. We'll be interested to see how the pricing changes.
3. The company was working with the community on adding instant messaging, expanding widgets, and building an offline email client. We also saw some interesting mashup and document viewing features.
4. Back in April, the company had 130 employees, 600+ .edu customers, 44M mailboxes, and 60,000 customers.
So why hasn't Zimbra been bigger on the national stage selling its hosted (80% of seats) and on-premises (20% of seats) email and calendaring solution? Two reasons.
First, Yahoo! did not build a direct sales force that way Google and every other enterprise email provider did.
Second, because a lot of these seats are sold through service providers. Comcast and NTT Communications have been selling Zimbra seats. You may be running Zimbra and not even know it.
So now it becomes clearer why VMWare bought this massively successful email provider.