When you hear the words “end user computing”, what do you think of? If you’re in infrastructure & operations (I&O), you might think about the corporate standard laptop or desktop you’ve just selected that over the next couple of years you’ll provision to most of your employees. Or your corporate standard OS image that you stamp on those systems; locked-down, loaded with the management & security agents and corporate apps you think those employees need. Or perhaps even the corporate standard smartphone that you’ve handed out to the employees who needed mobile email access. You might think of these things because they all help I&O organizations deliver and support technology for employees more efficiently. These techniques help you address the historical “ask” from your colleagues outside of IT: “Give us technology while absolutely minimizing the impact you have on our bottom line”
Microsoft is in a very critical period with their fiscal year ending this week, as my colleague Duncan Jones recently wrote. But today, Steve Ballmer is announcing one of Microsoft’s most important products in the company’s history – Office 365. Sound like an embellishment? It’s not – and it’s because Office 365’s release is not just the launch of a new technical solution for customers, but also a change in the relationship with their customers. Microsoft’s Office 365 is the single biggest change to the Microsoft customer relationship since the introduction of Software Assurance and the modern Enterprise Agreement in 2001.
For those that are blissfully unaware of Microsoft licensing, Software Assurance is Microsoft’s software maintenance relationship with customers and represents a large part of Microsoft’s predictable annual income. I wrote earlier about how cloud services like Windows Intune change the nature of this relationship – from one based on rights to upgrades and later releases of software, which for some customers had questionable predictable value – to one where a customer sees more predictable value by delivering benefits and services that truly offset internal costs. We know that we sink large sums of time and money into running email and collaboration services ourselves. Microsoft takes on far more responsibility and Office 365 exemplifies that motion. Cloud services solve Microsoft’s greatest challenge, building an annuity relationship with a customer that will be less risky to continue to deliver.
Companies of all industries and sizes are considering, planning for, and implementing cloud-based solutions in their infrastructure. One of the first questions that comes up is: “Where do we start?” Email is one — if not the first — significant resource that is cited. Why? It’s a relatively discrete piece of infrastructure where many companies can realize typical cloud benefits like upfront infrastructure cost avoidance, an easier route to being on the latest platform, and the opportunity to offload responsibility to a domain specialist. And then there’s ongoing operational costs: Infrastructure and operations pros, along with their business peers, look at what it costs to run email themselves and compare that with the cost of the provider and struggle to see how they can match provider economics.
Another question that often comes up is: “How real is this trend?” When was the last time you saw vendors like Microsoft, IBM, Google, AT&T, Verizon, Cisco, and Oracle sink billions into the same market? Organizations large and small, like GlaxoSmithKline, Manpower, Panasonic, the US General Services Administration, and a host of others, have made moves to the cloud. That’s a lot of major players and customers, and that’s a good indicator that this isn’t a fad.
Infrastructure & operations executives have shown a tremendous interest in looking for opportunities to take advantage of the cloud to provision email and collaboration services to their employees – in fact in a recent Forrester survey, nearly half of IT execs report that they either are interested in or plan on making a move to the cloud for email. Why? It can be more cost effective, increase your flexibility, and help control the historical business and technical challenges of deploying these tools yourself.
To date, we’ve talked about four core players in the market : Cisco, Google, IBM, and Microsoft. According to a recent blog post, Cisco has chosen to no longer invest in Cisco Mail. Cisco Mail was formerly known as WebEx Mail – and before that, the email platform was the property of PostPath, which Cisco acquired in 2008 with the intention of providing a more complete collaboration stack alongside its successful WebEx services and voice. I've gathered feedback and worked with my colleagues Ted Schadler, TJ Keitt, and Art Schoeller to synthesize and discuss what this means to Infrastructure & Operations pros and coordinating with their Content & Collaboration colleagues.
So what happened and what does it mean for I&O professionals? Here’s our take:
According to press releases here and here, Attachmate is acquiring Novell in a US $2.2 billion transaction. As an infrastructure and operations or security professional with investments in either company, when you see a headline like this, you'll wonder, "What does that mean to me?" Understanding the implications of acquisitions is a task that's getting harder and harder, particularly when the two players each have broad product portfolios with some overlap. I've gathered feedback and worked with my colleagues Eveline Oehrlich, Jean-Pierre Garbani, John Kindervag, Glenn O’Donnell, Jonathan Penn, and Galen Schreck to synthesize and discuss what this means to customers. Here's our take:
First, Novell brings with it about $1 billion in cash, so the net purchase price is roughly $1.2 billion, not $2.2 billion. Combine that with the ~$450 million from CPTN Holdings LLC, a consortium of tech companies organized by Microsoft, and there's far fewer actual dollars in play than it appears. Attachmate states that it intends to keep Novell and SUSE as two separate operating units. Forrester believes that in the long term, SUSE might be attractive to a number of vendors. IBM and HP are likely suitors, but we wouldn't rule out a dark horse like Cisco or Oracle. For more on this, check out Rich Fichera's blog post.
With Microsoft's fiscal year end coming to a close today, I wanted to spend some time focusing on future licensing direction. Windows Intune is a significant offering from Microsoft that blends cloud-based management, on-premises tools from the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP), and Windows – as a subscription service. Let’s put Intune aside for a moment.
Like all software vendors, Microsoft is keen on pulling customers into an annuity relationship for their offerings – a dependable revenue stream that isn’t as vulnerable to things like economic downturns or anything that might delay a purchase. When Microsoft first introduced the Software Assurance (SA) program, it was primarily just upgrade rights – while a license was covered under SA, you had rights to deploy any new versions that came out during that time. Over the years Microsoft has refined the program, adding different benefits to incent customers into the program – but the primary focus of value has remained upgrade rights. Unlike other vendors, Microsoft included security patches and updates as part of a license, so their “software maintenance” program has always been something a little different.
Last week I recorded a podcast on what has recently become a very hot IT research topic at Forrester right now — Microsoft licensing. June 2010 signifies an extremely active and very hectic month for a large number of businesses because it's not only the last month of Microsoft’s fiscal year but also the last month for a large portion of Microsoft's three-year contracts.
The reason for this pileup of Microsoft licensing activity partially stems back to 2000: Microsoft refreshed their volume licensing program and introduced Software Assurance. Microsoft Enterprise Agreements are typically for three years. Facing the initial June deadline in 2001, many businesses switched over to this offering and since then, every three years their licensing agreements need to be reassessed and renegotiated. Now fast forward nine years to June 2010 and factor in several significant new products releases — and here we are again witnessing what is truly the perfect storm of activity, discussion, and negotiation for businesses and their Microsoft licensing, decision-making personnel.
As you might expect, we receive an ever-increasing number of inquiries related to this subject as we continue to get closer to the aforementioned June 30th deadline. Clients bring a range of questions like whether or not they should renew their enterprise agreement (EA), if Software Assurance holds enough value to justify the commitment, or what IT upgrades and migrations impact their decisions. My first response to these questions is. . . there is no easy answer. Each company has their own set of requirements, cost limitations, and future strategic plans that affect which decision is right for them.
Whether or not to sign or renew an Enterprise Agreement with Microsoft is a sticky question that many organizations face. For many companies out there, their spend on Microsoft licensing can be a significant portion of a company's IT budget, whether it be Enterprise Agreements or Select License agreements. Some of you may be directly responsible for the negotiation of the agreement, but many more of you work with your sourcing professionals who negotiate the agreements with Microsoft or resellers. The increasing complexity around Microsoft licensing decisions require more heads at the table. For Infrastructure and Operations pros, your voice is critical in the decision process. Certainly, your current state of Microsoft products and your future rollouts over the life of the agreement (and beyond) play a role, but there are other factors to consider. Some of the other key questions you’ll face include: