3 out of 5 – not bad at all!

Yup – this is the conclusion and finalization of a series of articles on the path Microsoft took to attach its own hosting channel. Let me just summarise:

Many years ago, in countries not far away from here, Microsoft helped and pushed a segment of its technical partners into what was to be known as “hosting partners”. Business models evolved and as ASP’s become SaaS providers, the hosting providers became service providers (although not many offers a service…). Business grew, new ventures was funded and the market for the hosting providers was not about competition, but harvesting the green fields of customers in need for outsourced services and “IT on tap”, untill…

1 of 5 – Microsoft to deliver Online Services
“Dear partners, to help grow the opportunities and market of hosted services, Microsoft is launching a commoditized solution for Online Exchange, Sharepoint, CRM and Unified Communications”. Microsoft’s field rushed towards their partner channel to calm them down as the message was: “There is plenty of room for us all, and we will help you combine Online Services with ISV based service”. Great! Online Services is just a part of the solution, we can still grow margins on secondary offerings.

2 of 5 – Microsoft to launch Azure!
“Dear partners, Microsoft is launching Azure to help of the next generation of ISV’s built Facebook-a-like applications; we wish to target ISV’s”. Well, didn’t you just tell us to target ISV as this was our opportunity to compete against BPOS? The message was changed. But rest a sure – a solution was to the channel conflict was launched. “Partners! Built dynamic data centers as this will help run business applications and legacy applications, that doesn’t fit with Azure. Virtualization is at its peak – this is a great opportunity and ERP applications form Microsoft will never live in the cloud”.

3 of 4 – Azure VM Role
“Partners, we have listen to customer demand, and customers want’s VM type environments to bridge the gap between now and the future of ho sting platforms.”. This time partners didn’t ask for a solution. Three strikes and you usually are out! But wait a minute! Corporate managers just recently announced that Dynamics ERP products is not to fit with the Azure and Cloud based business model. So maybe, we have a opportunity to drive these products in our costly datacenters? A new business opportunity…

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Enterprise Social Networking

So you probably know that I have a WordPress blog. But additional I also

So, while we categorise many of these solutions as social networking tools, there are huge difference between the popularity of these, and how corporate and enterprise companies adopt and incorporate Social Networking as a core part of the business DNA. In the late 90’ies and beginning of 2000 we had a lot of demand in internal intranets, as companies understood the value. I see that enterprise social networking is an extension to those corporate intranets.

We now extend the internal barriers to encapsulate information from twits, feeds and external data sources – which again give corporates another challenge to understand and control information workflow and source of information. I guess many HR directors and CEOs would mind having a Twit feed from a competing company showing possible job positions? So before social networking can be implemented as a core part of the enterprise, we have to establish and understand how policies, control and disclosure can be handled. But the question may be – “is social networking a private ownership, or a corporate ownership?” CAN enterprise companies demand control?

I believe strongly in social networking as a tool to help sales prospect better, HR to understand skills and personal strengths and connections, to help back office employees share and grow their knowledge and personal skill in sharing their “wins” on different blogs; to get the recognition of their big efforts, many managers and chiefs miss to acknowledge as part of their daily management.

Enterprise social networking often start with the company directory, but should extend to be profiles that employees control themselves, shared among profiles from partners, customers and vendors of that corporate. We still haven’t seen a great social networking tool to help business incorporate and share common teams and groups. The team based and personal information sharing, built bonds beyond the borders of the corporate, and knowing personal attributes is often a driver to help unified teams perform even better.

There is a big business opportunity here!

Identity is the tipping point for the Cloud

I said it many times, but identity is more a pain to corporate CIOs than ownership of data. Managing hundreds of user accounts, and serving requests to these accounts are often a major challenge. Not only does the cloud build new barriers for control, but the lack of interoperability between on-premise user stores (Active Directory as an example) and remote user stores – is what will become the tipping point for success in the cloud.

But rest not more – ADFS 2.0 or let’s use the official Microsoft name, Windows Identity Foundation is now launched, and bridging the gap. ADFS/WIF is running identities as claims between your cloud software and your on-premise user database. The system is both a server, a client and a set of SDK/APIs for developers to encompass into their solution. Identity belongs on the premises of the company; not in the cloud!

So are we at the tipping point?
No. Reality is that programmers and developers are lacy (whether you are Microsoft, medium-sized or a small ISV). Before programmers have integrated WIF/ADFS we will still see a lot of applications having a hard time to reach enterprise market. But if you are an ISV or programmer, my lesson is simple: START INTEGRATING NOW. Many hosters does not understand the value – there is a substantial differentiation in the power of WIF/AFDS, a looking at Microsoft Online Services and Azure as the first applications to support WIF/ADFS, we can wonder why no one else follows.

But who supports it?
Actually Microsoft Dynamics CRM 5.0 will be one of the first applications together with Sharepoint 2010 to support ADFS 2.0 federation and WIF. Single sign-on here I come – finally 😉 Now we only need Active Directory as a service, as many SOHO companies does not benefit form an internal server; but benefit from a corporate domains type structure with group policies and domain membership. Who knows; maybe someone developers a small proxy layer to support this foundation.