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November 28, 2005

Microsoft pumps up software-as-a-service strategy

Having belatedly committed itself to a software-as-a-service future, Microsoft Corp is trying to make up for lost time with a small stream of related announcements covering partners and additional services.

By CBR Staff Writer

With no hosting infrastructure of its own, Microsoft is turning to its partner network though the launch of the Microsoft Hosting Program under which members can download tools and resources for free, to help with the deployment and management of Microsoft products.

Partners can download the Microsoft Solution for Windows-based Hosting and Microsoft Solution for Hosted Messaging and Collaboration solutions.

Both use products from Microsoft Windows Server System integrated server software range, and include tools and scripts to help with hosted deployment. Organizations that take part in the program can take advantage of the new Services Provider License Agreement, which provides for subscription-based licensing.

Some existing Microsoft partners, such as Aspective, have offered Microsoft applications including Microsoft CRM on a hosted basis but have had to create their own deployment and management methodologies.

They have also had to charge their clients for the license cost of the application plus the hosting service, which resulted in an expensive offering when compared with the likes of Salesforce.com or NetSuite Inc.

The Hosting program complements the recent Hosting Solutions Specialization option within the Microsoft Partner Program, which extended the normal criteria used for ensuring quality among Partners to those partners with a hosted service. Hosting partners need to meet certain certification, sales, and customer-reference requirements to become eligible for the Microsoft Partner Program.

On the application front, the company has also started fleshing out its Live plans with the announcement of Windows Live Custom Domains, which will enable hosted email and instant messaging for organizations that already own their own domain names.

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Microsoft had promised hosted email and instant messaging as part of the previously announced Office Live proposal but it was restricted in scope because it included a domain name, which would render it in appropriate for many SMBs.

The new project aims to provide support for up to 20 mail accounts with an inbox capacity of 250Mb each, SmartScreen spam protection, virus scanning and cleansing, and support for MSN Messenger and MSN Spaces.

Other beta projects include Windows Live Mail, Live Messenger, and Live Search, as well as the OneCare security service which is due to go into the public domain for beta testing in December.

Further out, and outside the Live arena at the moment, there are development plans for a technology currently known as Simple Sharing Extensions that will try to provide group calendaring across disparate applications. SSE is reported to be based on RSS technology but supports bi-directional operation. According to CTO Ray Ozzie, SSE could be built into calendar applications enabling users to swap information when it is updated.

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