With Microsoft’s 2014 fiscal year now behind us, it should come as no surprise that Office 365 was their main focus in 2014. Even the release of SQL 2014 and the new licensing implications were shadowed by driving adoption of Office 365. In years past, Microsoft focused its discounts on early commitments and renewals, but in 2014 the incentives from Microsoft were dependent upon transitioning users to the cloud.
The majority of deals our Licensing Specialists worked through included Office 365 – whether for the technology or simply the licensing mechanism to solicit discounting. Mid-way through its fiscal year, Microsoft decided to reduce the cost of O365 user licenses by 15%. This accelerated the adoption rate, especially when coupled with the Fast Track Deployment promotion. The Fast Track offered up to $20,000 in deployment funding to have Solutions Integrators assist with your activation and migration of users to one or all of the cloud hosted technologies.
Where will the incentives come from in 2015 to continue the momentum to the cloud licensing model? Fast track officially ended June 30, 2014 and from what we are hearing, the previous 15% discount on O365 will most likely be going away soon. This is unfortunate, since the discount really did assist with the broader adoption of Office 365.
Here is what I expect Microsoft to heavily focus on in FY15:
1. Enterprise Mobility Suite: May 1, 2014, Microsoft introduced Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS for short), a new product suite which provides users access to all of their information regardless of where they are or what device they are using. The working world is truly mobile, and with consistent developments in the cloud, organizations face challenges managing the diverse group of devices each user has while ensuring their network is protected. By combining Windows Azure Active Directory, Azure Rights Management Services, and Windows Intune Mobile Device Management, the EMS Suite was designed to combat all of those concerns with one vendor and one single user based subscription license. Here’s how it all works:
- Windows Azure Active Directory (WAAD): In order to manage access to corporate assets, organizations need to have a healthy Active Directory. With all of the cloud applications and components, Azure Active Directory extends the same coverage as on-premises AD to the cloud. Simplifying with a single sign on (SSO), the user experience will be seamless from whichever device they are working from.
- Azure Rights Management Services (Azure RMS): By utilizing Information Rights Management (IRM) and Office 365 Message Encryption, Azure RMS builds on top of WAAD to protect organizations through a cloud-based solution. Administrators of RMS are able to apply different IRM options to email, set permissions for SharePoint, Exchange, and Office and encrypt emails to anyone regardless of which mail service the intended recipient has.
- Intune Mobile Device Management: Windows Intune MDM covers the compliance concerns by allowing organizations to create policies and device settings through a simplified portal. Whether you are completely deployed in the cloud, or connected to an on-premises SCCM Server, Intune offers an approach to cover both ends of the spectrum.
2. Continued Momentum for Windows Azure: Windows Azure will continue to be a main focus for Microsoft. As they continue to create more applications and products to help manage and use the robust platform, we will see the attach rate increase similarly to Office 365. Azure can be everything you want it to be and more – it is your datacenter hosted on Microsoft’s hardware.
3. Azure RemoteApp helps employees stay productive anywhere, and on a variety of devices. Your company’s applications run on Windows Server in the Azure cloud, where they’re easier to scale and update. Employees install Microsoft Remote Desktop clients on their Internet-connected laptop, tablet, or phone and can then access applications as if they were running locally.
Azure RemoteApp is a cost-effective solution for a fluctuating workforce or for fast-changing business requirements. Quickly ramp up and provide seasonal workers, vendors, or large groups of new employees’ access to company applications without paying for new servers and expensive on-premise infrastructure—then scale down again when business needs change. Applications are never sent to or stored on employee devices, but are centralized on the same trusted platform used by governments, financial services companies, and other large organizations dealing with sensitive information.
4. Azure Site Recovery (preview): Although still in preview, Windows Azure Site Recovery should be released at any time and is designed to eliminate the need to have a secondary datacenter just for backup and recovery. Azure Site Recovery will replicate your on-premises private clouds to another private cloud or into the Azure datacenter through automated policies. Through the automated policies and System Center Virtual Machine Manager, any expected or unexpected outage of your servers or VMs can be covered through the replicated VM in Azure.
5. Azure Machine Learning (preview): To plan for future projects and developments, one must always look to the past to analyze the predeceasing data. With Azure Machine Learning, your historical data will be coupled by modeling and analytics to help predict future behavior and trends. This cloud based service will utilize built-in visual workflows and templates saving months of your time to convert your data into useable predictive analytics to help plan for future projects
Beyond the technologies themselves, the importance of these products will result in funding opportunities for deployment and adoption from Microsoft. If you are approaching a renewal or in the midst of evaluating a new agreement, you can count on several discussions about how EMS and Azure can enhance your organization’s environment.