Warren Buffet once said, "In the business world, the rearview mirror is always clearer than the windshield". With this quote, and reflecting on the strong partnership between Microsoft and its service provider partners, Talal Al Qinawy, Industry Director, SaaS Hosting Business, put the headlights on high to illuminate how service providers and Microsoft can partner to deliver productivity and business applications to the cloud at last month's Microsoft Hosting Summit in Bellevue, Washington,.

 

Al Qinawy talked about the consumerization of IT, the idea that the line is becoming blurred between workplace and consumer technology, as more and more businesses incorporate things like facebook and Twitter into their daily business activities, and how this trend is pushing IT departments to think about computing differently , by introducing its, workers to social computing tools at work, such as presence & IM, voice & video, social networking while maintaining IT policies, security, and enforcing compliance and how Microsoft solutions are best positioned to achieve that.. He stressed that Microsoft has big investments as an established leader in enterprise and consumer tools and technologies, and how service provider partners can leverage the great advancements in cloud computing in Office 365, and ways for hosting providers to partner & sell to their customers, or offer these productivity tools as a hosted service to end customers.

 

He also stated that it's not Microsoft's goal to have every partner hosting Microsoft servers or every partner to sell Office 365, however, it is Microsoft goal to offer the end customer a solution that meets the customer's IT and business requirements, sometimes that will be on a Microsoft Office 365 , on-premise , or a partner Cloud , or a mix-and-match...

 

For those who are going to host SaaS applications in their datacenters, he offered the following advice:

  1. Compete on value , not price: It's not just about hosted email anymore. there are thousands of hosted email providers around the world at different price points. Differentiation is key. If you were to offer business class email, Instant messaging & presence, web conferencing , hosted voice, and internet/intranet portals, document management system, your competition is reduced to a handful. Think Hosted Exchange, Lync & SharePoint as a suite.
  2. Scale: without scale , hosting partners will have hard time matching market pricing for the same service. As service providers with tens of thousands of users have the economies of scale advantage to spread the overhead , and cost of goods across their user base and be more profitable. A good rule of thumb is 20,000 users or more. If your business is not built for such scale, establish a partnering agreement with one of our private-label partners.
  3. Build a cloud offering: Create "IT as a Service" by bringing together SaaS, , and IaaS. It's important to offer customers the full spectrum of what they need. Alqinawy indicated that virtual instances will surpass physical instances in 2011, presenting a great opportunity for hosters to become the new OEM.
  4. Differentiate your offering, Talal highlighted some of the scenarios where partners are key players in the SaaS cloud, such industry Compliance , data sovereignty requirements , hosted voice , and hosted private clouds.

 

The commitment of Microsoft to the hosting business is to enable hosting companies to scale, differentiate and capitalize on the opportunity of the private cloud with a full productivity solution leveraging Microsoft technology.  Polish up that rear view mirror.  The cloud offerings from hosters will enable the industry to move so fast, the view in the mirror will be a blur.