imageAs a Microsoft Certified Trainer I have had the privileged to meet and work with some fantastic individuals.  I have also been part counselor when I have had folks come to my class worried about jobs, from folks worried about learning Active Directory from other directory services, to folks learning Exchange over Lotus Notes or GroupWise or learning Word over Word Perfect.  Okay maybe not the last one but there was a lot FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) and fear of the unknown when it came to those changes.  Ultimately when you started looking objectively at the technologies there were more similarities than not.  Sure the technologies were different, and you had to learn new ways to accomplish things.  Fundamentally they were still the same concepts.  So now we come to the cloud, and one of the “elephants in the room” around the cloud that same theme.  I am going to lose my job as an IT Pro.  Again me and my peers have seen a ton of FUD on this topic.  Even if you run a bing search on “the cloud will take my job” you will get several articles on the topic.    You will find articles that will outline both sides of this argument, and with similar arguments.  Ultimately, all the articles share one common theme however: Transformation.  The cloud is not only option that could transform your IT environment you will also need to grow and change your skills to adapt to that environment. 

As you can see from the title of my post.  I am on the side the cloud will provide even more opportunity for us IT Pro’s.  In the case of Office 365 I firmly believe this will allow you leverage existing skillsets and even learn more!  Office 365 will free you from chasing server hardware and you will still have plenty to do.  If you are not familiar with Office 365, the offering includes Office Professional Plus 2010, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, and Lync Online.  You can try it here: http://aka.ms/o365trial.  If you read that list and if you asked:

  • What is that <insert technology here>?
  • What about Single Sign on?
  • Wait Office 2010 is a part of Office 365, how does that get deployed?
  • How do you manage permissions?
  • What about backup?

Then you are starting to see the point that Office 365 has a lot of the same daily administration tasks today.  The advantage and difference is we do not have to worry about the hardware and deploy the server applications.  If you think about what Office 365 provides, Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync are already installed and working together.  No need for to get that deployed, within minutes of you setting up Office 365 these technologies are already up and running!  However you still on the hook to manage the environment and deploy the tools.  Here are some of the things you will still need to do, and picture to the right is the administration home page.

imageOffice Professional Plus

  • Deploying Office
  • Deploying the Outlook Social Connector
  • Educate your users on all the new tools including co-authoring
  • Understand how you can work from virtually any place and any device with the Office Web Apps

SharePoint Online

  • Enable business units or workgroups can create team sites to share documents, task lists, and schedules to keep everyone in sync
  • Create project sites using SharePoint Online to automatically track documents, monitor project tasks, and milestones
  • Create sites to communicate business priorities and information to the entire organization
  • Create sites to manage and share information securely with partners and customers 

Exchange Online

With Exchange you will have a ton to manage and is very similar to on-premise servers today.  The environment we can use today is the Microsoft Online Administration Center (MOAC). The web-based interface is easy to use but currently it is fairly limited in terms of administrative power. Exchange 2010 gives you a much richer set of tools to manage and customize your Exchange Online environment.   There are other tools, including the MOAC mentioned below:

  • Microsoft Online Admin Center Exchange 2010 includes a number of new native web-based management features, which are collectively referred to as the “Exchange Control Panel,” which enhance the capabilities of the Microsoft Online Admin Center.
  • Exchange Management Console: For managing an on-premises Exchange Server installation, the tool of choice for administrators has long been the Exchange Management Console. In Exchange 2010, you can use the robust capabilities of this familiar tool to manage your cross-premises Exchange environment.
  • Remote PowerShell: With Exchange 2010, the robust scripting capabilities of PowerShell now extend to the datacenter, allowing you to manage their hosted environment across the Internet.

Lastly you may still want to setup single sign on for your users.

Single Sign On

Today in Microsoft Online Services, users have an Online services identity that is separate from their domain login and password. A sign in application runs in the system tray of each user’s machine, which stores their Online password, so they don’t have to type it in every time. It’s a workable solution that achieves a single-sign-like experience.  You will be able to use Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS), an enterprise-class tool for federating your Active Directory with Microsoft Services. Your employees will be able to access services with their domain credentials, the same way they access the on-premises applications they use today, and there will no longer be a need for a sign-in tool.  With ADFS you can also customize the login page used for authenticating OWA users (the same page is used for other federated web-based applications)

To enable federation with Online Services, you first set up a Windows 2008 or 2008 R2 server and install ADFS as a server role. Then you use a “Federate with Online” tool/wizard to set up a trust between on-premises AD and Online Services. Once that is in place, when users accesses Exchange Online, they are redirected to the local ADFS server for authentication first, and then a SAML token is passed to the cloud service to log the user in. Passwords are not synchronized to the cloud, or stored there.   To learn more about Office 365 federation take a look here: Prepare for single sign-on 

As you can see you will still have plenty to do with Office 365 and there is enough to keep you busy.  The introduction of these management capabilities means that you can move your environment to cloud without giving up control. You can offload task while retaining control over essential management features. You can let the Microsoft datacenter staff manage servers, hardware, and storage, but still retain control over settings and configuration, and rolling out features that are visible to your org.   If you do not believe me, sign up for a free trial here:  http://aka.ms/o365trial and give Office 365 a whirl.

As I mentioned in part 1 we are going to be posting the series across 4 blogs: Brian Lewis, John Weston, Kevin Remde and myself. Let us know what you think of the posts and if you think of topic let us know!

If you happen to miss a part and want to get caught up. You can find all the parts of the series here: The Cloud on Your Terms: 30 Days about the Cloud