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Doug Henschen
Doug Henschen
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Microsoft Claims Big Cloud Customer Gains

BPOS and Live@Edu services rack up seats, but it's tough to pin down totals.

Microsoft announced a baker's dozen customer wins for its cloud computing services on Monday, including several deals involving tens of thousands of seats. The company also released impressive-sounding stats, but good luck piecing them together into a complete picture of cloud progress.

The latest, big-picture stat that Microsoft reports is that 40 million individual customers are now using its cloud-based solutions. The confusion could begin here, as Microsoft offers various ad-supported and otherwise free "cloud" services, including Hotmail, versions of Office Web Apps and Live@edu. But Microsoft assures me the 40-million figure means paid seats using the Business Productivity Online Suite (or BPOS, which includes Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Live Meeting and Office Communications Online services), Forefront Online Protection for Exchange, Exchange Hosted Services, or Dynamics CRM Online.

Monday's announcements were highlighted by four prominent commercial-customer wins:

DuPont is the biggest win. The company will oust an aging Lotus Notes deployment in favor of Web-based e-mail and calendaring for 60,000 employees worldwide. SharePoint-based collaborative capabilities will potentially extend the company's secure extranet to more than 1 million employees of contractors, partners and suppliers.

Sunoco is said to be cutting costs by moving 7,800 employees to BPOS.

Godiva is replacing a Notes deployment that served its 1,400 employees.

Spotless Group, an Australia-based contract management and retail supply chain firm, will move to BPOS to support 37,000 employees and 4,500 contractors across the globe.

All of the above are using BPOS Standard (BPOS-S), which is a classic, cloud-based service priced at $10 per user, per month (though you can assume big customers get volume pricing). There's also BPOS-D, a dedicated deployment of Exchange, SharePoint, Live Meeting and Communications-based services. Some would insist this is just old-school hosting. In any case, this is the version of BPOS the State of Minnesota will use for the big, 33,000-plus-seat deployment announced last week.

Microsoft reported yesterday that it has tripled the number of BPOS customer firms since the beginning of this year, but executives declined to offer any totals -- either from the beginning of the year or as of Monday -- that would give this growth rate contest and meaning.

As part of last week's Minnesota win, execs said Microsoft now has 3.4 million public-sector users, including 400 state and local government customers added over the past 18 months. But, again, that doesn't clear up the number of organizations and individual using BPOS (and, oy, there's another unanswered question if you want to split the customer base between BPOS-S and BPOS-D).

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