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Why SharePoint 2010 Isn't Cloud Ready

New platform is services capable, but it won't be delivered online until 2011.

It was cloudy (and rainy) today in New York, where Microsoft unveiled Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010. At NBC Studios, where Microsoft's launch event took place on the set of Saturday Night Live, there was scarcely a mention of clouds of any kind -- surprising given Steven Ballmer's vow that Microsoft is "all in" on cloud computing.

Microsoft did highlight its new online Office Web Applications and online co-editing of documents today. But the Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) -- Microsoft's cloud-oriented bundling of Exchange Online and SharePoint Online, never came up. Perhaps that's because SharePoint 2010 won't show up as part of BPOS until later this year. Microsoft says BPOS-D will bow by year end; but that's not hard given that "D" simply means that its conventional Exchange and SharePoint hosted on dedicated hardware. BPOS-S, the true Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offering, will only reach beta by year end, so look toward mid 2011 for broad availability. Competitors have pounced on the differences between Microsoft's on-premise and cloud offerings.

"In releasing SharePoint 2010, Microsoft unveils the contradictions that are built into its attempt to have things both ways: to talk cloud, but ship (eventually) software," wrote Peter Coffee, director, platform research at Salesforce.com, in blog post yesterday. Drawing a contrast with the Force.com cloud application development platform, Coffee warned developers that Microsoft's Azure platform is "only superficially similar to .Net," and he questioned why SharePoint 2010 isn't built on Azure.

At today's event, Kurt DelBene, senior VP of Microsoft's Office Business Productivity Group, countered detractors saying SharePoint 2010 is a true, multi-tenant product. The delays in delivering it through the cloud are a simple matter of rolling the product out within Microsoft's provisioning and online billing systems, he said.

It's clear that Microsoft has heavily reengineered SharePoint 2010, and many of those changes are described as end-user benefits. For example, the monolithic Shared Services management and admin environment in SharePoint 2007 and been replaced in 2010 product with granular service applications that can be delivered and controlled independently. SharePoint 2010 also offers new "user solutions" capabilities to deploy custom code to a single site collection.

These changes are "just as much for Microsoft as they are for customers' benefit because they create a more multi-tenant-friendly SharePoint farm infrastructure," says Shawn Shell, principal of the SharePoint consultancy Consejo and analyst for Real Story Group's SharePoint Watch.

Does that mean SharePoint 2010 is truly multi-tenant ready? No, says Shell. "There are still lots of tasks handled at the server level or the SharePoint Farm level, so they are constrained," Shell insisted.

The bottom, said DelBene, is that customers want to see is identical functionality between the on-premise and online versions of SharePoint 2010, and that's what they'll see when the new BPOS-S is released, he said. Given that there are at least six months before the beta service will be released, that gives Microsoft's engineers plenty of time to make it happen.

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