What's on the mind of the IT admin these days? If the talk around me at the Connections conference here in Orlando is any indication, one big topic is Microsoft Office 365, mingled with the fear of being out of work -- especially if you're an Exchange admin.
The next generation of Microsoft's BPOS (Business Productivity Online Standard) hosted application services, Office 365 is a combination of Office Professional Plus, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, and Lync Online. Notice, if you visit the Office 365 website, that there are no version numbers attached. This is because Microsoft wants you to think of released features, not versions. However, for those of us in the know, you're looking at the 2010 flavors of each solution. Further, Microsoft backs these services with a 99.9 percent uptime SLA, geo-redundant data centers, and a variety of management tools, including Microsoft Online service, the Exchange Management Console (in hybrid environments), Exchange Management Shell, and Exchange Control Panel.
[ Also on InfoWorld.com: J. Peter Bruzzese has good news for admins: They can expect huge improvements in Office 365. | Follow the latest Windows developments in InfoWorld's Technology: Microsoft newsletter. ]
What's there to fear? Office 365 bundles a significant subset of the Exchange 2010, SharePoint 2010, and Lync 2010 feature sets into a package that's dramatically simpler to manage. A long-term Exchange admin recently told me that his company's move to BPOS put him out of a job. You can see how an easy-to-use solution that removes the infrastructure concerns, the clustering worries, and all the other time-consuming aspects of Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync might put some folks on edge about their role in the new environment.
In fact, Adam "Bomb" Carter presented an entire session on the subject. After hearing him go on about the many incredible features that Office 365 has to offer, all ready to be turned on at the flip of a switch, I came away feeling that his answer to the question of whether Office 365 will cost us jobs would most certainly be yes. I'll tell you what he actually said at the end of this article.
The idea that moving your Exchange mailboxes to the cloud will lead to the removal of an on-premises Exchange admin is not without foundation. I've seen it firsthand -- a company that had been running Exchange through SBS no longer needed to rely on its Exchange admin once it went to BPOS. Practically anybody can add new users. If Microsoft will be handling the backup, recovery, high availability, deployment, and more, is it time for Exchange admins to pack their bags and think about another career?