BARCELONA, Spain—Microsoft plans to increase the number of customers that it provides managed services to over the next year, but these services will focus primarily on messaging and collaboration rather than on desktop management.
The companys foray into managed services to date "has been a real learning experience. To say that we found a few issues would be an understatement," Bob Muglia, Microsofts senior vice president for servers and tools, said in his keynote address at IT Forum here Nov. 14.
Microsoft started its managed services business with a pilot program with Energizer Holdings Inc., in St. Louis, which was then expanded to include XL Capital, in Hamilton, Bermuda.
That Energizer program lets Microsoft keep some 6,000 desktop systems up-to-date by downloading patches, deploying the latest software, managing e-mail, electronic document storage and the associated servers, and providing help desk and other user support.
The software maker, based in Redmond, Wash., also believes that a substantive number of customers will, over time, want to acquire some of their IT infrastructure as a service they paid for, Muglia said at a press event following his speech.
"But I need to say that these will not be customized environments, but rather environments with a reasonably limited number of choices that a customer could acquire. This trend is going to happen in a major way in the years ahead," he said.
While the idea of managed services had received a lot of attention in 2000, it was not successful then as the infrastructure and the software were not ready
"The most important thing for us is that, as this happens, our software is used as part of the process," Muglia said.
Microsoft has also learned a lot from its foray into managed services, including that its software needs to work across the Internet transparently, and with everything, and it needs to transform the way it moved data back and forth.
"We also need to focus on multi-tenancy, where the software is able to recognize that there may be many corporations being served by one or more servers in a server farm," Muglia said.
Microsoft has also learned, the hard way, the complexity of desktop deployment within this environment. This is one of the reasons that it acquired Softricity and the SoftGrid technology, which will be a major enabler for software as a service for desktop management as well as reduction of costs for on-premise desktop management.
While some Microsoft partners are concerned about the prospect of competing directly with Microsoft, Muglia made clear that Microsofts entry into this space was not designed to compete with its hosting partners, and would initially focus on desktop managed services and not applications.
But Muglia did admit that the company would look at the application side down the line "at least from a learning perspective."
There is also no lack of customers looking to Microsoft to provide managed services to them and, as its capabilities grew, the company would take on more of them, he said.
"This has the potential to be a substantive market over time and we think of it as an incremental opportunity on top of our software business. It primarily helps customers save on their internal labor costs, and that is where the dollars will transfer from. Were bullish on this front, but it will take a little while," Muglia said.