That gap in the Clouds…is it a sunny break or something more sinister?
It used to be that a gap in the clouds meant sunshine was surely breaking through. Mind you, it also used to be that a cloud was something made of water droplets that floated through the sky! Today ”the cloud” means something altogether different and a gap in the cloud (between what a product offers and delivers) is not necessarily such a sunny thing!
Microsoft is a dominant force in the cloud space domain. Its Office 365 has experienced double-digit growth. But a potential clash of interests has arisen when we examine up close two new features announced in early 2014 that were scheduled to hit first in Office 365: Office Graph and Clutter.
Office Graph is a “machine learning, Big Data” style technology that looks at your Exchange inbox and multiple other SharePoint and social media sites while Clutter attempts to distinguish your email for you by browsing your legitimate mail and prioritizing it into actionable and relevant messages. In theory, it “declutters” your mailbox.
The Austin MEC Conference in Spring of 2014 left the impression that Office 365 would receive these features first and that the bug fixes and improvements Microsoft was able to make would result in an eventual on-premises boxed product style server release. Considered a “virtuous cycle,” this is an example of when a company learns how to write better code to run its own cloud service and then integrates this into its core product. Participants left the conference with the implied understanding that these features would be “cloud first” not “cloud only.” Unfortunately, later announcements from Microsoft suggested this may not be the case due in part to concerns that some companies would not be in a position to deploy the kind of compute power that would be required for either Office Graph or Clutter.
The concern here is that originally, customers understood that regardless of deployment method (whether On-Premises or Cloud) these features would be available but it now appears that they are restricted to the cloud service. This is suggestive of the fact that Microsoft may in fact be more heavily invested in cloud than on-premise business. Should this be the case, it might also be true that moving forward On-Premises Exchange, Exchange Online and Office 365 are no longer the same product as clearly, a features gap has been created. For companies that have embraced the cloud there is no issue but for others? It might mean that gap in “the cloud” (or more specifically, between the cloud and On-Premises) brings more rain than shine!
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