This is just one entry in a series of articles that cover a keynote presentation I delivered in April 2014 at the SPTechCon conference in San Francisco, CA. The first article in the series below sets the stage and explains what the series is about. All articles in the series are meant to be read in order, but hey… it’s your browser and mouse… click what interests you!
- Navigating the New World of SharePoint Online, Office 365 and On-Premises - Introducing the Series
- Level Setting and Definitions
- Why is Microsoft Moving to Office 365?
- Completely Unscientific Survey - Survey on Office 365 and Where Are You?
- Customer and ISV Takeaways from the SharePoint Conference 2014
- My Thoughts on The Challenges with Customer Acceptance of Office 365
- My Thoughts on How to Approach Office 365 & SharePoint On-Premises Today
- Office 365 Call to Action - What Should You be Doing?
Before I kick off this series in full swing, I want to do a bit of level setting and explain the landscape as well as establish a few terms. To start, we have two different ways to deploy SharePoint and then a third mixed option: On-Premises SharePoint & Hosted SharePoint.
The way customers have been installing and using SharePoint going all the way back to the first version of SharePoint Team Services 2001 over ten years ago is in an on-premises deployment, also referred to as on-prem.
In this scenario companies would buy SharePoint server licenses from Microsoft that would allow them to install SharePoint on their own servers. With SharePoint installed, each person who connected to it and used it needs a client access license (CAL). Customers could buy different editions of SharePoint like Standard or Enterprise and there are both server licenses and CAL's that go with each one.
Procuring SharePoint licenses is just one aspect of the software cost associated with SharePoint. You must also consider Windows Server licenses and SQL Server licenses. In addition, customers also need to procure the hardware where SharePoint and its related components are deployed.
Buying all this hardware and software isn't the end of the story either...
Someone has to manage it all. In most on-premises deployments most customers will have a staff of administrators who do the installation, maintenance, backups, monitor performance and do upgrades. This staff varies in size depending on the size of the organization's SharePoint investment, but no matter the size, this costs money as well.
The other way to get SharePoint is to go the hosted way. This has existed in various forms over the years but didn't really start to catch on until the SharePoint 2010 version. Hosted SharePoint can be looked at in a few different implementations.
Hosted Infrastructure (IaaS)
The first hosting option is for a company to simply get out of the hardware business. In this scenario you are taking the job of maintaining the hardware and handing it off to another company. The name IaaS comes from... it stands for Infrastructure as a Service and implies that you are using, or “renting” some else's hardware and letting them maintain it rather than you.
This is done by using virtual machines (VMs) offered by one of the big cloud providers like Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services (AWS) among others. Here you create the VM in the cloud but you own everything within the VM including the Operating System updates, installing SharePoint, owning backups and all the performance aspects of the machine.
Again, all you've done is get out of the hardware maintenance business which is not a trivial thing in and of it self... this can certainly be a big advantage for companies!
I like to think of the hosted infrastructure like this: I don't care if my servers are old, I don't want to buy new hardware, I don't want to deal with failed hard drives... let someone else do that, but I want to keep all the control over my environment that deals with configuration and software... not hardware
Managed Infrastructure (IaaS)
Another hosting option is called managed infrastructure and it's sort of another option as IaaS. In this scenario a 3rd party manages your SharePoint deployment and installation for you. This might be on their servers (hence IaaS), it might be on servers running in the cloud (VM's hosted in Azure or AWS) or on your servers. This third party makes sure the OS is patched, SharePoint is updated and performing up to par. They may even look to give you some guidance and advice on your deployment.
This is what companies like FPWeb and RackSpace have to offer.
I like to think of the managed infrastructure option like this: you've outsourced your SharePoint IT department... let someone else make it work, but keep all the benefits & controls of a fully hosted deployment.
Software as a Service (SaaS)
The last option is SaaS, or Software As A Service. In this case you have gone to the opposite extreme of doing it all yourself. You are now buying a subscription (typically) that someone is offering providing some sort of software service.
This is what Microsoft has in their Office 365 offering. You don't have any control over how SharePoint is deployed, but you really don't care. You just want to work with SharePoint sites and consume the services it offers... you don't want to deal with Central Administration, backups, performance or how to organize the topology of your installation. However you do want some control over the search configuration and other things like user profiles.
Comparing the Different Hosted SharePoint Options
Now that we've set the stage for what the different options are for hosting SharePoint let's look at the different options. Usually when we talk about SharePoint deployments, you hear the phrases hosted and on-prem. These are the two extremes.
The two IaaS options listed above should be considered exceptions to the rule, or at least that's how I look at them. It allows customers to start moving the painful parts of hosting their own SharePoint on-prem deployments to someone else like the hardware and some IT Pro management.
Throughout the rest of this series I'm going to exclude these two IaaS options from my discussion as the real point of confusion that I see is from customers talking about the move to Office 365. If you aren't ready to move to Office 365 but you want some of the outsourcing benefits, that's where you ca nook to these IaaS options.