On December 8th, 2015, Metalogix announced a significant update to its Essentials for Office 365 product. The release provides important insight into the vision of Metalogix, and demonstrates a strong commitment to supporting customers in hybrid and cloud environments.
Metalogix is a well-known, leading partner in the Microsoft space, with a solid history of building and buying infrastructure tools spanning support workloads including storage management, backup, migration, and compliance among others. Their tools are among the preferred and standard tools used by Microsoft services (aka “MCS”) and by Office 365’s FastTrack program. In recent weeks, the company has produced a roadshow with Microsoft, helping customers plan for migration to the cloud.
Essentials for Office 365 provides backup and restore for SharePoint, OneDrive, and Exchange mailboxes, along with granular migration from a variety of sources, including third-party services like Google Drive and Box. On the compliance side, it manages (configures, discovers, analyzes and reports) permissions, content, and licenses. And it gives the organization tools to allow business users to self-serve important content-related tasks.
The company is also updating Diagnostic Manager to include dashboards and alerts that span both on-prem and Office 365 environments.
You can read the details of the product in the press release. What’s perhaps more interesting, however, is the “big picture” revealed by the updates, and shared by Senior Product Manager Adam Levithan in a discussion we had last week.
It's a hybrid, multi-service world
First, the update demonstrates an understanding by Metalogix that customers are no longer limited to on-premises SharePoint for collaboration, and that the majority of us will be hybrid, working with both Office 365 and perhaps multiple on-premises farms. And, we’re no longer limited to SharePoint at all. Our collaboration services often cross Office 365 services (Exchange) and third-party services like Google, Box, and Salesforce, to which Essentials for Office 365 will also soon connect. Managing multiple services is complex and fraught with opportunities for big failures, so I’m thrilled to see SharePoint partners like Metalogix addressing the challenges.
For customers to stay up-to-date, partners have to stay up-to-date
Second, the update shows a company committed to staying on top of rapidly-changing technology, as Metalogix has promised that Essentials will be compatible with SharePoint 2016 when SharePoint 2016 is released. It used to be that ISV support for new versions could lag months behind a new release.
Customer-friendly tools (instead of PowerShell) to manage Office 365
Third, I’m impressed that the tool is helping to manage licensing and permissions. While mundane, managing these things can be incredibly time consuming. Among other things, Essentials for Office 365 allows customers to define groups and, through groups, to assign licenses and permissions. While there are PowerShell scripts for some of these tasks, the lack of a UI in Office 365 hinders many customers.
Abstracting content from services
What’s most exciting for me is that Metalogix is starting to abstract the concept of “content” from the services that host content. Content, which can include metadata, permissions, and content itself, has a complicated life cycle within a service. Imagine, for example, on-boarding scenarios to deploy the content a new user needs. Or off-boarding: moving content from a user who has left the organization to other users. Those are difficult challenges in one service. But users can require content from multiple services: some content in SharePoint, perhaps a mailbox in Exchange, content in Salesforce, and documents in third-party services. By providing capabilities that span services, Metalogix begins to create the potential for customers to manage content and users across those services as well. To me, that’s something that’s exceptionally valuable. And, because these scenarios involve third-party services, it is unlikely that Microsoft will support them with out-of-box functionality in Office 365.
Service-like licensing for service support tools
Finally, but not insignificantly, Metalogix licensing is also taking a modern form, with subscription-based pricing that allows customers an option to keep their tools constantly up-to-date.
Partner tools: A guide to what you might not know you need to succeed
As I talk with customers about the pain they feel, the truth of the matter is that no one tool—not even Office 365—will solve all of their problems at once. There is no silver bullet. But one of the most important, if not the most important, benefits of being an Office 365 customer is that there is a rich ecosystem of partners creating solutions that address customer needs, or “filling the gaps.” Because Metalogix is one of the largest partners in the space, I’m heartened to see them demonstrating and communicating a vision and commitment that aligns well with what I believe many customers are looking for.
If you are an Office 365 customer, or are planning to be one, one of the most important exercises you can perform is to closely examine the third-party ecosystem. Look carefully at what these tools do. Recognize that they’re being created to fill gaps and to align with specific customer needs. If a tool does something that is important to your organization, that’s a reasonably good sign that the out-of-box Office 365 feature set doesn’t do it, doesn’t do it yet, or does it differently. Knowing what partners are doing is a shortcut to better understanding what you might need to succeed with Office 365.
So do yourself a favor and keep up-to-date with what Metalogix and other fine SharePoint partners are providing. Whether you end up their customer or not, you’ll be better informed and more successful for your organization.