One of the major challenges with delivering any type of software as a service is the fact that not every customer wants to upgrade software being delivered via the cloud at the same time. While there are plenty of organizations using software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications that get updated once a quarter, it’s clear there are many other organizations that don’t embrace these applications because they feel they will lose control over the IT environment.
Recognizing this issue, Microsoft has signaled its intent to provide support for service branch options that would allow managed service providers and their customers to have more control over when updates for Windows 10 and other applications get delivered.
For many SaaS applications, this control issue isn’t as relevant as it will be for Windows 10 and by extension Microsoft Office 16. While Windows 10 is still in the early stages of adoption, both Windows and Microsoft Office are clearly foundational platforms. Most organizations not only build applications on top of Windows; they also build tons of corporate applications on top of Microsoft Office. Regular updates to these platforms might expose interesting new features, but without time to test those updates, it’s likely that applications riding on top of both of those platforms will break at some point during an upgrade cycle.
The good news is that Microsoft has said it is committed to not changing any of the existing macros that most customizations of the Microsoft Office platform depend on. Also, Microsoft has said that it will deliver on Microsoft Office 2016 with capabilities such as Background Intelligence Transfer Service (BITS) to help prevent network congestion, integration with ConfigMgr to allow IT administrators to download and distribute monthly Office updates using the native ConfigMgr, and, most significantly, a way for administrators to manage the pace at which they receive feature updates and bug fixes while continuing to receive regular security updates.
The implications for IT service providers
As much as Microsoft would like Windows and Office to become a true service, IT organizations are going to want to have more control over when and how those services get delivered. That should play to the strengths of managed service providers (MSPs) that have the technical expertise required to manage that process. As such, MSPs might want to start reminding customers that they also have the financial muscle required to negotiate with Microsoft on something that at least resembles more of an even footing.
In the meantime, IT solution providers that have not yet become an MSP are likely to find themselves pressured to step up. Fortunately, this transition is more of an ongoing process than an actual event. But it’s also clear that it’s a process that’s well underway, starting with Microsoft Office 365 and the Microsoft Azure cloud. Microsoft is not only clearly signaling its intention to move as many customers into the cloud as possible; it obviously is going to prefer to do business with partners that also operate around a cloud-centric business model.