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CIOs focus on Office 365, hybrid cloud in 2015

With 2015 underway, SearchCIO checked in with CIOs to see what cloud projects they have in the works. Many said they are migrating to Office 365; hybrid cloud is also on the horizon.

As CIOs get started in earnest on their 2015 plans for the cloud, SearchCIO checked in to see what they have lined up for this year. One big focus? Many enterprises, big and small, are migrating to Office 365.

"Interest in Office 365 is growing among our clients," Larry Cannell, a research director at Gartner Inc. covering enterprise collaboration and social software, said in an email. "Although Microsoft has provided a cloud-based version of the Office server products for more than five years, Office 365 has only recently become the primary focus of Microsoft's productivity strategy."

It seems to be paying off. According to Microsoft's earnings release for the second quarter of 2015, commercial cloud revenue grew 114%, driven by Azure, Dynamics and Office 365. Dell was among the customers that recently announced its plan to migrate from IBM Notes to Office 365.

The adoption of Office 365 represents a culture shift for many CIOs, Cannell added. Just two years ago, in the pre-cloud Office days, CIOs only had to pay attention every three years when Microsoft released a new version of Office. "With Office 365, Microsoft can continually add new features. The pace of change in Office has visibly changed as a result of Office 365," Cannell said. "CIOs and other IT managers are just starting to realize how big of a change this is and what it may mean to them."

Among the CIOs SearchCIO spoke to, it seems their main interest in Office 365 is in Outlook. The cloud-based email platform allows administrators to monitor license usage and make sure the right security protocols are being used. In addition to these benefits, the CIOs SearchCIO spoke to were drawn to the cost-effectiveness of Office 365, which when paired with moving other on-premises systems to cloud, such as SharePoint, ultimately allows CIOs to shrink their data centers.

In addition to migrating to Office 365, hybrid cloud continues to gain traction as a solution that offers the speed and scalability of the public cloud minus some of the security and privacy concerns. CTO of the State of Michigan Rod Davenport spoke to SearchCIO about the state's ambitious plan to host 85% of the state's data in the cloud by 2018 by utilizing public, private and hybrid cloud models.

Here is a sampling of what CIOs and CTOs had to say about cloud in 2015, Office 365 and hybrid cloud:

Jonathan Reichental, CIO, City of Palo Alto, Calif.: Good-bye, infrastructure

Jonathan ReichentalJonathan Reichental

"The biggest [cloud initiative] for us is moving our email and productivity suite out into the cloud. At the very beginning of the year we just kicked off our migrations to Office 365. And right behind it we have kicked off our SharePoint online initiative. So we'll be moving our on-premises SharePoint environment to pure cloud, pure software as a service. By combining our email infrastructure and SharePoint infrastructure -- which are on-premises today in our data centers at City Hall -- all that infrastructure will basically be unnecessary and we'll be able to retire it."

Pat Smith, CIO of Our Kids of Miami-Dade/Monroe Inc.: A cloud system returns

Pat SmithPat Smith

We are planning a migration to Office 365 using the cloud. We did migrate a former cloud-based system back to a local system this year. [Smith's organization moved from Fusion Storm cloud service to a local DR site.] The latter move was not for poor performance but for cost. We were able to negotiate a better price using an off-site physical facility. I would consider cloud for the right applications if it were cost-effective.

Phil Bertolini, CIO, deputy county executive, Oakland County, Mich.: SharePoint unleashed

Phil BertoliniPhil Bertolini

"We're using the cloud mostly right now for really two different areas. One is infrastructure. We have some external environments that live in the Amazon cloud and we're doing that through Blue River Information Technology [a full-service solutions provider that specializes in cloud and on-premises data center infrastructures] out of Washington, D.C. One good example of [external environments hosted in the Amazon cloud] is we have an external SharePoint environment where we host websites. We use SharePoint as our content management system for our websites, which is a relatively lower … cost option, but it also provides great functionality for us. We're in the final stages of the transition where we're moving all of our outward-facing websites into the cloud, including our main sites of the county.

"Our longer term goal is to find out what else can live out there. So when we did a study on what we considered to be cloud-ready we found that a number of applications, about 30% of our applications, could potentially live in a cloud environment. We're looking at those as we speak. ... There's time management systems out there, there's cybersecurity as a service. I think [the latter] is going to be a huge area for governments and businesses alike -- to be able to just consume a cybersecurity tool instead of owning it and have it live in your environment. All those applications are going to be something we're looking at."

Rod Davenport, CTO of the state of Michigan: Leveraging public, private and hybrid cloud

Rod DavenportRod Davenport

"In September 2014, the state of Michigan initiated a cloud-first strategy as one component of the Michigan Digital Strategy. Our vision is to maintain 85% of the state's data in cloud by 2018. To accomplish the goal, the state will employ public, private and hybrid cloud models to provide the required security with the appropriate access and availability at the best price possible for the state.

"'Next Generation Digital Infrastructure (NextGen)' is the term used for the state's private cloud. NextGen provides the secure cloud platform to host the state's mission-critical and sensitive applications and data. From a leading-edge network backbone to high-performance compute and robust storage capabilities, NextGen provides best-of-breed technologies in a cost-effective manner. Our plans for 2015 include continuing to grow NextGen in both customers and in capabilities. Right now, we are focusing on the automation of management and deployment tasks to provide our customers with the speed and agility they seek."

Advantages of hybrid

"During the course of 2015 and beyond, the state will continue to develop our cloud management capabilities in order to take advantage of all cloud models, especially hybrid. I think a hybrid approach kind of gives you the best of both worlds. Our mission-critical systems and systems that -- because of security requirements or just psychological comfort -- we feel are a better fit in a data center, can go there where we can maintain and control them. For our applications that have less rigorous requirements around security and uptimes, it is more cost-effective to have them be hosted somewhere else. So part of our IT approach moving forward will be more of a 'cloud czar' function that balances which applications are best hosted by us and then which ones by which providers."

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