Now that cloud based solutions are gaining awareness in both the SMB space as well as medium and larger sized enterprises an additional requirement of service providers is continuing to surface - Directory Synchronization.
Companies with 200+ employees looking for hosted solutions commonly have an active directory deployment as part of their internal infrastructure. This on-premise AD is typically required to support and manage existing line of business applications that will remain a part of the customer's internal infrastructure. The IT and HR groups of mid-sized companies have existing processes they use to manage accounts for new employees, enable/disable applications, etc. Today most cloud based services would require IT groups to manage accounts and services in two separate processes for the on-premise and hosted environments. User accounts may or may not have the same naming conventions between on-premise and hosted, typically passwords are not synchronized and it can lead to an overall confusing process for end users and be error prone and tedious for IT admin teams.
With the recent release of Forefront Identity Manager (FIM) which includes licensing options for service providers via SPLA (Service Provider License Agreement) there is at least some movement toward a solution to this challenge.
Based on testing we have completed in our labs, FIM is a viable option to enable hosted service providers with a solution to this issue. A base deployment of FIM helps to resolve a couple of key functional items that will help make cloud services more manageable for both service providers and IT admin teams of hosted organizations.
At a basic level FIM can be used to ensure account password synchronization between hosted & on-premise locations. - In this scenario, the solution validates that email@example.com is using the same credentials for both their on-premise AD as well as the hosted AD. Then the solution will synchronize the passwords between the two environments such that when the user launches their email, OCS, SharePoint or other hosted service they will have the same credentials and password they use to login to their on-premise AD.
The next level of functionality would provide Password and account synchronization - this provides for the same functionality as listed above but will also allow for accounts to be synchronized when add, delete, changes are made within the on-premise AD. As an example, when firstname.lastname@example.org is created in the on-premise AD at the customer site, that account is also created in the customer OU of the Hosted AD with the same password/credentials.
The remaining piece off the puzzle to provide for full automation would be a FIM management agent developed for the hosted provisioning system. In developing the management agent, this would also enable the new hosted account to be provisioned for a set of hosted services. Without the management agent, the customer admin team would need to go to the hosted service portal and then enable hosted services (exchange, SharePoint, OCS, etc.) for the newly created account. If there was a provisioning management agent (listening) for new accounts to be created in a given OU, it would then provision that user with a default set of functionality or could potentially receive a set of parameters to provision a given new user with the appropriate set of hosted services as defined by the customer business arrangement. The same scenario would hold true for account deletions and changes.
At implement.com we are working with a number of our service provider customers as they work through this scenario and determine the appropriate solution and architecture for their environment. I am very optimistic that this will continue to gain momentum over the course of the next couple of quarters with production deployments in place by the end of 2010.
A short note to telecommunications companies about "Cloud" computing services, but first some pertinent questions:
How do you define what services are delivered when you offer "Cloud" computing? Is it limited to hosted servers/OS/Database/Web Services billed by complex metering? Hosted Desktops? Virtual Servers? Cloud is a tough term to use and even define, and I eagerly await its being phased out.
This blog comes from my long and arduous experiences helping telcos deliver cheap and cheerful free PoP3 email... I have been in the ASP/Hosting/SaaS/Cloud business since 1999, and in the process worked with many telcos globally. During that time I have seen only one application service ever garner some success outside of the traditional offerings of broadband and voice services. In this context I gauge "success" as a service that actually generates revenue because customers want to buy it from the telco (i.e. the right target market), in the way the telco sells it (very cheap, or free bundled with broadband), and the way they want to buy it (online and anonymous).
Guess which application? PoP3 email! Mostly delivered to very small businesses or consumers. Transitioning to selling more advanced email and calendaring, let alone "Cloud", to real live SMB's with high expectations for support and customer service is a massive transition. This is not a technology problem.
The latest logical extension to email is Unified Communications and to me, the successful telco that wants to drive towards success in the "Cloud" will focus very narrowly on hosted Unified Communications, especially Hosted OCS (Microsoft Office Communications Server), for the smaller end of the SMB market. The accompanying diagram shows how Microsoft views the future of Unified Communications.
Recycling is for more than plastic and cans. Not using the documentation that is hiding somewhere in your organization is wasteful, and conservation is really trendy right now.
The raw material is already there
You have training you need to develop and you know, somewhere in the recesses of your organization, there has to be material you can leverage for it. But, you have no idea where to find it. Many people end up reinventing the wheel for the same result, costing organizations time and money.
There are plenty of content management systems out there that will gather content and organize it. But, how does it know the audience, their location, the right delivery for the right student?
The key is to put a trained eye to the stack of training documentation, product specifications, whitepapers, presentations, graphics and Help files to put all the puzzle pieces together.
The Content Architect Process from implement.com
Here's a process we've used that has helped many training organizations get solid training plans together, keep costs in check and keep the training team from pulling their hair out.
There is a special hybrid of training and technical writer out there that I call "Content Architects". These people have an uncanny talent. They are able to walk into a business they have little specific background in and go through a series of discovery steps.
They know how to glean the information they need in order to organize content and provide direction on any gaps. These are special people who tend to have a lot of interesting facts to share at cocktail parties too.
I've been lucky enough to work quite a bit with these folks over the years and have found they are invaluable to clients in need of a true content partnership. They are that missing piece, the trained eye, that can truly help bring your content library into focus.
What we have done for many of our clients involves a few simple steps:
- Discovery. Depending upon the client, this can be as simple as a series of interviews and access to the storeroom. This is that important "getting to know you and your business" piece that gets us the global view of what is important to you, your students and your boss. It helps guide us to the end goal or objective.
- Viability. Identify if the proposed training addresses a current pain point in your organization or if there are career objectives for the student. Does your existing content meet these needs?
- Definition. Which elements of the proposed training work and which do not? Is an instructor-led, classroom training the best route? Or, is a self-paced environment more in line with what your students need? Are there gaps in your library that need to be filled or are updates necessary?
- Plan of Action. The final step pulls all these pieces together, creating a useful design document and a solid curriculum plan.
At the end you not only have a clear, organized curriculum plan in place, but an exceptional writer who can deliver the polished product who understands your business from the 400-foot-level...oh, and a great addition to any cocktail party.
Let's hear from you. What content is locked up in your organization, just waiting to be found, designed and built into a Valuable Training Content System?
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At implement.com, we realize that your clients are under pressure to innovate in response to an ever-changing IT landscape. That's why we're excited to announce our acceptance into the Technology Adoption Program (TAP) for Microsoft Exchange 2010.
The TAP was created to evaluate the partner and multi-tenant hosting capabilities of Microsoft's new product version so the company can (1) get early product feedback and (2) ensure that its features are fully capable of managing real-world scenarios.
So, why is this important to implement.com clients? It's great news, for several reasons.
- Since deploying Exchange 2010 RTM is not supported in a hosting scenario, we want to be ready to deploy Exchange 2010 in a fully supported scenario-so our clients can be comfortable with our hosting solutions.
- Due to our unwavering customer commitment and our dedication to solidifying an already-productive relationship with Microsoft, we were one of only a few companies chosen for the TAP program.
- Because of our affiliation with Microsoft and our opportunity to be among the first providing Hosted Exchange 2010 in a supported environment, implement.com remains at the forefront of the hosting world. That's good news for us-and great news for our clients.
The TAP program is widely recognized within the IT sector, which is just another reason why the implement.com team is excited about working closely with Microsoft.
Not only will we get a hands-on preview of Hosted Exchange 2010's revolutionary features-but we'll also be able to assist our clients in benefitting from its strategic business implications.