Microsoft SharePoint Enterprise Is Now Available In The Cloud -- Amazon's Cloud

Last February, Microsoft SharePoint Enterprise became available for the first time as a preconfigured offering that could be self-provisioned in the cloud. Only it wasn't Microsoft's cloud.

The Amazon Web Services Marketplace is now the only source from which businesses can quickly fire up, with Software-as-a-Service provisioning and billing, the Enterprise edition of Microsoft's popular collaboration and document management platform. That's due to the work of Data Resolution, a solution provider from the California town of San Juan Capistrano that executed the integration and offers management, monitoring and support to users.

Data Resolution is a niche hosting provider that offers managed services to customers, and partners with both AWS and Microsoft on several fronts, especially involving the Microsoft Dynamics stack.

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Data Resolution CEO James Pathman told CRN the genesis of the SharePoint Enterprise project was a conversation he had last year with AWS executives, who told him they were getting requests for SharePoint Enterprise that were going unfulfilled.

"We had developed a relationship with AWS, and they had mentioned to us there's nobody who's able to provide the SharePoint Enterprise solution across AWS," Pathman said. "As we looked around, there's really nobody in the public cloud that was offering any SharePoint Enterprise solution. Even in the Microsoft Azure Marketplace, you can't buy it."

While Microsoft includes SharePoint in its Office 365 cloud-based office productivity suite, that's only the Standard edition of the platform.

And there's a significant difference between Standard and Enterprise, Pathman told CRN.

"The Enterprise version is Internet-facing," he explained, "rather than intranet-facing."

Companies running SharePoint Enterprise can grant external users access to the platform, such as partners and customers who don't have Active Directory credentials, Pathman said. Because Office 365 requires credentials for every user that logs in, its version of SharePoint can't do the same.

"A lot of companies built infrastructure, web pages, workflows around SharePoint Enterprise," Pathman said. They want to allow some outsiders to access those.

When CRN asked Microsoft about SharePoint Enterprise, a spokesman said the company has many customers running SharePoint Server 2013 and 2016 in Azure and partner clouds such as Amazon and Rackspace, both Standard and Enterprise editions. The vendor also called attention to an offering in its Azure Marketplace allowing users to create pre-configured SharePoint Server farms -- one geared for development, testing and evaluation.

But those aren't SaaS versions of SharePoint Enterprise that handle all the configuration, licensing, monitoring and support for production deployments, Pathman said.

When Data Resolution looked deeper into what was preventing other public cloud providers from offering hosted SharePoint Enterprise in their marketplaces, the company realized licensing was the culprit.

The challenge was "solving the end-user licensing model when you're running in an AWS cloud, or really any cloud that is metered on an hourly basis," Pathman said. "Because the Microsoft licenses don't support that."

Data Resolution's Microsoft team worked with the engineers building the AWS integration to find a licensing model that satisfied Microsoft's auditing process and allowed for the software to be controlled and maintained by the company as a third party, Pathman said.

That was the "secret sauce," Pathman said, a proprietary strategy to ensure licensing compliance through a set of management and tracking tools.

Data Resolution engineers started working on the project in September, leveraging AWS CloudFormation templates to build out all of the configuration and provisioning functionality. They presented Amazon with a beta version in late November, and then a rigorous process followed of testing the architecture and interface.

SharePoint Enterprise 2013 has been sold on AWS Marketplace since Feb. 24. Data Resolution is now working on bringing SharePoint Enterprise 2016 onto Amazon's cloud. That offering should be available next month, Pathman said.

So far, it looks the market demand is as AWS and Data Resolution expected, Pathman said.

The number of provisioned instances -- the company offers five types -- have doubled in each of the two months since launch. And Data Resolution hasn't yet started marketing the product.

"You can go in as a technical novice and have enough knowledge to provision a full enterprise solution," Data Resolution's Pathman told CRN.

Customers want to deploy SharePoint with a few clicks of the mouse.

"That's actually a barrier for them to use something like SharePoint because it is complicated, it's not a simple setup, simple administration process, and simple to manage once you get it deployed," he said.

Partners in both the Amazon and Microsoft ecosystems have also started exploring AWS SharePoint Enterprise as a managed offering they can deliver to customers. Some systems integrators have begun experimenting with the solution and are on the verge of closing deals, Pathman said.

"Other than you provisioning an environment and configuration on your own, there's no other solution out there that's quick, self-serve, preconfigured, and comes with maintenance, support and monitoring so you have an operating production environment," he told CRN.