GlaxoSmithKline deal highlights overseas launch by Microsoft

100,000 staffers to use online Exchange, SharePoint, Microsoft says at CeBIT

Microsoft officially launched its Business Productivity Online Suite outside of the US on Monday, headlined by a deal with GlaxoSmithKline as its first major customer for the hosted communications software suite.

The London-based drug maker is migrating 100,000 employees from IBM's Lotus Notes to Microsoft's hosted suite, which includes Exchange for e-mail, SharePoint, Office Communications Online and Office Live Meeting, all managed from Microsoft's own data centers.

GlaxoSmithKline had been standardized on Notes for the past seven years. It was also using Google's Postini for spam filtering, said Eron Kelly, senior director of Microsoft's business online services group, last week.

By switching to Microsoft's online suite, GlaxoSmithKline expects to shave 30 percent from costs over time, said Kelly. It will also allow GlaxoSmithKline's IT department to offload management of key infrastructure software.

"When you've got finite IT resources, to be able to shift them to strategic projects and cut costs is very important," Kelly said.

Microsoft's online suite was launched in the US in November. It is now available for trial in 19 countries, including Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the US.

Companies can pay about US$15 per employee per month for the entire four-application suite, which should look no different to employees than if the software were managed on-premises.

The full suite will be a key "weapon" for Microsoft as it seeks to continue migrating corporations that use Lotus Notes over to Exchange, said Kelly.

For one, the suite cuts the upfront costs and labor of moving from Notes to on-premises Exchange, said Kelly, though he declined to give any specific figures. The complexity and costs of such projects had caused many companies to hold off on Notes-to-Exchange migrations, according to experts.

Business Productivity Online Suite has an even cheaper version, called Deskless Worker Suite. It costs US$3 a month, or US$36 a year, and offers Web-based access to Exchange and SharePoint. The cheaper suite is aimed at non-office employees who need only occasional access to e-mail and related services. It competes against Google Apps, which costs US$50 a year, or about US$4.15 a month.

15,000 of GlaxoSmithKline's employees will take the Deskless Worker Suite rather than the full online suite version, said Kelly.

Kelly said that for companies that use Microsoft infrastructure software such as Active Directory, Deskless Worker Suite enables employees and messages to be managed centrally, unlike with Google Apps.

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