IT, hosted services keep Microsoft CIO busy

As CIO and vice president of managed solutions at Microsoft, Ron Markezich is responsible for the company's internal IT operations and for delivering IT services to customers. Energizer Holdings last year became the first user to contract with Microsoft for remote desktop management, messaging and collaboration services. XL Capital, an insurance and financial services firm, has also signed a managed services deal, according to Markezich. During an interview with Computerworld US at TechEd 2006 last week, Markezich discussed Microsoft's Internet-based services vision for corporate IT.

Why do you offer "managed solutions"?

The reason we're doing this isn't so we can make this big business but so we can make sure our products work great in a managed and hosted environment. It's really more for product learning. If you think of my organization at Microsoft, it's really more of a product development organization than a typical IT organization.

Ray Ozzie talked at TechEd about extending the "Live" services vision to corporate IT. What does that vision mean for you?

A lot of what we're doing is getting the products and solutions in place so corporate IT could subscribe to a partner running these services for them or run it themselves. That's one.

The other, you have to look at in three categories. One, you have the IT cloud, which is consumer-based -- Hotmail, MySpace, that type of stuff. Managed IT is the other extreme, which would be the managed desktop, managed Exchange [e-mail], managed collaboration. And then there's a middle one that I would call unmanaged IT. That would be sold more to departments or for temporary usage.

Collaboration is a great example. On managed IT, you would have hosted SharePoint [with] a three-year contract and a certain [service-level agreement] for a certain price. And then, with unmanaged IT, you really buy hosted SharePoint on a monthly basis or on the basis of a project. You pay for it by the number of users. And then you can terminate it whenever you want.

To what degree do you offer these services now?

With the cloud, we have Windows Live. If you look at Office Live, a lot of that is unmanaged IT. You as a small business owner or as a person running a project can subscribe to Office Live and have a site set up for you. For managed IT, you should look at managed solutions.

Like Energizer and XL Capital did?

Right.

They're the only two paying, public customers. We have other customers we're talking to. We're really in product development mode -- we started this not even two years ago. And if you think of the product development life cycle, "not even two years" is fairly early.

Do you view the services model as a sea change for IT?

It's going to be over time. But I think that's a great thing. With any CIO, a lot of what they would run as a service, they wouldn't consider strategic. Then you as an IT organization can focus your resources on what you consider more strategic and more unique to your company.

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