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On-premises BlackBerry servers won't connect to Microsoft's Office 365 at launch

Jon Brodkin | April 20, 2011
The BlackBerry servers enterprises have installed in their data centers won't connect to Exchange Online but a free cloud-based BlackBerry email service will soon move into beta.

Boxrud, the director of enterprise infrastructure at Underwriters Laboratories, is adopting Exchange for the first time with Office 365 as his company migrates from IBM's Lotus Notes and Domino.

"We'll be ready to migrate [to Office 365] by June 1 and hopefully Microsoft will be able to offer it in general availability shortly thereafter," he said.

Boxrud is excited about Office 365 overall, but added that "the biggest negative is integration with BlackBerry."

Underwriters Laboratories has a mitigation strategy in place, using AstraSync to provide Exchange ActiveSync connectivity to BlackBerrys. The "silver lining," Boxrud says, is that this has spurred his organization to start moving its 1,200 BlackBerry users to newer platforms such as iPhone, Android and Windows Phone 7, which also connect via Exchange ActiveSync.

"We're going to give them a choice where they didn't have it before," Boxrud says.

One question is why Microsoft and RIM simply don't use the same email connection technology in Office 365 that's used in Microsoft's current hosted Exchange service, the Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS).

The explanation given by the companies is that BPOS, which runs Exchange 2007, uses the MAPI messaging protocol, and Office 365, which will run Exchange 2010, upgrades to Exchange Web Services. With BPOS, Microsoft hosts BlackBerry Enterprise servers in its own data centers, according to Holleran, but with the launch of Office 365 the two companies will move to a "business-to-business cloud" model with the RIM cloud connecting to the Microsoft cloud.

Exchange Web Services is more "latency intolerant" than MAPI, Holleran explains. For these reasons, the method of connecting BlackBerrys to Exchange Online in BPOS will not be carried over to Office 365.

"With Office 365 for enterprises, customers will be able to utilize RIM's newly announced BlackBerry cloud-based service," Microsoft said. "This will replace the existing Microsoft-hosted BlackBerry enterprise service that is available today for Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) -- Standard."

Holleran added, "As we transition from MAPI to latency-tolerant solutions we expect the ability to connect from on-premises into the cloud as well." But no timeline for on-premises to cloud connectivity is being revealed.


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