Exchange Online

We’re moving users to the magic in-the-cloud Exchange. Is this a cost effective solution? Well – that depends on how you look at the cost. The on prem cost includes a lot of money to external groups that are still inside the company. If the SAN team employs ten people … well, that’s a sunk cost if they’re administering our disk space or not. If we were laying people off because services moved out to magic cloud hosted locations … then there’s a cost savings. But that’s not reality. Point being, there’s no good comparison because the internal “costs” are inflated. Microsoft’s pricing to promote cloud adoption means EOL is essentially free with purchase too. I’m sure the MS cost will go up in the future — I remember them floating “leased” software back in the late 90’s (prelude to SaaS) and thinking that was a total racket. You move all your licensing to this convenient “pay for what you use” model. And once a plurality of customers have adopted the licensing scheme, start bumping up rates. It’s a significant undertaking to migrate over – but if I’m saving hundreds of thousands of dollars a year … worth it. Rates go up, and the extra fifty grand a year isn’t worth the cost and time for migrating back to on prem. And next year that fifty grand more isn’t worth it either. Economies of scale say MS (or Amazon, or whomever) can purchase ten thousand servers and petabytes of disk space for less money than I can get two thousand servers and a hundred terabytes … but they want to make a profit too. There might be a small cost savings in the long term, but nothing like the hundreds of thousands we’re being sold up front.

Regardless – business accounting isn’t my thing. A lot of it seems counter-productive if not outright nonsensical. There are actually features in Exchange Online that do not exist in the on prem solution. The one I discovered today is subaddressing. At home, we use the virtusertable in sendmail to map entire subdomains to a single mailbox. This means I can provide a functional e-mail address, on the fly, to a new company and have mail delivered into my mailbox. Works fine for a small number of people, but it is not a scalable solution. Some e-mail providers started using a delimiter after which any string was ignored. This means I could have a GMail account of but get mail as or … great for identifying who is losing your e-mail address out in Internet-land. Also somewhat trivial to write a rule that takes +SomeCompromisedAddress and move it to trash. EOL lets us do that.

Another interesting feature that is available on prem but not convenient is free busy federation (now termed an “organisational relationship”). In previous iterations, both parties needed to establish firewall rules (and preferably a B2B connection) to transfer the free busy data. But two companies with MS tenants should be able to link up without having to enact firewall changes. We still connect to the tenant. The other party still connects to the tenant. It’s our two tenants that communicate via MS’s network. Something I’m interested in playing around with … might try to see if we can link our sandbox tenant up to the production one just to see what exactly is involved.

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