Microsoft Wins Its Largest Cloud Rollout Yet - InformationWeek

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Cloud // Software as a Service

Microsoft Wins Its Largest Cloud Rollout Yet

Microsoft beats out Google and IBM to provide online apps, services to 7.5 million students and professors in India's national technical education council.

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Microsoft has secured its largest cloud engagement to date, a deal to provide online software and services to 7.5 million students and professors across technical colleges maintained by the All India Council For Technical Education (AICTE).

Microsoft will deliver to AICTE its suite of online tools, which include Outlook Live, Office Live, and 25 GB per user of SkyDrive cloud storage. "In many cases these students didn't have services like this before," said Anthony Salcito, Microsoft's VP for worldwide education, in an interview. "Many of the schools are very remote and it's hard to physically deploy software to those campuses and schools; that's one of the benefits of the cloud."

The services will be provided free of charge to AICTE under Microsoft's educational software program. But the fact that the engagement will not generate revenue didn't stop other vendors from seeking the deal. Google and IBM also pitched their cloud services to AICTE, Salcito said. Western tech companies are climbing over each other to establish footprints in developing markets like India, even if it means providing services below cost or at no cost.

"We see the value of students using our core platform and tools," said Salcito. "They have influence as future users of software and leaders of growing economies like India."

[ Is Amazon Microsoft's next target in the cloud wars? See Microsoft Azure in 2012: Watch Out Amazon? ]

AICTE officials said access to services will make it easier for students and professors at India's technical schools to access key resources and collaborate with each other. "Microsoft's cloud platform will make for a truly progressive ecosystem and contribute to the country's technical education by providing a better communication and collaboration platform for institutes and students," said AICTE chairman S.S. Mantha, in a statement.

To support an engagement this large, Microsoft will provide AICTE with a management console that lets IT admins at the organization deploy the software to students and professors through Active Directory, establish policies like single sign-on, and integrate the software with other cloud services. "They would manage the environment just like they would if they were deploying the Exchange environment locally," said Salcito.

At its end, Microsoft will host the services from data centers located around the world. Salcito said the company isn't daunted by a cloud engagement of this scale. "We're used to running huge data centers that support many millions of users on services like Xbox Live. And we're already supporting 22 million users on"

AICTE said it also plans to deploy Office 365 for education when it becomes available later this year.

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