Microsoft Scores Cloud Deal with SUNY

A deal with State University of New York deal means almost a half a million seats for Microsoft's Live@edu suite for educational environments.

Less than two weeks after Microsoft boasted about landing a deal to provide cloud-based enterprise services to 120,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) employees, the company announced a deal to provide similar cloud services for 465,000 students on the State University of New York's (SUNY) 64 campuses.

Under the terms of the deal announced Tuesday, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) will provide a bundle of cloud-based services called Live@edu, which are similar to, though less comprehensive than, the company's Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS).

"As a result, SUNY students will have access to advanced online software, including hosted e-mail, calendars, online storage, Office Web Apps, instant messaging, document sharing and videoconferencing, among other services," a Microsoft statement said.

Microsoft provides Live@edu as a free set of services. That is expected to help SUNY cut $600,000 in costs over the next five years.

One of the first campuses in the SUNY system to pilot the offering, Monroe Community College, began offering Live@edu to its 19,000 students three years ago, according to Microsoft.

In fact, all told, some 70,000 SUNY students are currently using the services.

In fact, all told, some 70,000 SUNY students are currently using the services.

Google Apps also in play

However, Microsoft's cloud services aren't the only ones that SUNY students have access to. They actually have the option of choosing Live@edu or Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) Apps, the search giant's competing offering, a Google spokesperson said in an e-mail to

"Google Apps has a similar contract in place, with 13 schools already using Apps and at least another 10 considering our offering," the Google spokesperson said.

Microsoft has signed up other educational institutions over the past several months as well, including the Kentucky Department of Education, which has signed up some 700,000 students, faculty, and staff to use Microsoft's hosted Exchange Online for e-mail and instant messaging, as well as online storage, statewide.

Indeed, Microsoft claims to have signed up 10,000 schools in 130 countries to use Live@edu so far.

BPOS features cloud-based services such as Exchange Online for e-mail and instant messaging, collaboration using SharePoint Online, and unified communications using Office Communications Online, and Office Live Meeting. However, Microsoft is in the process of upgrading the services to run on the latest 2010 releases of those, products, including Lync 2010, which will replace Communications and Live Meeting next year.

Ultimately, next year, Microsoft is going to put both BPOS and Live@edu under the Office 365 aegis and brand.

For instance, Live@edu will become Office 365 for education and add features so that it has the equivalent services to those that are provided to enterprise BPOS subscribers, with some features customized for educational use, an FAQ on Microsoft's Live@edu site said.

Likewise, BPOS will become Office 365 for enterprises. Both the enterprise and educational versions of Office 365 will also add Office Professional Plus and the Office Web Apps, the FAQ said.

"The schools and universities that lead this next digital decade to the cloud will be better positioned financially and entrepreneurially to take their school innovation to the next level," Cameron Evans, national technology officer and CTO for Microsoft Education in the U.S., said in a post to the Higher Innovation blog, Monday.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.

Tags: cloud computing, Microsoft, BPOS, Exchange, Office 365

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