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Will Office 365 Redefine Enterprise Applications?

How Office 365, Azure, and NoSQL can work together to improve business productivity

There is a of excitement in the air about Microsoft's Office 365 offering. Apart from the traditional view of reduction in licensing cost and no Upgrade issues which the SaaS basically offers, we can also derive some enterprise benefits from it if all the partners and ISV support the same. This one is one such pattern.

Office 365

Office 365 provides anywhere access to email, documents, contacts, and calendars so you're always up-to-date. From scheduling to interactive online meetings to sharing files, you're uniting cloud-based services with the productivity tools people use every day.

At this time , Office 365 will be Microsoft's flagship SaaS offering with :

  • Office Professional Plus
  • Exchange Online
  • Sharepoint Online
  • Lync Online

Windows Azure

The Windows Azure platform is poised to radically change the way Microsoft architects and developers think about building and managing applications. The Windows Azure platform provides an Internet-based cloud computing environment for running applications and storing data in Microsoft data centers around the world. In many ways, you can think of it as Windows in the cloud.

NoSQL

In computing, NoSQL is a term used to designate database management systems that differ from classic relational database management systems in some way. These data stores may not require fixed table schemas, and usually avoid join operations and typically scale horizontally. Academics and papers typically refer to these databases as structured storage, a term that would include classic relational databases as a subset.

Windows Azure & NoSQL

While SQLAzure is a robust relational database platform as a Service,  but yet Windows Azure do provide  lot of capabilities to host and run NoSQL databases. The following are the  typical NoSQL options within Windows Azure apart from third party providers.

  • The simplest way to store data in Windows Azure storage is to use blobs. A blob contains binary data, each container can contain one or more blobs. Blobs can be big-up to a terabyte-and they can also have associated metadata, such as information about where a JPEG photograph was taken or who the singer is for an MP3 file
  • Blobs are just right for some situations, but they're too unstructured for others. To let applications work with data in a more fine-grained way, Windows Azure storage provides tables. These aren't relational tables. The data each one holds is actually stored in a group of entities that contain properties

Business Processing With Traditional SQL Database

  • Most of the business process initiation is carried out through unstructured documents like Microsoft Office, Adobe documents .
  • However due to the lack of validation of the document data with the enterprise information systems (EIS), the document data is shredded (de-normalized) into relational databases
  • Duplication in terms of data entry and reporting
  • End to end integration is achieved only by storing the storing the unstructured documents in relational form and again assembling them back to unstructured form to be passed on to downstream systems
  • Data validation is done through the customized forms and not from the unstructured documents
  • Search capabilities on Unstructured documents are limited or non existing and hence big effort on custom development is spent on Enterprise Reporting Tools to query relational tables
  • The below diagram shows the business processing with Traditional SQL Databases

Transformation Into [Office 365, NOSQL] Cloud Environment

With the proposed offerings on Office 365 along with the NOSQL offerings that currently exist on Azure PaaS platform,  we are into a  new world of seamless integration between the unstructured documents and  Cloud, so that the LOB (Line Of  Business) applications can perform efficient  business process work flow without the over whelming conversion to relational format and  consolidating it again for reporting.

  • Utilize the advanced features of the OBA (Office Business Applications) to integrate the business processes
  • Utilize the unlimited storage options available as part of NOSQL storage offerings as part of Azure Cloud Platform
  • Integrate with other tools that enable the business process orchestration, like
  • o Exchange Online
  • o Sharepoint Online
  • Integrate with human intervention and collaboration with Lync Online.

Summary

Traditionally   Office business applications have always been preferred  in various enterprise,  high number of Excel and MS-Access based applications is a testimony.

Mostly these applications have so far restricted by the  scalability, space and multi user needs and hence enterprises migrated them to other platforms  like .net or J2EE.

However availability of Office 365 as a SaaS on a PaaS platform like Azure along with the unlimited storage potential of NOSQL  databases like BLOB makes it very extensible and a truly enterprise business process platform.

We expect the  ISVs to come up with several  glue applications for data acquisition, validation , storage and reporting enhancements to make the best out of this platform, and it looks like  it is already on that course.

More Stories By Srinivasan Sundara Rajan

Srinivasan Sundara Rajan (Also Known As Sundar) Is A Enterprise Technology Enabler for realizing business capabilities. His primary focus is enabling Agile Enterprises by facilitating the adoption of Every Thing As A Service Model with particular concentration on BpaaS (Business Process As A Service). He also helps enterprises in getting meaningful insights from their structured and unstructured and real time data sources. All the views expressed are Srinivasan's independent analysis of industry and solutions and need not necessarily be of his current or past organizations. Srinivasan would like to thank every one who augmented his Architectural skills with Analytical ideas.

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