I couldn't believe it when I heard that Microsoft planned to charge $8/GB to process data through the Office 365 Import Service. It just didn't make sense when you consider that it is in Microsoft's best interests to have customers keep as much data as possible in the service. A protest duly erupted and the result is now seen in a rather dramatic reduction to $2/GB data for drive shipping. Network uploads are free. Which is how it should be.
At the start of October 2015, I wrote about a confidential document that had been circulated to Microsoft partners to publicize the pricing for the Office 365 Import Service. The document had leaked on the Internet and described a price point of $8 per gigabyte ingested into . This was a level that caused me to choke when some simple math determined that Microsoft apparently wanted to send customers a $32K invoice for the privilege of processing a 4 TB drive stuffed full of PSTs to be imported into Office 365. Of course, the cost is lower if you don't fill the complete disk, but it was easy to see how large amounts were in play.
In any case, it turned out that the pricing information should not have been released because it wasn’t a done deal and was actuallly erroneous. Microsoft eventually responded to queries to say that they would share the official price closer to General Availability (GA) of the Office 365 Import Service. In other words, some work was required internally to figure out competitive pricing (in other words, much lower than $8/GB).
Well, the GA date for the Office 365 Import Service has been pushed out a tad to early 2016 but some detail has emerged about pricing. Microsoft told me last week that they have settled on $2/GB as an appropriate level for data ingested through disk shipping. In other words, you have to pay for all the work involved in accepting disks at a Microsoft datacenter, making sure that chain of custody records are properly maintained, and that the data is ingested to Office 365 in a reliable manner.
However, you won’t have to pay for ingestion when you upload data across the Internet via the Office 365 Admin Center. This is fair because you do all the work for network uploads.
Pricing for the ingestion of non-Microsoft data (Twitter, Facebook, Bloomberg, etc.) is not yet available as that depends on the partner who produces the package for ingestion into Office 365.
Microsoft is busily communicating the news to partners to undo the damage caused by the misinformation. An update is being prepared for the Price List Preview that is due to be shared with partners in January in preparation for the GA of the Office 365 Import Service. The older (bad) price is still present in current price lists and won’t be eradicated until the new price lists appear. If you're a U.S.-based Office 365 tenant, you can import data - even using drive shipping - for free until the service achieves GA status.
There’s good and bad in this saga. It’s good that Microsoft realized that they had made a horrible mistake in communicating bad pricing information to partners. It’s bad that someone thought that $8/GB was a good price point. I can’t think of a better way to dissuade customers from using the Office 365 Import Service than to price it as a luxury item. After all, surely Microsoft wants to convince customers to import as much data as possible into Office 365 (maybe because it's hard to get the data back out if necessary?).
Other goodness exists in that ISVs who specialize in data imports received a wake-up call when the pricing furor occurred. Microsoft is now a competitor in the data ingestion space and ISVs need to innovate to create better solutions. Faster processing of data, better reporting and error handling, more automation, and streamlined user experiences are examples of advantages that ISVs such as QuadtroTech and TransVault can offer to customers.
Some Office 365 tenants might even select a mixed approach and use Microsoft for drive shipping of bulk data (like PSTs collected from large numbers of users) and an ISV solution for on-demand network-based processing. As always, choice is wonderful.
It’s also fair to say that data ingestion without planning is probably not going to deliver good results. Whether your data source is Exchange (PSTs), SharePoint (documents and other data), file servers, or other, a reasonable amount of up-front effort is required to identify, collect, categorize, deduplicate, and prepare the data for processing will result in a better outcome. But hasn’t that always been the case?
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