You may now be hearing acronyms like BPOSS and BPOSD. If you’ve spent any time with the online service over the alpha or beta program, you may have a very strong impression that any customizations would be very restricted. This space has changed, and it’s important to keep this straight. There’s been a lot of confusion, and even those that were in the know, are now out of date. There is some new new documentation things don’t need to be so confusing. It’s important that both developers and IT understand the implications here. The best article written on the topic of managing customization is Sean Livingston’s Sunflower doc.
I’ve talked about the three+ tiers of SharePoint Hosting at Microsoft…
Office LIVE – the site collection hosting service designed primarily for small business or a small agile project in a place where people can share information (Based on WSS).
Office Web Applications (New cool stuff announced at PDC) – These are the new thin web based clients for office. You need to watch this stuff. "Get more information and updates about any beta product availability by signing up for Office Live Workspace. Also, check out our PressPass." If you want to do real-time screen sharing and collaboration, you can download the Microsoft SharedView beta for Windows here. The Office Live Update and SharedView are currently only available for Windows. An Office Live Update is available for the Microsoft Office suite.
Office Live Workspace – Your workspace comes with 500 MB of storage, Individual documents can be as large as 25 MB. Shared with 100 people is the design.
Office Live Small Business – professional website, domain name, company-branded emails, and online tools for managing customers and projects
SharePointHosting.com has some good tutorials on simple customizations (that really are simple things you can do in the browser) in hosting that you can do. They are also a good alternative if you are just looking for site collection hosting. There are options in this space. They also have a blog post on adding third party and their answer to app dev.
It’s amusing sometimes to look at what hosters consider customizations that are ok. Look at IT Solutions ExchangeMailhosting.com in what they consider SharePoint customizations that are ok: Browser-Based Customization, Web Parts, Apply a Theme from the Browser, SharePoint Designer Customization, Personal Views.
SharePoint Online & Business Productivity Online Standard Suite (BPOS-S) – SharePoint Online Standard – this is the multi tenant, your own domain name offering (Based on MOSS Standard). You can’t guarantee dedicated storage or pipes. You may see the numbers of users associated with this at 5000 or less, but that’s really more about setting the stage for the dedicated service. Here’s the SharePoint Online datasheet, but here’s the detail on the customization: Microsoft SharePoint Online Standard Developer Guide BPOS-S Customization
BPOS-D – SharePoint Online Dedicated – this is the dedicated service. It’s a big jump from the multi tenant standard edition, but this is the service that’s changed most dramatically. In this offering you could end up with not only dedicated servers, but dedicated active directory, dedicated storage, dedicated pipes, and secure VPN tunnels and all sorts of very interesting and solutions across Exchange Hosting, Active Directory Hosting, and more… Don’t underestimate what can happen in this space. Designed and priced for 5,000+ users. Some of their more recent customers are 110K or 120K plus… (Look at Coke) with users and offices spread across the globe. Here’s the SharePoint Online Dedicated Datasheet.
Talking with Charles Ofori, the manager of the SharePoint Engineering group for BPOS-D, the plan has changed. They have acquired head count, and are now going through the steps to not only support companies building custom solutions, but also support SharePoint ISVs (Independent Software Vendor) people who build solutions and tools on top of SharePoint. From web parts, to workflows, to migration solutions, the space has been opened up to a certification process.
Both the corporation’s development and the ISV’s solutions go through a rigorous testing and validation process to ensure they fit the "best practices" for scale, manageability, supportability, and other criterion that this new head count will take this code through. You can surely imagine it will be inspected for code leaks, but also things like the way it accesses the API and so on.
To make this completely clear. The dedicated service NOW Supports Custom code including solutions.
Azure Microsoft SharePoint Service – There’s a different model here completely. This one is still very early, but I’ll try to pull together the resources as I hear about them.
In the past it was very easy to look at the hosting space and easily dismiss any bolted on solutions because they simply weren’t supported. Not only were the teams trying to figure out how to scale and support the base platforms, but the staffing models, support models, and more were all being flushed out.