Now included in the Microsoft 365 Roadmap, Microsoft is on course to deliver tools to move email, calendar, and contacts from Google G Suite to Office 365 (in reality, to Exchange Online) with an expected availability in the second quarter of 2019.
It’s hardly a surprise that Microsoft should focus on what might be the only mainstream cloud competitor for Office 365. A case can be argued that these are tools that Microsoft should have had years ago, but perhaps the real reason why Microsoft is making the moves now is that migration from the Exchange on-premises installed base is tailing off (Office 365 is now at 155 million active users). If this is the case, then capacity might be available in Microsoft’s FastTrack organization to take on new challenges. After all, Office 365 needs more fuel to maintain its growth.
Microsoft already offers guidance to migrate mailboxes from G Suite to Exchange Online using IMAP and the Exchange Mailbox Migration service, and there are ISV products available to help too. What’s changing is that Microsoft is now going to migrate calendar and contact data, which probably means that they need to use Google’s REST-based APIs (for example, the calendar API) as the now-antique IMAP protocol only handles messages. Moving away from IMAP has a further advantage in that the throttling Google applies on data transfer might not be quite so evident with their own APIs. I expect Microsoft to continue using the mailbox migration service because it gives a convenient way to process and manage batches of user accounts moving to Exchange Online.
All of this is idle speculation on my part and what’s really happening won’t become clear until Microsoft shows off what they are doing. I asked Greg Taylor, Director of Exchange Marketing at Microsoft (author of the tweet shown above), about the initiative. He said:
“The primary reason we’re doing this is to improve the end to end security of customer data. We want to make sure the customer’s data itself is secured as it moves, that it doesn’t make an unexpected staging stop along the way, and the authentication used to get to it is strong and trustworthy.”
Reading between the lines, it seems like Microsoft wants to have full charge over the migration of user data from G Suite to Office 365 so that they can assure customers that security is maintained at all times. That perspective makes sense in the context of a world where the integrity of personal data is increasingly regulated (like GDPR).
In May 2013, Boston was one of the first major losses Microsoft suffered in the cloud wars when the city opted for Google Apps over what was then a very underdeveloped Office 365. In January 2014, Google celebrated the move of 76,000 employees from on-premises Exchange to its platform, a post that remains one of the headline stories for G Suite in Government.
Since the Boston loss, I haven’t heard of many other large-scale successes for G Suite over Office 365 outside the education section, where Google has always been very strong. The loss stung Microsoft, and since then they’ve pumped out a steady stream of new features, capabilities, and applications to beef up the Office 365 suite. The base workloads of Exchange and SharePoint are both stronger, Teams, Planner, and advanced applications like Workplace Analytics are available, and the Microsoft online applications are a world away from where they were in 2013.
It seems like the momentum is with Office 365, so it’s unsurprising that they should now start to crank up the pressure by formally offering comprehensive migration tools for G Suite. One wonders how Google will respond?