Microsoft gets large India order for its Cloud suite for education

Some 7.5 million students and faculty in India will use Microsoft's cloud services

Microsoft said it has gained in India its largest cloud customer ever, where the company is providing Live@edu, its free cloud services for student communication and collaboration, to 7.5 million users.

The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), a part of the country's Ministry of Human Resource Development, plans to deploy the cloud service to more than 10,000 technical colleges and institutes across the country, eventually covering more than 7 million students and 500,000 faculty members, Microsoft said.

Live@edu is a free hosted communication and collaboration service that offers email, Microsoft Office Web Apps, instant messaging and storage. Students will get 10GB of storage space and email IDs customized to the institutions at which they study, a Microsoft spokesman said.

The cloud service will be hosted by Microsoft at its data centers, he added. He did not disclose their locations.

The deal in India is a big win for Microsoft, as it competes with the likes of Google and its Apps package. The search giant scored a recent victory, albeit much smaller, when a Dutch university decided to go with Google Apps instead.. Microsoft wasn't able to offer Office 365 for education, which will succeed the Live@edu package, and Tilburg University didn't want to wait.

"We want the migration finished before the summer. I'd actually rather go with Office 365, but it's taking too long. Microsoft has been cooperating and trying hard, but we simply can't wait any longer," said Corno Vromans, deputy director of IT services at Tilburg University, in an interview with Dutch publication Webwereld.

However, luckily for Microsoft, that wasn't a deal breaker in India. AICTE also plans to deploy Microsoft Office 365 for education when it becomes available later this year, providing access to email, shared calendars, instant messaging, video conferencing and document collaboration through applications such as the Exchange Online email and calendar, SharePoint Online, Lync Online and Office Professional.

The deployment has already begun in some institutes, Microsoft said. Some educational institutes in India are already using the service from Microsoft, with the Delhi University's School of Open Learning having 200,000 students using it, the spokesman said.

Although Live@edu is free, some of the higher-level, newer services on Office 365 for education may come with a price, he added.

India has typically avoided taking sides in the open source versus proprietary software debate.

(Additional reporting by Mikael Ricknas in London.)

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