The holidays have arrived early for the many Citrix Service Provider partners awaiting Office 365 support for Citrix CloudPortal Service Manager (CPSM).

With the release of Office 365 Tech Preview for 11.5, service providers can continue designing and offering compelling hosted workspaces, blending the best services available from Citrix and Microsoft.

Hosted Exchange ain’t what it used to be …

After a long history of delivering multi-tenant, on-premises-based Microsoft services, such as Exchange, Lync and SharePoint, service providers and the hosting industry are evolving to fully embrace cloud and Office 365.

Office 365 LogosWhile delivering mail and collaboration services remains a core competency for many service provider businesses, increased competition in the hosted services space is resulting in commoditization of these services, driving down price and margin.

Savvy service providers are evolving beyond these core services by focusing on strategic verticals or broadening portfolios to include new service offerings. Expansion into desktops-as-a-service (DaaS), mobility and data management are three avenues available to Citrix Service Provider partners.

Office 365 frees up service providers to focus on the next big thing.

With Office 365 service support, service providers can easily deliver Office 365 alongside Citrix apps and desktops from a central management portal. Time and resources once spent managing complex Exchange and Lync deployments on-premises are freed up by the move to Office 365 – these resources can now focus on new strategic initiatives and investments across the business.

7 things to know about the Office 365 Tech Preview:

Bring Your Own Office 365 Account(s)
Simple customer onboarding

A bring-your-own-account approach ensures that all sizes and types of service provider partners can take advantage of the service. We’re excited about the synergy between the reseller model and Office 365 reseller programs (available to Microsoft CSPP partners), however in the tech preview and V1 release of Office 365, accounts are created out of band from CloudPortal Services Manager. The benefit is that linking a customer with an Office 365 account is straight forward during the customer service provisioning process – simply enter an Office 365 admin credential.

Linking customers to Office 365 accounts is straight forward – enter an administrator credential.

With a BYO account design, partners can address the popular use case where businesses bring existing Office 365 accounts to service providers to manage alongside other IT services.

Experimenting with the tech preview release is easy and free.  Create one or more free Office 365 trial accounts to get a feel for the service and tech preview functionality.

Identity Synchronization & Azure AD
Speed up identity sync configuration and management

Office 365 is unique to other CPSM services because it involves synchronizing CPSM managed identity to Azure AD. It’s critical to understand when provisioning a user Office 365, one or more licenses is assigned to an Azure AD identity – not the local active directory identity managed by CPSM. This brings an identity synchronization requirement to the solution that dictates service providers sync CPSM managed users to Azure AD before equipping them with Office 365. Don’t fret, we’ve simplified this sync process to make it as simple and straight forward as possible.

During user provisioning, CloudPortal Services Manager communicates with Office 365 to confirm the target user exists in Azure AD. This check will help prevent provisioning failures up front by alerting the administrator that identity needs to be synchronized.

To facilitate new user on boarding, the service offers “on demand sync” to expedite Azure AD sync operations, allowing for Office 365 to be delivered as part of a continuous onboarding process. In just minutes, new users can be created in CloudPortal Services Manager, synced to Azure AD and provisioned the Office 365 service.

Scheduled and on demand sync simplifies Azure AD identity management and new user onboarding.

What about password changes and stuff?

Sync features in the Microsoft Azure AD Connect solution ensure CloudPortal Services Manager users remains in sync with their Azure AD counterpart – accounting for common scenarios such as password change or AD attribute modification.

Microsoft Azure AD Connect Support
Connect multi-tenant identity infrastructure with Azure AD

CloudPortal Services Manager brings unique value to service providers by allowing them to share a single Active Directory across multiple tenants.  However, multi-tenant AD is not the mainstream use case for Office 365AzureADConnectLogo_smaller and the supporting Azure AD Connect toolkit.

With this release we’ve researched and navigated this multi-tenant use case to provide a simple and scalable solution. Support for Office 365 combined with the benefits of CloudPortal Services Manager multi-tenancy allow partners to blend Office 365 with on-premises services to deliver the ultimate hosted workspace.

New customer onboarding is facilitated by automation — the service maps the CPSM customer identity into an Azure AD Connect configuration. That configuration will be remotely deployed to a dedicated sync machine. For each customer provisioned with Office 365, a dedicated sync virtual machine is required to host the Azure AD Connect solution.

During tech preview development we explored sharing a single virtual machine for all sync requirements.  After a lot of research and tinkering we concluded that a dedicated sync machine per customer is the best approach to ensure stability and reliability.

Scale up by adding a dedicated sync server for each Office 365 account.

Customer Self Service & Access Control
Control and delegate access to Office 365 admin portals

During service provisioning, admins can grant Office 365 administrator or user privileges (Office 365 admin portal access rights) by mapping Office 365 access control options to user plans. By defining multiple user plans, service providers can deliver on customer self-service scenarios such as providing tenant admins with Exchange Online admin rights and tenant users standard user plans.

Create multiple user plans to assign admin vs. user level permissions in Office 365

Unlike most CloudPortal Services Manager service back-ends, Office 365 offers a dedicated account and cloud based management experience for each tenant.  Rather than recreating the entire Office 365 management portal in CloudPortal Services Manager, we’re focusing on the management of multiple O365 accounts across multiple customers.

The tech preview release aims to validate this approach with our Citrix Service Provicer partners, so be sure to provide your feedback on the Office 365 self service use case.

Real Time Office 365 Account Summary
Stay up-to-date and facilitate licensing reporting and true up procedures

For service providers delivering Office 365 with CloudPortal Services Manager, their goal is to manage multiple accounts and customers without needing to log into the Office 365 portal.  We’ve facilitated this by building a custom service page that queries a real time account summary for any customer provisioned with Office 365. Using this service UI, service providers or tenant admins can quickly check in on available licenses, assigned licenses and account details.

Get real time account status and license usage using the Account Summary page.

Office 365 Service Deployment Guide
Deploy quickly and integrate with on-premises infrastructure and services

The deployment guide covers the basics of deploying the service and getting the solution up and running. It includes details on how to deliver an integrated and compelling hosted workspace, such as how to configure Outlook auto-configuration with Exchange Online.  The Office 365 Tech Preview deployment guide can be found on the product documentation site here. For additional detail on Office 365 with XenDesktop, check out this blog.

In addition to the deployment guide, current partners can view a video walkthrough that covers initial setup and deployment through customer and user service provisioning.

Multi-User Service Provisioning Support
Save time using bulk operations to onboard and manage at scale

A core value of CloudPortal Services Manager is efficiency at scale.  The tech preview enables service providers to provision and de-provision Office 365 licenses across multiple users in a single operation.  During provisioning the service queries Office 365 and presents the licenses (Office 365 plans) available for assignment.  That functionality has been extended to multi-user provisioning, saving time during on boarding and decommissioning of multiple users.

Next Steps
Download the Office 365 Tech Preview (requires Citrix Service Provider Login) or check out the CloudPortal Services Manager product page to learn more!

Relevant links
Office 365 Deployment Guide for XenApp and XenDesktop
Office 365 Tech Preview Deployment Video
CloudPortal Services Manager Product Page
CloudPortal Services Manager Download Page
CloudPortal Services Manager Product Documentation
CloudPortal Services Manager Forums