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Update: Microsoft puts ERP in the Azure cloud

Chris Kanaracus, IDG News Service | April 11, 2011
Microsoft is moving its Dynamics ERP (enterprise resource planning) applications to its Azure cloud platform, the company announced Monday at the Convergence conference in Atlanta. The belated move represents a major change for the way Microsoft sells Dynamics, which has traditionally been sold through partners in on-premises and hosted form.

While multitenancy remains an important technology for cloud computing, its relevance is waning as the industry, including Microsoft, makes advances in virtual machine management, Tatarinov contended.

Microsoft's experience gained by delivering CRM Online at scale, along with those technical advancements, will help drive down the cost of ERP in the cloud, he said.

But little information about pricing for the cloud versions of Dynamics ERP was disclosed Monday. "The types of things we do may be different for different products," Tatarinov said. However, many customers are already paying for the software as a subscription through partners, he noted. The Azure Dynamics products will also be available via subscription, he said.

Microsoft is not expecting a wholesale migration of customers to the cloud, Tatarinov said. "In ERP, you will see mostly mixed workload deployments."

For example, a customer may want to deliver ERP to its field services representatives via Azure but keep the core back-end ERP system in house.

The process of customizing Dynamics ERP for Azure should also be smooth for partners currently building extensions and vertical applications for other deployment models, Tatarinov said. A new configurator tool for the upcoming Dynamics AX 2012, which will also run on Azure, provides "enormous power" for tweaking the software without writing code, he said. Developers can continue using C# or other .NET languages to tweak the software as well, he said.

Microsoft is planning to give partners and customers guides and methodologies for writing code that will run either on-premises or in the cloud, he said. But it's always possible that an existing customization won't be perfectly compatible with cloud deployment, depending on how it is written.

Overall, having the cloud deployment option makes a difference on net new sales, or when existing customers are looking to do something new, said Frank Scavo, managing partner of the IT advisory firm Strativa.

But current Dynamics users might be comfortable with their implementations and "don't have a driving need to move those systems to the cloud."

Still, NetSuite and others are applying pressure that Microsoft must combat, Scavo said.

Also Monday, Microsoft gave showgoers a look at Dynamics AX 2012. The beta version of the ERP application will be available this month, with a general release expected in August, Microsoft said.

Features in AX 2012 include a series of "Unified Natural Models," described by Microsoft as "a library of business processes that reflect real-world situations."

AX 2012 also features the "role-tailored" user experience Microsoft has been building into its business software. The approach configures the application's look and feel depending on the particular user's job.


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