I recently attended an ERP cloud strategy update from MS in which they outlined their next few years of ERP activity vis-à-vis the cloud. Here’s what I heard:
SL: No comments. No surprises there.
NAV2013 is in a TAP program on Azure with several partners and will be the first cloud ERP delivery expected to release in Q1CY2013. This will run on Azure, but the IAAS portion of Azure (in other words, it will be using virtual SQL Servers and Application Servers). It is NOT running on SQL Azure. They will also be releasing the web client which will work either with the Azure release OR with an on-premise release. They are also releasing a Rapid Start tool that uses QA interfaces to do initial configuration – clearly this is a method for making the provisioning as fast as possible. Any customer, regardless of licensing, can move to Azure but would have to pay the cost of the hosting (proc time and storage).
GP 2013 releases Dec 2012 and will be deployed on Azure exactly the same way that NAV is. However, they have done two things to make managing the environment a little easier. First, they have allowed the Dynamics system database to be named anything – this will allow a partner to host multiple versions of GP on a single SQL server. Also, they have developed a web based management console for GP that they say allows easier multi-tenant management. They did not show it but said it was available with the general release. I’ve looked at the Beta release of both the Web Client and the Management console. Rough and not ready for a high volume shop just yet. However, I’ve seen lots of cycle releases on the web client before BETA so I think it will improve fast.
AX is the biggest release change for the cloud. v.next AX moves to the cloud 2014/2015 and will release on Azure BEFORE it releases on-premise. They intend v.next to be delivered exactly like CRM Online (a true multi-tenant app I guess is what they mean by this) and will also offer a Windows 8 native interface. The entire client will be rewritten under HTML5 and JScript so it is platform independent, but will have an app wrapper so it can be delivered in the various app store marketplaces. They also intend to take advantage of tablet features (like camera and GPS).
For lifecycle management, they intend to deliver tools that will allow easier movement of code and data between TEST and PROD. Such will be workflow based so that approval events move data and code rather than people having to do it manually. In addition, they plan to manage data moves (like copying live to test) so that less manual involvement is needed (copy prod to test and eliminate any private data while, at the same time, stop any automatic emails, as an example).
They also intend for upgrades to be far more automatic with customer selecting the timing of the upgrade and allowing customer to automatically upgrade a test environment so they can do their own testing. In addition, they will do upgrades to reduce or eliminate downtime by upgrading snapshots and looking at production differential which, in turn, gets upgraded.
Convergence will be where most of this is announced in more detail and they may try to find early adopter customers at Convergence.
Apparently we will be hearing more Dynamics related messages integrated to the classic Microsoft stack as we go forward. Below is their vision of how this works followed by a stack slide showing where everything fits.
I love the above two messages. I think they are will thought out and definitely position the entire stack more cleanly.
One last note: during QA some people asked questions about ISV support in NAV and GP. The answer was very unclear and was something like “Azure is more vanilla so, if they need lots of ISV’s, they may want to go to a hosting partner”. I can’t interpret that at all, so I’ll keep my ears open.
Dynamics CRM sold under EA or on a credit card in the cloud. Dynamics AX sold under EA. GP and NAV in the cloud. Software margins declining. Plague, locusts and riot abound. Oh, mercy me, what is the Dynamics reseller to do?
No idea. Or rather to many. But to me this looks suspiciously like an opportunity for VAR 2.0.
VAR 1.0 had an easy job. For the most part, we sold high margin software to clients fed by occasional leads from MS; massive interest from clients forced by programmatic (Y2K anyone?) issues or platform changes (Side of web services with that client/server, sir?); and depended on very expensive staff to deliver software training and cutover services that we hoped solved core business problems. However, we mostly focused on getting the system up within scoped budget and time.
Put another way, we sold a disk to run an application on a machine. Then we sent some people out to set it up.
Machine. Disk. People. Machine. Disk. People. Machine. Disk. People. Repeat until profitable.
VAR 2.0 has to approach this differently. The machine is gone – the cloud takes care of that. The disk is gone – the license gets rented. What’s left?
That’s right, the most expensive, time consuming, annoying, unpredictable and intractable part of your business is what you’ll have left. The good news, however, is that with the shiny machine and magical disk gone, you can use your people to focus on what’s most important to the success of your business.
The success of your client.
Screw that, its not scary. It’s a hoot, a holler and a joy. By removing software margin from the occasion we also remove a host of un-natural acts designed solely to drive software sales and not to drive customer success. Now, we can serve the client by giving them better systems to run their businesses faster, more productively and with less cost so they in turn can serve their clients even better.
With machine and disk out of the way, VAR 2.0 can focus on running a deal cycle where the majority of the customers spend is on solving business problems through the proper definition of the business issues, development of rational and productive solutions to said issues, and deployment of same using the tools at hand. No machine. No disk. Just people solving problems.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately so expect alot more on it here.