Not much was said publicly about Microsoft Dynamics business applications at the company's Professional Developers Conference last week, but the company did say -- separately -- that it is moving some ERP services to its Azure cloud.
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One is a "Sites" service that will let customers create and manage their own websites to handle tasks like "request for quote" from their ERP application. Another is for building e-commerce perks, like shopping carts, for ERP applications. Both services are due in the first half of 2010. And both were positioned as complements to partner-hosted or on-premises Microsoft Dynamics ERP applications.
Keyora Inc., a Microsoft partner that layers e-commerce capabilities atop Microsoft Dynamics AX or GP applications, sees opportunity here.
"I see Azure helping us in time to market," said Michael Bolton, a partner with Toronto-based Keyora. "Rather than a client having to buy a server, install an OS, configure IIS server, purchase static IP addresses and buy a SQL Server license -- -- that can be $20,000 and a lot of time -- Azure will offer all of that as a service. It abstracts out the cost and infrastructure amortizing it out over time," Bolton said.
Keyora doesn't make a lot of money on that sort of infrastructure. "It just adds overhead to the client and makes the purchase decision longer and more complicated. The trend is for an IT company to say 'I'd rather not manage that hardware and software locally; I'd rather have it as a service."
The Microsoft news was designed to coincide with Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference 2009 last week, but was not specifically announced at the show, said Crispin Read, general manager of Microsoft Dynamics ERP.
Analogous Microsoft online services are available now but they're built on the company's current internal hosting platform known as Microsoft Global Foundation Services. The services tap into various Windows Server, IIS, SQL Server and .NET technologies. Azure is the blanket term for a whole next-generation Microsoft-hosted computing services environment that would serve up applications and data services on demand. Azure cloud technology has been in beta test phase for the past year and is slated to be commercially available for paying customers on Feb. 1, 2010.
Microsoft has no plans to host full-fledged ERP applications to Azure at this time, Read said. This is a sensitive point. Microsoft ERP partners are authorized to sell and support those product lines and make higher-than-average margins on those sales. Should Microsoft host ERP, as it does CRM, those margins would thin, partners said.
Read said the Azure cloud-based Commerce and Sites services can be used with both partner-hosted and on-premises ERP implementations. He said there is no change in the current plan to leave general ERP hosting to partners, although some Dynamics partners fear that Microsoft will eventually move full Microsoft Dynamics ERP hosting to Azure as well.
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