Microsoft To Take ERP to Windows Azure Cloud

Microsoft intends to deliver its entire Dynamics portfolio as a cloud-based service, the company said on Monday.

Kicking off Microsoft's annual Convergence conference in Atlanta, CEO Steve Ballmer disclosed the plan to deliver future versions of Microsoft's enterprise resource planning (ERP) products both as premises and cloud-hosted offerings.

The company released Dynamics CRM 2011 Online in January, the first of the Dynamics portfolio made available both on-premises and in the cloud. Given the company's "all-in" plan to deliver all of its software as cloud-based services, news that Microsoft's ERP portfolio will follow suit is not a complete surprise. Nevertheless, it was not long ago that Microsoft was reticent to commit to making its ERP products available as hosted cloud services.

Less than two years ago, Microsoft officials indicated that it could be five to 10 years before there was suitable demand for hosted ERP. That no longer appears to be their opinion today.

"The cloud is probably the most important technological generation going forward for the next 10 years," Ballmer said in his opening keynote at Convergence. "By combining the scale of the Internet with the power of smart devices and the security of the enterprise datacenter, it's an engine to drive growth and productivity for all of us."

Ballmer told attendees that future releases will be engineered to work in the cloud and will be hosted on Microsoft's Windows Azure platform. "The whole Dynamics set will give customers the ability to instantly scale computing resources to the specific requirements of your business and to open up new markets," he said.

The cloud-based versions will be released in tandem with the subsequent delivery of new Dynamics releases, Microsoft said, though the company did not announce specific timeframes. Like Dynamics CRM, the feature sets of the cloud versions will mirror those of the on-premises releases, Microsoft said. In addition, the company will extend its Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace to partners and providers of third-party and vertical cloud-based services.

"Microsoft Dynamics ERP online, essentially surfacing the power of the proven cloud platform, will enable that app scale innovation in the cloud for all of our customers, for all of our partners, for the entire ecosystem," said Kirill Tatarinov, corporate vice president of Microsoft Business Solutions.

Microsoft also announced that the beta of Dynamics AX 2012 is now available, and that the product will ship in August. As previously reported, AX 2012 will offer better support for developers and partners through an improved integration with other Microsoft software, notably Office, SharePoint and SQL Server, as well as a model-driven layered architecture that offers better controls and less coding.

As for its other ERP wares, Microsoft said Dynamics GP 2010 R2 will be generally available May 1. The company announced the general availability of Dynamics SL 2011 last week.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.