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Microsoft Launches Next-Gen Dynamics AX on Azure Public Cloud

Microsoft's Dynamics AX product is now a full-fledged Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering on the Azure public cloud.

The newest version of Dynamics AX (as a perpetually updated cloud solution, the product's name no longer has a year designation) had a pair of global "launch events" on Tuesday and Wednesday, though it has been available from the Azure Marketplace since late February in 40 languages and 137 regions.

As Microsoft explained late last year, it has rebuilt its flagship enterprise resource planning (ERP) product to be a cloud-first solution available on the Azure PaaS. Previously, Dynamics AX had been available as an on-premises product and as an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) solution on Azure. This Dynamics AX release represents "a milestone release" for Microsoft, according to Christian Pedersen, general manager of enterprise ERP at Microsoft, in an interview with RCP.

"It really rounds off what we refer to as our business cloud and brings together a lot of our individual cloud assets into a single offering for our customers," he said. Those assets include Azure Machine Learning, Azure Internet of Things (IoT), Cortana Analytics and Power BI. Customer billing for Dynamics AX will operate under a per-user/per-month model and will include the cost of tapping those cloud services, in addition to the ERP solution itself, Pedersen explained.

For partners, Microsoft has also tweaked Dynamics AX's compensation model to reflect the product's transition to the cloud. Partners will be compensated for selling both Dynamics AX and the underlying technologies. It's available under Microsoft Enterprise Agreement (EA), as well as through the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program.

"We have done pretty extensive work on incentive and compensation plans," Pedersen said. "Both in EA and CSP, we've landed on some very attractive models."

Microsoft is touting its partners' involvement in the development of Dynamics AX. In the short time that Dynamics AX has been available, there have been at least 50 solutions extending the product published on the Azure Marketplace by Microsoft ISVs. Over 100 more ISV solutions are in the pipeline. Microsoft ran Dynamics AX through eight technology previews, Pedersen said, in order to ensure "that the partners that serve the customers have been trained and ready."

New features in Dynamics AX include integration with Cortana, a new HTML5 user experience, integration with Team Foundation Server and Visual Studio, in-memory analytics, and elastic scaling.

Dynamics AX may have been reborn as an Azure PaaS solution, but Microsoft is not taking away the option to run it on-premises. According to Microsoft Technical Fellow Mike Ehrenberg, "We are going to enable...on-premise deployments with three core Microsoft technologies: Windows Server 2016, SQL Server 2016 and Azure Stack." Microsoft envisions this capability as revolving around a single Dynamics AX code base that can be extended to support public cloud, private cloud or hybrid cloud deployments. Microsoft expects to unveil this capability for Dynamics AX "later this year," Ehrenberg told RCP.

Windows Server 2016, SQL Server 2016 and Azure Stack are currently in varying stages of development, with general availability for each expected sometime this year. The newest of these -- and the most critical for running Dynamics AX in an on-premises cloud -- is Azure Stack, which Microsoft first unveiled at last year's Ignite conference, touting it as a solution that would enable users to easily run Azure cloud services in their own on-premises datacenters.

"The whole concept of Azure Stack is the thing that allows us to get to a world where we can build one product and not have to have a second thing for on-prem," Ehrenberg said.

Microsoft is also developing a third deployment flavor for Dynamics AX that is purely for private cloud. It will be "slightly" different, Ehrenberg said, than the version of Dynamics AX that's currently available on Azure PaaS and the forthcoming version that will be powered by Azure Stack to run in on-premises clouds. "We'll change some of the configuration options and some of the subscription management options and give people an extra level of isolation," he said.

About the Author

Gladys Rama is the senior site producer for Redmondmag.com, RCPmag.com and MCPmag.com.

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