At its annual Convergence conference in San Diego March 11-14, Microsoft will make a plethora of announcements around its Dynamics brand of enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management suites, from the release of Titan, its multitenant version of Dynamics CRM, to something called Sure Step, a family of model-driven configuration, implementation and migration tools that make system migration and configuration easier for users to manage, across all four ERP suites.
But whats really being previewed at Convergence—a Dynamics platform strategy—may go officially unannounced. "The big news [at Convergence] is that Microsoft is standardizing the platform and converging down to a couple products that will become the primary platform [for Dynamics]. But you wont hear them say that," said Yvonne Genovese, an analyst with Gartner Group. "A combination of core technology that you find already in AX, NAV and Office—thats the platform."
Genovese said that the vision at Microsoft has always been to have its applications product line leverage all the Microsoft products, and that combined the products would move toward a single, converged applications product. "Where theyve come to now is more like two product lines," she said. "NAV for 50 users and below, and AX beyond the traditional midmarket." GP and SL will continue to be supported but play less of a role in the overall strategy.
Of the half dozen or more announcements at Convergence, the one that likely has the biggest impact on a Dynamics platform strategy is the Microsoft Dynamics Client for Office and SharePoint, a collection of up to a dozen self-service applications built in Office and SharePoint with access points that allow users to get into any Dynamics documentation or process using Office and SharePoint. More importantly, the Client also includes the platform license for ISVs to build out their own Dynamics-based applications.
"We expect our partners to build thousands of applications that extend Dynamics. Were telling our partners: Have at it, build whatever you want," said James Utzschneider, general manager of product marketing for the Microsoft Business Solutions group at Microsoft.
Utzschneider said the company has already done a lot of the hard work to enable developers to develop applications on top of Dynamics by making SharePoint a native platform for Dynamics.
What Office and SharePoint (which is part of the Office suite) provide in terms of platform capabilities are SOA (service-oriented architecture)-based tool sets that enable users—or ISVs—to orchestrate new business processes. That means partners have a standardized, SOA-based platform to build from, and users know what theyre getting in terms of technology from both Microsoft and from its channel partners. (In the past, users had no idea what they were getting from whom, according to Genovese.)
A Dynamics platform strategy, yet to be named should that be the plan, is not a new concept for Microsoft.
"Microsoft has been building on this [platform concept] for a year or so, but what was really needed was Office 2007—that was a key part of this," said Joshua Greenbaum, principal at Enterprise Applications Consulting. "SharePoint really needed to hit its stride and there had to be more of an internal alignment—something Jeff Raikes has really been working toward—to bring the two sides of the company together to work toward a goal. The crescendo of that will play out in San Diego."
For Microsoft, a platform based on SOA-based tools and Office is the short road to SOA enablement. To showcase its point Microsoft is announcing Real World SOA, a score card of sorts that highlights about 20 case studies showing how Dynamics users have utilized Microsofts XML and Web services infrastructure to both deploy applications and share data and processes across systems. "Its the starting point in the building block for having SOA," said Utzschneider. "Were doing this to compare our approach to others that have complex, four-year road maps. Users are souring on that approach."