Microsoft Drives Toward One Code Base

Project Green aims to bring enterprise applications, including Great Plains and Navision, into a single unified .Net architecture.

Microsoft Corp. is working on its latest, best shot at the enterprise applications business with a new project to create a single, global code base for its product lines.

"Project Green" is the Redmond, Wash., companys effort to deliver all its business applications, from its Great Plains Software Inc., Navision A/S, Axapta (which Navision bought earlier) and Solomon Software (which Great Plains had acquired) lines, on a single code base built on the Microsoft Business Framework and .Net Framework. Revamped "Green" applications are planned to debut in the 2006 "Longhorn" time frame.

"Green was named by one of the general managers of Microsoft Business Solutions, who is an avid golfer and thought it represented our chance for a shot, a hole in one on a great solutions delivery," said Tami Reller, Microsofts corporate vice president for Business Solutions, in an exclusive interview at Microsofts Worldwide Partner Conference here this month.

/zimages/5/28571.gifRead Peter Gallis interview with Tami Reller.

Green is also the color of money, but whatever the motivations for the code name, Green does promise a major change on the business application front for current and future customers, as well as for Microsoft partners and third-party developers.

The strategy is to enable developers to build a next-generation suite from the ground up with the latest Microsoft tools, including Visual Studio. To accomplish this, Microsoft is taking a best-of approach. "Were leveraging the model ease-of-use and deployment practices of Navision, the event-based customizations built into Great Plains, the metadata-store technology and object-driven development concepts with Axapta, and Solomons Visual Basic foundation for customization," Reller said.

Some partners and customers have already been briefed on the initiative and welcome it, but they caution that Green is not without challenges. John Parkinson, chief technologist for the Americas at Cap Gemini Ernst & Young U.S. LLC, in Chicago, thinks the biggest one will be the transition through what he calls the "Longhorn discontinuity"—the long time frame.

"Not everybody will jump, and not everybody who does jump will do so right away. But there is this impending transition to a utility provisioning model for business automation services, which will hit the SMB [small-to-midsize business] space hardest first," Parkinson said. "So Microsoft really needs an answer to that set of business drivers, and Green is the answer. They are spot-on with that initiative."

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