Microsoft Reveals Dynamics to Azure Cloud Transition Roadmap – Sort Of

Microsoft delivered a much-awaited update on its roadmap for moving its cornerstone Microsoft Dynamics CRM and ERP applications to its Windows Azure cloud at these week’s Microsoft Convergence conference. But that “update” amounts to little more than a hedge, promising that it’s coming before year’s end, but providing scant few other details for when it’s finally going to move its ERP enterprise applications to the cloud.

In a press release, Microsoft says that SMB-focused ERP application Dynamics NAV 2013 will see a beta release in May 2012, and will be “cloud-enabled” for deployment on Windows Azure. Meanwhile, the similarly Azure-friendly Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013 will have its own beta over the summer. Microsoft says to expect both to launch before the end of the calendar year. Finally, the next major release of Microsoft Dynamics AX “will evolve as an enterprise cloud service offering from Microsoft.”

Microsoft also made sure to highlight the independent software vendor (ISV) ecosystem coming to Dynamics in the cloud – Dynamics NAV 2013 will see ISVs deliver Azure-hosted, vertical-specific solutions that provide specialized functionalities including “industrial equipment manufacturing to specialized retail and fashion, with more offerings becoming available over time.”

In the meanwhile, and on a similar note, Microsoft Dynamics AX has seen support from ISVs like Accenture, Bull, Cincom Systems and McLane Logistics Technologies, who are  using the ERP solution as a platform for offerings aimed at the transportation services, public sector, complex enterprise and manufacturing and distribution verticals, respectively.

According to GigaOM, Microsoft Business Solutions Corporate VP Kiril Tatarinov and Microsoft COO Kevin Turner both used their time in Convergence’s spotlight to emphasize the point that even in the Windows Azure cloud, Microsoft Dynamics ERP solutions will be delivered by its reseller partners. Dynamics is extremely profitable for Microsoft, due in no small part to the efforts of its many partners, and keeping them in the fold during the transition to the cloud is critical. After all, many of the essential customization services that enterprises need for their ERP deployments come from implementation partners.

Services Angle

Just today, our own Klint Finley was discussing how Microsoft Dynamics shouldn’t be discounted as a market force in the cloud. And it’s true that it shouldn’t: Whether or not there’s any truth to CEO Marc Benioff’s brash claims that the cloud service company surpassed Microsoft in the CRM market, Dynamics is a serious revenue generation engine for Redmond.

All the same, Microsoft is late to the enterprise cloud game. Dynamics CRM is already available as a software-as-a-service, but in the ERP market, NetSuite is a long-time provider of ERP-as-a-service. Workday is a cloud-only company that makes ERP a specialty. SAP has big plans for Business ByDesign in the cloud. And so on.

No, Microsoft isn’t known for speed. But I feel that if it wants the marketplace to take Windows Azure seriously as a platform for cloud application delivery, it needs to bank its own strategy therein, and soon. And vague targets for following through aren’t going to cut it for much longer.