Microsoft Dynamics 365: New roadmap, licensing details revealed

Microsoft is sharing more details about its cloud-hosted Dynamics 365 packaging and licensing plans ahead of the arrival of the first pieces of the service later this year.

Microsoft won't start rolling out the first of its Dynamics 365 deliverables until later this year. But that's not stopping CEO Satya Nadella from championing the coming CRM-ERP cloud bundle as the premier example of how Microsoft's focus on business processes will change how customers buy and use business apps.

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Introduced earlier this month, Dynamics 365 combines three Azure-hosted Microsoft services: the cloud version of Microsoft's Dynamics AX ERP suite, Dynamics CRM Online, and the "Project Madeira" small-business financials offering. Dynamics 365 will be integrated with Office 365, the Office Graph and, some time after Microsoft's acquisition receives approval from regulators later this year, LinkedIn.

Since the introduction of Dynamics 365, Microsoft officials have said relatively little (at least publicly) about how Microsoft is planning to package and license Dynamics 365. However, officials did reveal a few more specifics about the coming Dynamics 365 offering at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto.

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Dynamics 365 for Financials -- the official name for Project Madiera -- will be available in the US and Canada only in the fourth quarter of 2016. Four more (undesignated) countries will be added to those supported sometime in calendar 2017. A couple of other Dynamics 365 packages -- Dynamics 365 for Sales and Dynamics 365 for Marketing -- won't be out until sometime in calendar 2017, as noted by MSDynamicsWorld.com.

As Microsoft officials said earlier this month, there will be two primary editions of Dynamics 365: small business (Business Edition) and enterprise (Enterprise Edition). The Business Edition will offer financials, sales, and marketing modules, while the Enterprise version will include operations (ERP), sales, marketing, customer service, field service, and project service automation modules, according to MSDynamicsWorld.

These modules are a combination of existing Microsoft ERP and CRM Online modules.

Microsoft is "de-constructing CRM Online into its component parts, i.e., sales, marketing, customer service, etc.," explained Steve Mordue, CEO of Forceworks.com, a Microsoft Partner. "These 'parts' will join field service and project service, which were already 'parts'. Once done, you would have the option to license just a part, or the whole shebang at the Enterprise level."

The Dynamics 365 Business Edition is aimed at small to mid-size business users with up to about 100 seats, Mordue said. Though it's basically a slimmed-down ERP product with its roots in the Dynamics/NAV ERP world, Microsoft officials are trying to encourage employees and partners to drop the "ERP" moniker when referring to Dynamics 365 Business and instead just call it "Financials".

Dynamics 365 customers are going to have a choice of licensing Dynamics 365 by application or to use functionality across the suite via a role-based licensing alternative. But there's more: There also will be the option to license Dynamics 365 via "plans", which are groups of apps that can be used by all "plan" users when purchased together. Or they'll have a team member option for users who only need light access to the piece parts in Dynamics 365 and will have partial, restricted access.

Dynamics 365 for Business Plan is listed as a calendar 2017 deliverable, according to MSDynamicsWorld.

Microsoft is going to continue to make on-premises versions of its Dynamics GP, NAV, and SL products available. Before the end of this year, Microsoft is still planning to deliver GP 2016 R2, NAV 2017, and SL 2015 CU2. That's according to a roadmap slide captured by RoseASP Dynamics Hosting from Microsoft's partner show. That roadmap is in line with what Microsoft told partners and customers to expect from the company on the ERP front a few months ago.

There's no mention of Dynamics AX on the roadmap slide. Microsoft recently released the Dynamics AX 2012 R3 CU11 update. The company also quietly noted that Microsoft is extending mainstream support for Dynamics AX 2012 R3 an additional three years -- until October 2021 -- "so customers can be confident that their investment in this solution is secure for years to come".

Microsoft officials had said the company was planning to make the latest Dynamics AX release available to its on-premises customers only via its Azure Stack hybrid cloud operating system. But given Microsoft recently delayed Azure Stack until mid-2017, I'd assume that means no new version of on-premises Dynamics AX will be out until some time after that.

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