Microsoft to turn Dynamics ERP into a service, starting with Dynamics AX in 2016

Microsoft is preparing to release its next version of Dynamics AX ERP as a cloud-first service that will be tightly integrated with other Microsoft business services.

Microsoft has made its various ERP suites available on Azure for those who wanted to run Dynamics AX, NAV and/or GP in the cloud over the past couple of years.

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But starting with its next release of Dynamics AX, now due in the first quarter of 2016 (instead of by year-end 2015, as originally expected), Microsoft is going a step further.

The next release of Dynamics AX -- a product which is dropping the year as part of its name -- will be an Azure-hosted service that's more tightly integrated with a number of Microsoft's other cloud services.

Like its other software products that are evolving into regularly updated services, such as Windows 10 and System Center Configuration Manager, Microsoft's Dynamics AX product is going the same route, said Microsoft Dynamics ERP Technical Fellow Mike Ehrenberg.

And like a growing number of its other products, Dynamics AX is moving to a cloud-first model, meaning the Azure-hosted version will debut ahead of the on-premises complement. The next on-premises version of Dynamics AX won't be out until the latter part of calendar 2016, and will make use of new capabilities in Windows Server 2016 and SQL Server 2016, both of which are also due for release in 2016, Ehrenberg said.

Ehrenberg called the coming release "the most significant thing we've done in ERP in ten years."

Dynamics AX includes an overhaul of the client, which will be a fully-browser-based HTML one available for Windows 10 Edge users, as well as users on other modern browsers on iOS and Android, Ehrenberg said. Users will be able to extend the client themselves and build business-specific mobile applications. The client app for Windows will be wrapped and made available as a Universal Windows Platform app, so it will work with Continuum on PCs, tablets and phones, he said.

The new Dynamics release also includes a new "guided" user experience that looks and works like Microsoft Office and is tightly integrated with Dynamics CRM, Office 365, Skype, Azure machine learning and Power BI. The tighter integration with other Microsoft cloud and enterprise products and services makes sense given Microsoft's decision earlier this year to move its Dynamics CRM and ERP engineering team to the Cloud & Enterprise division.

Another new feature in the release will be "Workspaces," which allows users in different roles to get a different view of activities in Dynamics AX that are tailored to their roles, with all the data, processes and other information they need to complete tasks. "Task Guides" will provide on-screen guidance and support for using Dynamics AX using Cortana voice commands.

A select number of Microsoft customers have access to a private preview of the coming Dynamics AX release now. The public preview of the next Dynamics AX cloud release will be available in early December 2015. December is when Microsoft will talk about pricing.

Microsoft has been working to make its Dynamics NAV ERP release more of a managed service, Ehrenberg said. But it doesn't sound like the company has made moves toward making Dynamics GP, another of its ERP suites, available as a cloud service.

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