Dynamics AX 2009: The 'Halo' for Microsoft's app platform

The latest Axapta release has lots of new bells and whistles, But what caught my eye most about Dynamics AX 9.0 when Microsoft recently demo'd it for me was how it is the showcase app for so many different Microsoft technologies.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft began rolling out to customers on June 2 the latest version of its high-end ERP application, Dynamics AX 2009.

The latest Axapta release (also known as AX 5.0) has lots of new bells and whistles: A compliance center dashboard that displays all kinds of key performance indicators (KPIs) in a single view; time-zone support; integration with the (stil-not-yet-shipping) SQL Server 2008 database release. But what caught my eye most about AX 2009 when Microsoft recently demo'd it for me was how it is the showcase app for so many different Microsoft technologies.

"What Halo is for Xbox, we are for Microsoft's application platform," said Kees Hertogh, Director of Product Management for Dynamics AX.

AX 2009 includes and/or makes use of every Microsoft technology but the kitchen sink:

  • Like the rest of Microsoft's Dynamics family, AX now incorporates the Office look-and-feel throughout the application and sports an Office-Ribbon-style action pane.
  • Because it embeds the Windows Workflow engine inside the app, it includes more built-in business-process automation and allows admins to set rules and policies that apply to different modules.
  • Business intelligence, Microsoft-style, is part of the app; AX 2009 embeds SQL Server OLAP cubes, and ships with a set of predefined KPIs.
  • The new ERP app has a back-and-forth button and a breadcrumb bar that would be familiar to anyone who has used Internet Explorer.
  • Support for Office Unified Communications Server is integrated directly into the product, so that users will be able to integrate their PBX and VOIP systems directly with the back-end ERP system. Ditto with Microsoft SharePoint Server, BizTalk Server and Project Server -- not surprisingly, integration hooks are build in.
  • AX publishes Web services, such as credit-card processing and shipment via UPS. And other vendors/users can create custom Web services that can be consumed by AX 2009. "We use Microsoft's SOA technologies to expose and consume these services," Hertogh said.

Microsoft has been encouraging developers to integrate its Office Ribbon, its Windows Workflow technology and support for its Excel Services technology into their own custom line-of-business apps. Relatively few have done so, to date -- for lack of tools, fear of becoming too locked into Microsoft's stack and/or other reasons.

Do you think third-party app vendors will start incorporating more Microsoft technologies into their on-premise and/or Web apps, moving forward? Why or why not?

Update: Brandon George, Senior Technical Architect with Sunrise Technologies -- who has posted a good Q&A with a couple of key Dynamics execs -- said he thinks app vendors who "want to stay or become more profitable" would be well served by incorporating more of the Microsoft stack. Agree?

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