NetSuite launches new e-commerce platform, inks cloud deal with Microsoft

NetSuite is making considerable use of Microsoft's cloud portfolio, both internally with its workforce and externally with its developer community.

Building off years of development and millions of dollars in investment, NetSuite is connecting the dots between its in-store and online commerce through a new platform reinforced by a well-known new partner.

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At the highest level, the big news is the partnership with Microsoft, tapping into the tech giant's Azure cloud computing platform and infrastructure as well as the cloud-based Office 365 productivity software suite.

"We've always had integrations but being able to work with their development resources will be a big boon to our customers," said NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson while speaking to ZDNet via telephone on Monday.

Nelson described when Satya Nadella stepped in as Microsoft CEO last year, Nadella "refocused" Microsoft's cloud strategy.

"A lot of things have changed at Microsoft for the better. Satya was the right candidate for that job," Nelson observed. "That stuff is totally complementary to what NetSuite does."

Thus, Nelson said he put in a call into Microsoft, to which Nadella accepted, and the two "hammered out what we could work on together."

NetSuite is making considerable use of Microsoft's cloud portfolio, both internally with its workforce and externally with its developer community.

In both regards, Nelson highlighted Active Directory to be playing a role in accessing these systems.

"Our joint vision is all about giving people the freedom to get more done through the broadening set of devices they interact with that in turn helps businesses innovate and grow," wrote Steve Guggenheimer, chief evangelist and developer platform corporate vice president at Microsoft, in prepared remarks.

Within NetSuite, the ERP giant is leveraging Azure for moving some of its development and cache systems to the cloud with greater interest in on-demand resources.

As the announcements are trotted out at the company's annual SuiteWorld summit in San Jose this week, a big chunk of the partnership is meant to serve NetSuite's developer base building business applications and other solutions on top of NetSuite itself.

"There's always some piece of that that lives outside the NetSuite system," Nelson reflected, citing Azure will now be the officially recommended platform for housing those products.

Also encouraging further development on top of NetSuite, the business software maker unveiled the next step in that strategy on Tuesday: the cloud-based SuiteCommerce InStore platform, touted to have taken NetSuite's original omnichannel mantra and architecture, now applying it to retail environments.

Quite simply, the approach promises the same customer (if not also the same seller) experience online and in-store, making it possible to display the exact same online retail environment and checkout process on an in-store point-of-sale system with additional functionality (i.e. a cash drawer release).

Furthermore, customers at stores using SuiteCommerce could feasibly push and pick up items from their digital shopping carts or wish lists while in store locations for immediate purchase.

Sales associates will also have much more customer information and data at their fingertips.

SuiteCommerce promises to display "comprehensive 360-degree customer history," plotting a visual timeline tracing a shopper's purchases, returns, exchanges, store visits and service requests across all points of sale from the counter to smartphones.

"There's no distinction now between what is happening with customers online and customers in-store," Nelson said, explaining how merchants can facilitate online orders for pickup in-store or have in-store purchases delivered to customer addresses.

NetSuite SuiteCommerce InStore is available now in the United States, starting at $39 per month per store associate. An international roll-out is scheduled for early 2016.

Although an exact timeline hasn't been released, the cloud-to-cloud integration between NetSuite and Office 365 is promised to happen in the coming months.

Until then, single sign-on for customers using NetSuite with Azure Active Directory is available immediately.