Back home for a day after Directions EMEA I am stil Baffled from what happened in Vienna. Even though I warned everyone in my previous post.
As my PRS "partner in crime" Gary already posted last monday Microsoft has announced a new strategy for Microsoft Dynamics NAV.
"In" Office 365 and "On" Azure
So what does that mean in real life? Remember back in school if we wanted to know what something meant we broke a sentence down into smaller pieces. Let's start with the first piece.
"In" Office 365
So what does that mean. The previous versions of NAV were already capable of interfacing with Office 365 so the new thing is not in this part of the sentence.
The new thing is in the smallest word. "In".
Until this release, whenever we had an interface with a product, NAV was always "leading". Meaning usually a user started from Dynamics NAV, pushed a button and Word, Excel or Outlook would open and do something.
With this release, office is leading. So if you log into Office 365 you would get Dynamics NAV as part of the subscription. One could even call it Dynamics365. You don't even notice that it is NAV. Every part of NAV is integrated. You can see charts and lists as part of your Office 365 experience.
From a repeatable perspective this is a huge thing. There are way many office users than NAV users. Microsoft claims 1 billion office users vs. almost 1.x00.000 NAV seats. This means that only 0.1% of all office users have NAV. Imagine that those office users would have NAV as part of their suite just by clicking on the option. Even if we move to 1% it would mean an explosion of NAV seats.
We will be busy.
We can't be that busy, we don't have enough people, not enough consultants, not enough developers! Panic!!
This is where the repeatable story comes in, and this is where Azure kicks in!
As with Office 365 the news in this sentence is not Azure. We could already run NAV2013FP1 on Azure, we can even run NAV2009 on Azure infrastructure services. Hell, it's "only" a virtual machine.
Well, that is not true and there is news.
Azure is not "just" a virtual machine. I'll come back to that later.
What is new in this sentence is not in this sentence. That makes it more difficult to explain.
New in NAV2013R2 is that it is a true Multi Tenant environment. Remember that I asked last year, what happend to Azure? Truth is that I found out what happend but won't share this online. (nah nah...). Let's focus on the fact that it's there today.
What does Multi Tenant mean in combination with Microsoft Dynamics NAV.
It means: "Running multiple independant legal entities on the same codebase on the same server". So let's say I am a lawyer, no let's say I am a freelance consultant and I need a solution to make sales invoices, register my expenses, declare VAT and do bank reconciliation. That is not rocket science, even for someone like me. Asuming there are 100.000nds other freelance consultants out there that have the same needs, why not share the same software. This is now possible with Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2013R2.
With a simple powershell command it is possible to spin off a new tenant on a codebase and start working with a few setup questions like companyname, VAT number etc.
And it get's better, it is integrated with Office 365! Wow!
This is al extremely cool and sounds very simple to do, but how are we going to execute on this. Who is going to do this? Are the Dynamics partners in the current ecosystem going to change their models from single implementations with customisations to serve me as a small customer with a monthly subscription?
That I guess is the real reason why I am baffled after attending Directions EMEA 2013.
The software is ready for it, Microsoft is ready for it, the customers are asking for it. But who is going to deliver it?
I promised to come back to azure infrastructure services. Yes, if you use it it is a Virtual Machine, but in my opinion there are two things that differantiate Azure from any other hosted VM solution.
1. Portal Experience
If you never worked with the Azure Portal I can only urge you and recommend to try. I've been working with servers for 30 years of my life (and I am only 36 years old) and I have never, ever experienced seting up a new machine being this simple. Never. Just a few clicks and you are up and running.
I have two machines running in Azure and my current bill is under 3 euro's per day! Is that cheap or what! Truth is here that I need to admit that MVP's get 150 euro/month for free, but hey, don't tell anyone please.
Azure supports a full powershell experience. You can create new machines and install software all from powershell commands.
And now what?
Well it is one of the last summerdays in The Netherlands, 25 degrees still outside at 9pm. I am going to sit outside with my wife and enjoy.
What wil you do?
this sounds a lot like commoditizing NAV for the sake of reach/market share. I'm with Erik on the "understanding NAV" topic. And when the users understand NAV, they want customizations (a field here, a little logic there, the legendary 20% from the last decade(s)). And this will simply not be possible with multi-tenancy as I understand it so far. I am also very skeptical when it comes to the current fashion of UIs. They are not work-oriented, they are distraction-oriented, IMO.
And for the question, are they willing to deliver this? I think no. Are they able to deliver it? Likewise no. It all sounds strangely like seeing a powerpoint presentation on how ERP should work, it's all looking very easy and trivial and "makes sense" (what else, it's marketing) and deciding "this is how it works" and buying a product. The hangover comes afterwards, when those tasked with the implementation and/or working with it find out that it doesn't work this way. Then it becomes a complexity problem: The product doesn't fit, and practically nothing can be changed quickly, because it's a multi-tenancy roll-out. When you try to cater for this beforehand, you have a hugely complex configuration for your database and business logic, and you can be certain that you don't have everything covered. This is also an issue with Add-Ons. Either your base installation has all the Add-ons you want (or can think of) and they play nicely with each other (also on bugfixes/changes/releases), or you're screwed / inflexible in the long run.
I don't see how this model fits to an ERP with a growing/adapting business in mind.
with best regards
Wonderful day today yes, also here in Manchester, where I'm spending the week with a customer instead of in Vienna. And Azure and 365 is surely a topic that comes up again and again (especially when I'm together with the co-founder of the UK Azure user group). So thank you for your post.
But I'm still puzzled in regards to what you really think about this whole "in and on"-thing. And especially in regards to if the current Dynamics NAV partner channel would be able to deliver on this. I will still say the no matter how easy it becomes to install and setup a company, then it will still take the time it takes before users fully understand the NAV and its many features. But what do you think?