Microsoft Dynamics AX went into the cloud in its last release, but the newest one is completely native to Azure, designed to fully leverage the hyperscale cloud for the first time.
MISSISSAUGA – Today at Microsoft Canada’s offices, the company formally launched its new Dynamics AX offering to an audience of customers, stressing its revolutionary nature compared not just to its competition, but to its own past versions.
“This is a major, major step for the industry, which is moving more to cloud adoption,” said Christian Pedersen, General Manager, Dynamics Marketing Core MBS, who flew in from Redmond for the occasion.
Dynamics AX 2012 could run on Azure, so this is not Dynamics’ first foray into the cloud, but Pedersen said that the new Dynamics makes a quantum leap forward in its cloud capabilities.
“This has been architected from the ground up to run on and in Azure, and that’s what we are really making a big step with now,” Pedersen said. “In the past few years, we have innovated heavily in the cloud, and we taken this to the nth degree and brought these technologies together and embedded them, while being optimized for different industries. With this product, we re-architected every single layer to run native Azure, every piece of technology.” The result, he indicated, is Microsoft’s first native born-in-the-cloud ERP.
Pedersen said this now gives Dynamics an edge over born-in-the-cloud competitors.
“We probably have the most modern application based on the Azure stack of technologies,” he said. “These born-in-the-cloud companies, some of their ERP products are now running on ten year old technology. Ours is based on cloud technologies that didn’t exist five years ago. By bringing an ERP product together with all the cloud capabilities we have in Azure, we can look at process analytics in a completely new way because we can determine every second of what people are doing in the business.
“Because we are in the Azure cloud, we basically have full telemetry over everything,” Pedersen continued. “We wanted to be able to determine what users were doing at specific points in time. That opens up all sorts of new opportunities. Businesses have been working on how to optimize processes, but they can’t really analyze it without the underlying telemetry data. This opens it up to new process analytics. How effective is the process and what impacts its efficiency? That’s a level of business insights they have never had before.”
A key here, Pedersen said, is that this version of Dynamics was able to carry forward the separate metadata that was first separated in the 2012 version.
“Carrying forward that set of metadata carries our customers with us and immediately gives us the complete suite for the core industries we address. We don’t have to wait years to populate it. We are seeing tremendous excitement among CIOs because they see a milestone in deriving information from information they already have.”
Vinay Nair, director of the Dynamics business at Microsoft Canada, said that the relevance of this type of solution to the Canadian market has been demonstrated by the recent volatility in the Canadian economy.
“The Canadian economy is very unique in that we are a mid-market and small business economy for the most part, and also heavily anchored in resources,” Nair said. “Our discrete manufacturing is heavily beholden to our mineral wealth and related to the value of the Canadian dollar. We are also an export economy, which is extremely interdependent on the global economy. The result is that our customers have to adapt to situations outside their control. That requires very tight operations in their business. They need to scale up and scale down based on the demands of their business.
“That’s why this is such a major release for us in Canada,” Nair added. “This is ERP which intersects with the hyperscale cloud.”
Pedersen emphasized the significance of the new Dynamics’ intelligent user interface.
“We don’t do machine learning for the sake of machine learning,” he said. “We do it so people can make better decisions every single day as fast as possible. The new user experience with HTML5 helps make smarter decisions, It is very intuitive for those with web browser experience. Because it’s HTML5, it means we can render to different device types. The integration is also intuitive. You can use Excel as your front end if you want.”
Thomas Mayer, COO of Renault Sport Formula One Team,which was the former Lotus F1 team until a new owner this year led to a name change, was the reference customer at the launch.
“F1 is famous for its huge budget, but we still have to carefully think where we spend the dollars,” Mayer said.
We write all our business applications ourselves on the racing side
Renault employs between 30 and 35 people on its engineering team, with an additional 30-40 who could be classified as data scientists, making simulations. While they have 21 races each year, it’s not unusual to see a particular part redeveloped 200 times over the year. They write their own applications themselves on the racing side, but use Dynamics for the analysis.
“We rely heavily on data to make smart decisions fast, which have a huge impact on the performance of the car,” he said. “What we want to achieve with Dynamics is not just archive data but make use of it to make the right decisions. We analyze the data stream during the race, using streaming analytics, and learn how to modify the way we are driving to last a few more laps.”
“Twenty years ago, these racing teams were doing analytics, they were doing Big Data, before these had those names, but there were no standardized processes for this,” Pedersen said. “It’s been a fantastic journey for us, working with them. They are pretty extreme in what they do, but at the end of the day they are a high tech manufacturing plant that innovates probably faster than anybody else in the whole world. That really pushes us to the limit in what our business applications have to be able to do, and that’s why we have partnered closely with them, getting feedback on how to do things faster and better.”
Even though the soft launch’s formal release date is still over a week away, Pedersen said customers have been going live since last July, and continue to go live every day. While Canadian pricing is not yet finalized, Pedersen said it will be a supertransparent per month, per user price, with many features like DR, HA and Power BI included.
The public cloud version is what is being made available now, although customers will also be able to run on prem-and private cloud deployments through the AzureStack datacenter setup once it becomes available later in the year. Pedersen stressed that the code tree is the same for all versions.
“We are also looking at new types of highly differentiated services we will add at some point, such as peak-scale scaleup capability,” he said.