Microsoft Corp. has launched a collection of online services for Microsoft Dynamics ERP customers who want to move certain applications like expense report processing into the cloud while keeping their ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems on-premise.
Microsoft said it can best serve its customers by offering a flexible deployment model so they can implement their ERP systems in the environments that are best for them. Microsoft said currently over 150 partners worldwide offer customers this hybrid option.
The online services that can be attached to its Microsoft Dynamics ERP platform including a new Azure-based service called Sites, new Commerce Services, and an expansion of its Payment Service, according to the company.
"The significance of this announcement is about Microsoft Dynamics taking another step into the world of cloud computing, and being one of the early vendors to talk about a hybrid environment of on-premise and cloud and how those scenarios might work and providing the technical support to allow them to work," said Jim Shepherd, an analyst with Boston-based AMR Research Inc. "And there hasn't been a real connection yet between Azure as a public cloud service from Microsoft and the Dynamics product line. So this is the first time we're really seeing the Dynamics business leverage the Azure offering."
The Sites Service lets users create and manage websites within the ERP applications. For example, using Sites a user can easily create such things as landing pages for marketing campaigns, dedicated request for quotes sites to get quotes from business partners, sites for product registration and customer feedback from customers, as well as human resourses sites for job recruiting, the company said.
Commerce Service extends multi-channel commerce situations by providing a link between the ERP products and different e-commerce scenarios such as business-to-consumer e-commerce marketplaces, dedicated e-commerce storefronts or built-in shopping cart functions, the company said. That means customers can list products and accept orders from a number of places from a single interface, Microsoft said.
Payment Service lets customers process payment transactions from the Microsoft Dynamics ERP interface across multiple channels, including e-commerce, point of sale and call center transactions. This feature currently works with payment processing services including First Data Merchant Services Corporation, Visa, MasterCard, American Express and PayPal.
"The biggest reason why this is important for our customers is typically it takes a lot of time to integrate down into financial systems so putting in ecommerce you have to have this fluid nature between items flowing into the ecommerce system as well as transactions flowing back through into the financial systems," said Michael Bolton, Director of Product Development, for Microsoft partner, Keyora Inc., in Oakville, Ontario. "With that Dynamics Online has really stepped up the game in speed to market and being very quickly able to launch an ecommerce site that extends the financial system."
Bolton said with the cloud services he can hook up to the Dynamics Online cloud and set up a brand new site from beginning to end that is fully integrated into the ERP solutions in just four hours-something that in the past could take up to a month to accomplish from an integration perspective.
Bolton said the other major benefit has to do with payment processing.
"With payment processing customers have to fall under PCI-level (payment card industry) standards to ensure the credit card data is safe and secure. One way to do that is you never have the credit card information pass through the system of the client," he said. "So what Dynamics Online has been able to offer is the ability for all those credit card transactions to happen inside the cloud."
That means that every single client that rolls out payment processing through Dynamics Online does not have to go through a PCI audit because the transaction data is never put through their systems, which could be a huge time saver and a huge cost saver to clients, he said.
Rebecca Wettemann, an analyst at Boston-based Nucleus Research, said the new online services were an important and incremental step for Microsoft in showing customers that it has a cloud offering.
"It's a first step," she said. "What we do see is an awful lot of Microsoft customers being very happy with the value they get from their existing ERP [systems]. These solutions give them an opportunity to extend that value. But I think it's just the beginning of what we'll see from Microsoft in terms giving customers options for whether they want to be managed on-premise or in the cloud."
The new Microsoft Dynamics ERP Sites and Commerce Services are expected to be available in the first half of 2010, with the additional payment service providers available in the first quarter of 2010.
---Reprinted from MSDynamicsWorld