This week saw Microsoft start charging customers to use Windows Azure Platform, our big bet for Cloud Computing and a core component of our Software + Services strategy. However, when Ray Ozzie announced Azure at the Professional Developers Conference in October 2008, he talked about a layer of services that would be provided as part of Azure. As you can see below, one of these was “Microsoft Dynamics CRM Services”.
I have to say that this was a bit of a surprise to most of us in the Dynamics community, myself included. What exactly was Microsoft Dynamics CRM Services? Was it a replacement for Microsoft Dynamics CRM online, which was already up and running in the USA & Canada? Was it the Microsoft Dynamics CRM framework (minus the CRM functionality) that developers could use to build new applications (what we refer to as xRM today)? It became pretty clear that nobody really knew.
Now the problem with an information vacuum is that, very quickly, it gets filled with rumour, conjecture and opinion, which over time start to become accepted as fact. And this is exactly what has happened over the last year or so. I was at our UK Dynamics monthly sales team meeting yesterday, and pretty much all of my colleagues believed that the Azure Services Platform included the xRM framework. This is also a commonly held belief by many of our partners and even some customers.
First of all I would like to set the record straight. Windows Azure DOES NOT include Microsoft Dynamics CRM or the xRM framework. This doesn’t mean that we won’t develop additional services (i.e. Software + Services) for Microsoft Dynamics CRM using Azure (for example the Microsoft Dynamics AX team recently announced a range of value-added Connect, Commerce, Payments, and Sites services, built on the Azure platform), but it does mean that you can’t run CRM natively in the Azure cloud.
I must say that this is not entirely a surprise. For example, since early-2009, Ray Ozzie (Microsoft Chief Software Architect) and others have been playing down some of the original “Marketing” terminology so that references to “Microsoft Dynamics CRM Services”, “Microsoft SharePoint Services” and “Live Services” no longer appear with regard to Azure. Do you remember way back in the “noughties” when we first announced .Net and rebranded many of our products with the magic .Net “fairy-dust”? Enough said..!!!
So what exactly does that leave? Well, the Windows Azure Platform today looks more like the picture below.
So, will Microsoft Dynamics CRM ever run on the Windows Azure Platform? It’s hard to tell, but since CRM makes extensive use of enabling technologies such as SQL Server Reporting Services, SQL Server Analysis Services and Windows Workflow Foundation, none of which are provided by Azure, I would stick my neck out and say not in the short-to-medium term. Who knows, I’m not part of the product engineering or product marketing teams and have little insight into future product plans, and so in 5 years time I could be eating my own words. However, you won’t catch me holding my breath.
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