Windows Azure Hosting for Microsoft Dynamics AX
At Convergence EMEA in 2013, Microsoft announced that with the release of R3, Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 would be able to be hosted in an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) model on Windows Azure. Ever since that announcement, I've been looking for more details on what this means and how it will work. At Convergence 2014 in Atlanta they held a very good session that walked through the options here. There will be an option for partners to do demonstrations using a Microsoft Dynamics AX pre-configured back end starting on April 1, 2014, but this article will focus on the customer offering.
Windows Azure is Microsoft's platform for its cloud - hosting applications in all three forms:
- IaaS = Infrastructure as a Service - virtualized servers hosted in the cloud that you manage - similar to a private cloud but you don't have access to the physical machines, just the virtual machines
- PaaS = Platform as a Service - fully functional environments where you manage your applications - such as hosted BizTalk or Visual Studio
- SaaS = Software as a Service - fully hosted and managed software - such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online
Microsoft Dynamics AX will be offered in the cloud in the IaaS model - Microsoft will install Dynamics AX and configure the environments you need to support Dynamics AX, and you'll manage it from their from one of their hosted data centers. Microsoft currently has 9 data centers around the world (4 in the United States) and will be adding 5 more over the next year to support the growing demand for hosting services. When you configure your servers, you can choose the hosting site that provides the best connectivity to your users.
On May 1, Microsoft plans to release an updated version of its Lifecycle Services platform which will allow customers to bring up a set of virtual machines pre-installed and configured for running Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 for development and testing purposes. Microsoft will announce when production instances are supported through Lifecycle Services, but it is expected to be in about 60 days after the R3 release. Even before the Lifecycle Services release, you can configure and use Dynamics AX 2012 on Azure today; you just have to install and configure the Dynamics AX components yourself.
There are certainly benefits related to Windows Azure hosting that make it interesting to jump into right now:
- You don't need to supply the hardware or manage these servers on-premise - Windows Azure provides cloud hosting with all the availability (99.95%) and redundancy to reduce the risk in managing your application
- You only have to pay for the time you are using the Virtual environment which is a great option for Development and Testing environments
- You can configure your environment to connect back to your VPN and size the servers as you feel appropriate
Once the pre-configured AX capabilities come into play, this will save a ton of time on the IT Operations side of the implementation - it will reduce product install and configuration times considerably.
Windows Azure is also cost-competitive; based on the private hosting options we've reviewed, the Windows Azure hosting is a significant reduction in costs. Not to mention the fact that you can get a free month trial to see how it's going to work for you. When I spec'ed out the pricing for a prospect, I used the full calculator to determine the appropriate sizing of Virtual Machines to support the various servers they needed. I encourage you to play with that here: http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/pricing/calculator/?scenario=full. If you sign up for 6 or 12 months, you can get an additional discount as well.
Windows Azure hosting is a great option for new deployments or customers looking to bring up new hardware. If you have questions about how it might work for you, give us a call.