When it comes to a cloud deployment of a Microsoft Dynamics CRM or ERP solution, most organizations evaluate the two dominant cloud options in the market: Microsoft Azure and private cloud. I recently had the pleasure of presenting on this topic via webcast to the MSDynamicsWorld community. Here are the top five questions asked during the session.
On determining if my partner is strong on cloud deployments...
Q: If we suspect our Dynamics partner isn't strong in deploying on Azure, what type of organization do we need to seek out to assist us with our cloud deployment?
A: Microsoft has released a program for Cloud Solutions Providers called CSP. It's a designation for organizations that are attested by Microsoft as prepared to provide Azure-based solutions. Ask your partner if they are in this program or if they are partnering with an organization that is. Additionally, you should ask your partner about other cloud projects they've recently completed. What were the solutions? What cloud platforms were chosen, and why?
On whether my deployment is considered a "cloud"...
Q: Our Microsoft Dynamics NAV is hosted and we access it via VMWare. Is this scenario considered being in the cloud? If not, how is the cloud different?
A: The definition of "being in the cloud" is almost as intensely debated as religious doctrine at times. Some people insist that cloud has to be a multi-tenant, web-based solution such as Microsoft CRM Online. As a solutions consultant for a cloud services organization, I personally don't take such a black and white approach. I like to consider the following characteristics relevant to a cloud solution:
1. A managed solution - Is it owned and operated by another organization that gives me a financially backed SLA?
2. Scalable - Is it easy (for us or our service provider) to expand the footprint to support the demand?
3. Elastic - Can I reduce the footprint if the workload decreases?
4. Accessible - Does it provide the ability to connect and access my data from anywhere, on any device?
5. Available - Is the solution up and available to access when my organization needs it?
I would look at your current solution and see if it falls in line with these characteristics. VMWare and other virtualization technologies are often components in a cloud solution, but by themselves do not make your deployment cloud-based.
Caution: I've had recent conversations in which a reseller requested that their customers purchase their own hardware and pay for colocation services and management of the hardware - and termed it a cloud solution.
On the new cloud-only release of Dynamics AX...
Q: The AX (2016 release) is cloud deployment only. Our warehouse must be able to access AX - do you suggest a hybrid solution or something else to ensure connectivity?
A: The latest version of Dynamics AX will be released as a cloud delivered model and only on Azure to start, with a release to private cloud providers and on-premise customers due sometime into the future.
With the migration of workloads into a more centralized model, whether that's consolidated into an organization's data center, into Azure, or into a private cloud environment, bandwidth and the availability of your office's internet connection become increasingly important.
And with warehouses sometimes being in remote locations, you'll often see a shift of some costs to harden the internet connection by subscribing to multiple carriers, adding redundant firewalls and routers, and potentially purchasing lines that allow for an SLA on uptime and availability.
If I was moving my ERP into Azure, I would look into setting up ExpressRoute connectivity (similar to MPLS but enables the connection to terminate into your Azure networks). I also recommend having a failover connection over VPN.
On Terminal Services (Remote Desktop Services) in Azure...
Q: We find the best Dynamics user experience is achieved by accessing Dynamics via Terminal Services (either as published apps including any apps that interface w/ Dynamics, or as Full Virtual Desktop). What role does Terminal Services have in an Azure / cloud deployment?
A: I would agree, while all of the Dynamics solutions have a web client, and some a tablet client, the best user experience is still provided by leveraging the Rich client and some type of Session Virtualization technology, either Remote Desktop Services (RDS) or Citrix Xen App. (Side note: The questioner is dating himself in the industry as I often do by using "Terminal Services." Microsoft has changed the name to Remote Desktop Services and then somewhere around 2010 started calling the technology session virtualization when "virtualization" was the big buzzword. Thanks to this question, I now feel old.)
Within Azure, there is a function known as Azure Remote App. I'm unsure if it's an officially supported configuration with all Dynamics ERP solutions, but you could configure Remote App for the Dynamics Rich Client, and the supporting ISVs. You'd want to intensely test this before rolling into production, but it should function. Azure Remote App is essentially Remote Desktop Services, deployed as a configured solution. The better option would be to deploy an RDS Server or servers as Azure VM's and configure the appropriate services for the solution (Session host, RDS Gateway, Session Broker, etc.)
On larger Dynamics CRM deployments...
Q: We have 700+ users on Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 on-premise. It seems that private cloud is being suggested vs. Azure for CRM 2013+. Is that correct?
A: Customers deploying CRM have many deployment options: online, on-premise, Azure or private cloud. All of these options have their pros and cons. CRM Online (Microsoft's public cloud offering) allows for an organization to not have to worry about the back end infrastructure, but puts customers on an accelerated life cycle of the application. It is best for customers who don't heavily customize the environment and don't require advanced reporting functionality. Azure IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) is a supported deployment model, but you still have to manage the environment. Companies choose managed private cloud as a deployment model because it gives them the flexibility to deploy and upgrade when they want, the elasticity to scale when they need and the advantage of a managed environment so they don't have to tax their internal resources on another system to maintain.
Visit our Dynamics Cloud
page to learn more about deploying a Microsoft Dynamics CRM or ERP solution in the cloud.