Cloud Options for Microsoft Dynamics AX: What You Need to Know

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Cloud Options for Microsoft Dynamics AX: What You Need to Know
Many of today's most popular ERP and CRM software applications are now available as a cloud product in some form.  For many business consumers, cloud is really the only desired option when considering a new software solution.  Unfortunately, not all software is available as a cloud option right out of the box, and this can be problematic if the right software for your organization is not cloud-based, or hasn't been for the time you have been using it. 

Fortunately there are ways in which to bring almost any software to the cloud.  And for Microsoft Dynamics AX customers who may be evaluating the new Azure-based cloud options, here is a look at what makes it possible to put your AX system in the cloud.

What about the new Azure option?

With the upcoming release of the new Microsoft Dynamics AX (formerly known by codename AX 7), there is a new cloud option available for deployment on Azure. With this addition, the choice still remains between on-premise or cloud, but the cloud deployment can now be public (Azure) or private. 

The choice between public and private clouds is a critical one. In short, public cloud can be likened to an apartment: a great option if you don't require a lot of flexibility for customizations and a standardized security approach meets your needs.  Private cloud can be likened to a single-family home: a great option if you want complete control, no neighbors on the other side of the wall and flexibility for customization and specific security settings -- even security applied inside your home (or your application layer in this case).

Depending on your requirements, pricing for a private cloud can be more advantageous if your needs require too many "add-on" features in a public cloud. (For a deep dive into private versus public cloud decision factors, see this whitepaper: Some Clouds Are Meant to Be Kept Private.

AX Architecture

If you are deeply invested in your current Dynamics AX application but want the cloud, it may make sense to move your current application to a private cloud. The good news is that your architecture can be replicated or "cloudified" by working with a quality cloud services provider.

Dynamics AX is typically deployed with at least 3 to 4 servers, not including any domain controllers.  Using virtualization, servers can be created in the cloud, where AX can be installed on them.  Once the virtual servers are created, they can be used exactly the same way an on-premise installation would require. 

The application, once installed, can be streamed to the user with products such as Remote App or Citrix.  Using these delivery methods, the user will see an icon installed directly on the desktop or start menu, giving users the feeling that the application is actually installed and running on their workstation when it is entirely in the cloud.  At Concerto, we use this method for many customers, providing it through our AX consulting partners to deliver it to their customers. 

What's the process?

To begin the process of bringing AX to the cloud, our standard is to set up a demo environment as well as a production one.  A test backup of SQL is made at an on-premise location and it is imported to the development server where it is tested.  Finally, user experience testing is done to ensure that the end user is able to access and use the software properly and that there are no performance issues.  If users will expect a single-sign-on experience where the password for their computer is the same as for AX, we provide a site-to-site VPN that will easily facilitate that.

What about licensing?

Licensing options are available to help make the transition to the cloud more practical for customers.  Subscription is an option that really completes the cloud model as a whole.  The ability to spread out the cost of the licensing is a value-add that makes cloud a more compelling, and in some instances, a more financially realistic choice. 

Some might disagree with this position; however, when you review it closely, there are costs in a license purchase that might not be apparent right away. If the customer finances the software as a way to spread out the cost, there are interest charges in addition to a 20% annual maintenance fee. 

If you are considering Microsoft Dynamics AX for yourself or a client, remember that there are several good cloud options available for AX, and it's important to choose the right model for the deployment. Along with all the benefits of uptime, redundancy, disaster prevention, and reduced maintenance burdens, it could also save you or your client time, effort, and money in the process. Partnering with a strong cloud provider can make the difference between being able to implement the software or not.

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