Microsoft server and tool upgrades demand CIOs' attention

Windows Server 2012, SQL Server 2012, System Center 2012 and Visual Studio 11 undergo refresh cycle

By Juan Carlos Perez and Chris Kanaracus, IDG News Service |  Application Management

When asked about upgrade plans, Equitable Life CIO Cam Crosby said: "We'll definitely upgrade anything on SQL Server 2000. Right now our target version of SQL Server is 2008 R2."

According to Microsoft, SQL Server 2012 is already deployed in production at "hundreds" of global companies, including Volvo, Revlon and LG Chemical.

The upgrade wheels are also churning for Microsoft's Dynamics enterprise software.

Microsoft's first cloud-enabled Dynamics ERP (enterprise resource planning) applications will be rolled out in the fourth quarter of this year.

The company's plan to port its four Dynamics ERP lines to the Azure cloud platform will begin in the fourth quarter with the release of NAV 2013 and GP 2013, Microsoft said.

Also due in the fourth-quarter is the release of AX 2012 R2, an update that will include new BI (business intelligence) capabilities geared for the needs of individual users.

AX and Dynamics SL will also end up on Azure later on.

All Dynamics ERP products will continue to be available in on-premises form and through traditional hosting partners after the Azure launch. Microsoft expects there will still be a strong market for both scenarios, as well as hybrid deployments.

Several years ago, Microsoft aborted Project Green, an attempt to bring together its four ERP (enterprise resource planning) applications under a single codebase.

Now the vendor seems to have settled on a strategy that will keep each product's core functionality separate, while providing a modern user experience that can be tweaked to better serve various types of workers, integration with Office and SharePoint, and eventually, support for cloud-based deployments on Azure.

"All the parts are finally coming together," said analyst Ray Wang, CEO of Constellation Research. "Where Dynamics used to be an entity off on its own, now we're starting to see them take advantages of some synergies."

The strategy makes sense for the smaller and mid-size companies that constitute Dynamics' installed base, Wang said. "As a customer in the midmarket you do want to bet on one vendor, because you don't have the money or time to worry about all these integrations."

Microsoft's approach is working well for GPS (global positioning satellite) equipment seller Western Data Systems, said Robb Delprado, chief operating officer.

"I can have a sales guy who takes his smartphone out on the road, he can set up a follow-up appointment, get that in his Outlook and then we can sync that up with [Dynamics NAV]," Delprado said.

Western Data went live on NAV in 2006. Previously, the company did everything on paper, according to Delprado.

"The CEO, at the time, said 'You guys can use it, but don't expect me to be a part of that,' " Delprado said. But NAV's ease of use won over the CEO. "Now he uses the executive dashboard on a daily basis."

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