Microsoft's Answer To The End Of Software

Microsoft's Convergence user conference convinced me that Dynamics will be a major player in the cloud, as Redmond bets big on customer choice.
Two more highlights of the Convergence conference added strongly to the customer choice theme: The first was the fact that Microsoft across the board will actively support heterogeneity in the operating system and browser worlds. This means that customers and partners that want to access Dynamics on IOS and Android devices, or make their Web pages sing on Safari, Firefox and Chrome, will get the full support of Microsoft’s technology and applications stack. This isn’t going to be mere window dressing (pardon the pun), but rather it’s part of a fully formed strategy of acknowledging the heterogeneity of the IT-consumer convergence (pardon the pun, again) that has made supporting BYOD an essential component of every company’s IT strategy.

In a similar vein, Microsoft COO Kevin Turner revealed that Systems Center 2012 will support deployment of applications and services to any hardware, cloud and virtualization platform Microsoft’s customers want to deploy. This support for hybridized, bring-your-own-platform strategies further enhanced the customer choice theme that Microsoft was clearly trying to emphasize. To great success, IMO.

Let me add a few more observations about Windows 8 and the Metro UI that it deploys. From an enterprise standpoint, this isn’t just a me-too IOS or Android user experience, but a complete refresh. The standout capability for me is the ability to navigate through a tablet’s applications by treating the workspace like a map that can be zoomed in and out of, allowing a user to increase and decrease the detail and visibility of individual applications and functions the way zooming in and out of a map changes the granularity of the map’s geographical features. Kind of brings to mind a fractal space reminiscent of Benoit Mandelbrot’s famous paper “How Long Is The Coast Of Britain?” That’s just one of many standout features that I can see making serious inroads into Apple’s still nascent enterprise efforts.

With that long list of positives, let me close with two things that were clearly missing in the admittedly full plate that was being served to Convergence attendees. The first was any overt mention of SQL Server 2012 and the BI and analytics capabilities that it lends to Dynamics. This was a significant omission not just because of the obvious need for Dynamics customers to know where to go when they want to up the ante in the big data-big analysis wars. It was also significant insofar as SQL 2012 has some new capabilities--including in-memory, columnar database processing--that, in case you’ve been hiding under a rock, has become one of the major points of contention between SAP (HANA) and Oracle (Exalytics).

Sticking SQL 2012 into the Convergence fire hose wouldn’t have been a good use of time. But being able to articulate an advanced DBMS and BI strategy in support of Dynamics would have spoken directly to a real customer need that shouldn't be taken for granted no matter how well SQL Server’s BI capabilities are embedded in Dynamics.

Final gripe: Has everyone heard about the Azure Marketplace and Data Market? I didn’t think so. Let me fill in the omission with a link. And I've now given more airplay to these two very important, and very cool, parts of the overall Microsoft cloud strategy than they were given during the two days I was at Convergence. Too bad.

In the end, Convergence--playing to a record crowd of 10,000--was further affirmation that Microsoft’s technology stack has its best and most powerful use case in the Dynamics marketplace, and that Dynamics, with the rest of Microsoft behind it, is making a case for putting its software up on the same short list as its much bigger rivals. And that’s without counting some pretty cool technology heading to the enterprise--and probably to my house as well--in the next 12 months.

Josh Greenbaum is principal of Enterprise Applications Consulting, a Berkeley, Calif., firm that consults with end-user companies and enterprise software vendors large and small. Clients have included Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, and other firms that are sometimes analyzed in his columns. Write him at [email protected].

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