Microsoft continues its steady march into the on-demand, software-as-service market. The company announced that its Dynamics CRM product line will be the latest to make the transformation into a "Live" service when it ships next year. But first, Microsoft has to gives its customer relationship management (CRM) software an upgrade that will make it viable as a service.
The current release, Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0, has been on the market for two years but is limited by its lack of multi-tenancy support. That means that as of now, Dynamics CRM can only support one customer account per physical server, so each business customer requires its own separate hardware.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0, code-named "Titan," will enable multiple customer accounts on a single server. This will make Microsoft CRM much more competitive with software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers such as Salesforce.com, Microsoft's primary target with the release of CRM Live.
"To tackle the markets we wanted to serve, we believe a multi-tenant model is what we needed to be viable," said Kevin Faulkner, director of product marketing for Dynamics CRM. Microsoft will initially aim CRM Live at small businesses and host the servers in its data centers.
Microsoft plans to release both Titan and CRM Live in the second quarter of 2007. With Titan, customers will have three deployment options: CRM Live hosted by Microsoft, CRM Live hosted by a third party; or deployment on their own systems. The latter option is popular with multi-national corporations, said Faulkner.
The news was hardly a surprise, given the details of Titan have been available for some time, as is Microsoft's desire to move to SaaS. Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO, called it "the least surprising announcement in Microsoft history" when he delivered the news at the company's Worldwide Partner Conference, currently taking place in Boston.
"The fact that Salesforce.com has done quite well certainly suggests to Microsoft that there's a customer segment out there that wants hosted CRM services," said Chris Alliegro, lead analyst for Directions on Microsoft.
This move will put Microsoft squarely in competition with Salesforce.com although unlike Salesforce.com, Microsoft won't allow CRM Live customers to run third-party, server-side code in its data centers.
Salesforce.com's CEO doesn't seem terribly troubled by the news. Marc Benioff sent an e-mail to his staff, singing another verse of glory to SaaS and saying not to worry about Microsoft.
"Everyone agrees that the future of software is no software at all but rather an industry dominated by tens of thousands of heterogeneous services delivering everything from traditional Office productivity to Verticals to VOIP to ERP and CRM systems. All companies and executives now agree: no software application will remain standing at the end of this widespread transformation," he wrote, in part.
Alliegro said it's too early to tell if Microsoft can be competitive, since pricing for CRM Live is not known. "This is commodity stuff. What it boils down to is that companies will go with a vendor they believe they can trust, a vendor they believe will be around, and a product that's cheap. Microsoft certainly looks like it will be a solid contender on all of those fronts," he said.
Adapted from Internetnews.com.
|Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!|