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2008: Decision Year for RIAs - October 20-22, 2008 San Jose


Azure Gets its First Commercial ERP App
Earlier this month it took a swing at Salesforce and Oracle CRM On Demand with a "six months free" deal for their users

Windows Azure at Cloud Expo

While Microsoft is webifying bits and pieces of its client/server Dynamics ERP solution, it ain't gonna put any full-blown Dynamics ERP on Azure. Too much customization and integration to make a good candidate apparently.

Enter Acumatica, a potentially competitive third-party ERP solution that compares itself to NetSuite except NetSuite is wholly SaaS and Acumatica, out only since June but one of the few programs already in production on the still-in-beta Azure, straddles both a client's on-premises site and the Microsoft cloud.

The Acumatica software is the same in the cloud as it is on-premise and experimenting with in on site is supposed to make accounts more comfortable with the idea of using it in the cloud.

Acumatica's widgetry might also be compared to Salesforce.com except that Salesforce is just a CRM solution and Acumatica is both ERP and CRM.

Designed specifically for the cloud using SQL Server and .NET, the widgetry is targeted at the mid-market, which Acumatica defines as companies with significantly knotty ERP requirements that have outgrown QuickBooks but aren't ready to take on SAP. It claims sophisticated functionality.

Acumatica offers three modules: an accounting package, a distribution package and a CRM package and says that unlike NetSuite it's got one flat price regardless of the number of users. It also claims that unlike NetSuite it doesn't charge for features; customers get the same feature set; and its widgetry can be customized, NetSuite's can't. Any programming is done in C Sharp whereas NetSuite uses a proprietary language. And unlike NetSuite, Acumatica is using Azure, not its own infrastructure, for scalability, availability and replication.

It's also available only though resellers.

On Azure, Acumatica's accounting package runs $1,000 a month for an unlimited number of users with a 99.5% monthly SLA that guarantees a month's credit if not met. Azure has its own SLAs. Smaller configurations are based on CPUs and resources. Acumatica's on-premises price is a one-time fee of $15,000 plus 18% maintenance a year. NetSuite costs $250 a month per user, it says.

Although Azure is terribly young, Acumatica CEO Ezequiel Steiner claims a significant pipeline. No one however is using it yet in production on Azure.

The software's reports and dashboard can be customized; its business logic modified; its workflow changed and new modules built. The company says customizations are maintained separately from core application code so upgrades and updates don't impact custom deployments.

Microsoft, meanwhile, has announced new online services - due out next year - that can be attached to its Dynamics ERP such as a Sites Service built on Azure, a new Commerce Services and an expanded Payment Service. Microsoft says its Dynamic ERP hosting business has doubled in the last year.

Microsoft is all for certain applications and services being in the cloud while the burden of the ERP widgetry stays on-site.

The Sites Service lets customers create and manage web sites within the Dynamics ERP application such as landing pages for marketing campaigns, dedicated request for quote sites to get quotes from business partners, sites for product registration information and customer feedback and HR sites for job recruiting. It includes embedded intelligence for analytics.

The Commerce Service will link Dynamic ERP solutions with multi-channel scenarios such as e-commerce stores and shopping carts so customers can list products and accept orders from a multitude of places, all from one easy-to-use interface.

The Payment Service will now work with CyberSource and Pensio payment processing as well as First Data Merchant Services, which handles the major credit cards and PayPal.

Microsoft, which says ERP and CRM are two different things and call for two different approaches to the cloud, has promised that CRM Online, which has been limited to North America for the last 18 months, will go into worldwide release by the end of calendar 2010.

Earlier this month it took a swing at Salesforce and Oracle CRM On Demand with a "six months free" deal for their users. Otherwise all of its hosted CRM widgetry is now $44 a month per user with online support and 5GB of storage. It collapsed its existing two-tier pricing and feature set into a single version undercutting Salesforce at $65 a month and Oracle at $70.

About Maureen O'Gara
Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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