Microsoft hoped recent updates to its Dynamics AX 2012 ERP (enterprise-resource-planning) software would help it grab enterprise-level deals that would ordinarily be won by the likes of Oracle and SAP, and to some degree the strategy appears to be clicking.
Cosmetics manufacturer Revlon is using AX to replace 21 "disparate business systems and 531 point systems," according to an announcement made Tuesday during the Convergence conference in New Orleans.
[ TECH ARGUMENT: ERP: Oracle vs. SAP vs. The Upstarts ]
"We were an equal-opportunity ERP acquirer," said Revlon CIO David Giambruno during an onstage interview at the conference. "The effort in pulling all the information together, while effective, wasn't efficient. My job is to make systems work for people, not people work for systems. We're literally collapsing it into one ERP globally."
Chobani, maker of the very popular yogurt brand in the U.S., is also an AX customer. The software has "allowed us to be global as well as expand the business domestically," said CFO James McConeghy, who also appeared onstage.
The company believes in repeating completed IT functionality as it expands, said Maureen Hurley, vice president of IT, who joined McConeghy onstage. That philosophy helped the company roll out AX at a new plant in just 27 days, she said.
Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2, which was released in December, included localizations for 36 countries. This meant customers could run global operations from a single instance of the application, rather than maintaining multiple installations to handle all geographic areas.
Microsoft is really aiming AX at companies with between US$500 million and $5 billion in revenue -- in other words, ones just below the Global 2000, said analyst Ray Wang, CEO of Constellation Research.
In past years, Microsoft expressed no interest in going after large enterprises with AX, he said. "I think that's because the product was not ready."
But now, "more and more we're seeing AX emerge as an alternative to Oracle or SAP," Wang added. Infor is playing a similar role, he said.
Localizations aren't enough, however, according to Wang. "What's happening in ERP is the war of micro-verticals," he said. "Whoever delivers the most industry-specific functionality is going to win."
Microsoft also announced that its GP 2013 and NAV 2013 ERP applications, which are aimed at smaller and midsized companies, will be available in June via its Azure cloud service, through partners. That date had slipped some, with general availability of NAV 2013 and GP 2013 on Azure originally expected by the end of 2012.
NAV 2013 and GP 2013 were released last year "fully cloud- and Azure-enabled," said Kirill Tatarinov, president of Microsoft's Business Solutions division, in a question-and-answer session with press and analysts. But Microsoft also needed to finish some needed work on Azure "and that is happening imminently," he said.
Microsoft is planning to port AX to Azure as well, beginning with the next major release. That is currently scheduled for early adopter access in 2014, according to a statement.
"That is essentially going to be first time ever in the industry where someone delivers the ability to run their full business end-to-end in the cloud," Tatarinov claimed.
Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com