Microsoft Dynamics GP 2010 features BI and tighter integrations

the company's ERP suite for smaller businesses has been given an upgrade, but there are still no public plans for multitenant SaaS ERP

Microsoft on Tuesday pulled the wraps off Dynamics GP 2010, the latest version of its ERP (enterprise resource planning) application for smaller companies.

GP 2010's new features include the use of "role centers" for various types of users, as well as more than 400 prebuilt reports for SQL Server Reporting Services and Excel. Microsoft has also boosted GP's interoperability with SharePoint and PowerPivot, a self-service BI (business intelligence) tool.

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GP 2010 also features workflow improvements thanks to integrations with other Microsoft applications, such as Word, Dynamics CRM, and Unified Communications.

It will be available through Microsoft partners in the United States, Australia, Canada, the Caribbean, the Middle East, New Zealand, South Africa, and the U.K. on May 1, in either on-premises or hosted form. Perpetual licensing and subscription models are available.

But Microsoft still has no plans to deliver a multitenant SaaS (software as a service) version of GP, said Crispin Read, general manager, Dynamics ERP.

Multitenant SaaS differs from hosting, in that a single instance of an application is shared by a number of customers. The architecture, which is used by GP competitors like NetSuite, cuts down on infrastructure costs and allows upgrades to be rolled out to many users at once.

Microsoft has the capability of providing such a service, and already does so for CRM Online.

But a move to multitenant ERP sold by Microsoft itself could be rather tricky. Dynamics ERP has been sold through a worldwide network of partners used to dealing directly with customers and generating revenues for implementation and customization work. They would no doubt be wary of their role in such a strategy.

Microsoft has no impetus to change course, according to Read.

"Our customers for now are telling us they like to have this provided by partners," he said.

Meanwhile, certain new features, such as the integration with Unified Communications, might be more useful for companies at the high end of GP's target audience, versus those who chose the platform after outgrowing products like Intuit's Quickbooks.

"Pretty much all [GP users] have Office. Many also have Sharepoint," Read said. "Quite a few are also looking at Unified Communications. Not all have it. Our approach is, let's light up the Microsoft technology they have and integrate perfectly with it."

The strategy also helps keep GP users close to the overall Microsoft stack, and it could make it less likely they will choose rival offerings for areas such as CRM.

One observer offered a mixed perspective on the release.

"Good grief, how long has Microsoft had CRM and GP, and only now are they offering out-of-the-box integration!" said 451 Group analyst China Martens via e-mail.

Martens also noted that Microsoft, having phased out its Dynamics Entrepreneur edition, remains without "an easy on-ramp for very small businesses to get Dynamic. [It] seems they're missing a real market opportunity."

A pricing offer Microsoft is pushing for the GP 2010 launch could serve as somewhat of an enticement for that audience, however.

Under the deal, which is valid in the U.S. only through June 25, new customers can get the first three user licenses for $1, although they also must commit to three years of maintenance.

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