Today we’re sharing a few behind-the-scenes details about the latest incarnation of Microsoft Dynamics NAV as it continues its evolution into the cloud-first product now called Dynamics 365 Business Central.
Our comments come from various NAV blogs, with a special tip of the hat to long-time Italian NAV developer Roberto Stefanetti.
To begin with, as a cloud-first product, expect to see even more frequent updates to Business Central than we saw under NAV, which used to be updated about every 18 months, and then more recently, annually. There is becoming a lot more documentation available to resellers including courses and videos, with more expected. A BC-dedicated forum has recently come online.
Because the BC product is cloud-first by design, Microsoft will always be updating that product first, with upgrades to server-based (or in-house based) systems afterwards. Using a cloud version of an ERP product means in effect that you are always up to date.
The new development environment, “born first to Business Central” states Stefanetti, allows us to create ‘extensions’ which can then be ‘certified’ (or not), which allows for customization of the core product in what some call a “less invasive” fashion (i.e., less labor-intensive for upgrades later) than in the past.
Business Central will now be able to offer native (i.e., cloud-integrated) services for Outlook, Office 365, Microsoft CRM, Power BI and Flow, to name a few. Users will now be able to grow into a ‘virtual desk’ in the cloud – and with your ERP system now there, you’ll never have to leave the cloud.
For its ‘public’ cloud of course Microsoft will feature Azure, which has now become the second most popular public cloud platform in the world (behind Amazon Web Services). Azure offers a public cloud hosted experience that features a multi-tenant database (many customers running off the same database), an architecture based on events, extensions for customization development, and an App store as a source for distributing apps to others.
From a cost standpoint, you’ll be paying by the user/month, so you’re only paying for the ‘amount’ of software you truly need, and there will be several types of users, at different price points. Think of it very much like a car lease – you pay a fixed rate every month based on user counts and types, and your system is always kept up to date. One price, generally speaking, can be made to cover the application, all hosting for users, maintenance/upgrades, and probably even additional services (like Office, etc.). That’s a conversation you have with your Business Central business partner (i.e., reseller). It’s a strong move into today’s new billing model: subscription pricing, and we’re seeing it everywhere, not just in software.
Given the benefits noted above, and since we haven’t had a chance to test all the limitations in the new model, we’ll quote verbatim what consultant Stefanetti has to say on the subject. It’s important to note that his comments on limitations are specific to the Microsoft Azure public-cloud hosting option. Partners (like us) are able to offer OTHER non-Azure options that avoid some of the stated limitations. Nonetheless, of the Azure/public approach, Stefanetti notes as follows:
The system is closed (but secure). You can’t access SQL Server and databases. Only the environment-specific tenant that you have purchased exists. You can’t create development environments, only sandboxes in the same tenant for the purpose of testing the data. Therefore, the modality of the approach is very different from the on-premises world.
It is not possible to back up the database because we do not access SQL Server. The system does not go down but it is possible to restore data if necessary. The backup is managed by Microsoft, with no way to schedule an auto-backup. Therefore, a backup cannot be launched by the end user, but if necessary, it is possible to open an issue to Microsoft and they can provide a restore.
You can use RapidStart Services Packages to export data, but that isn’t a real backup system (you can’t restore your database after a crash failure) like an on-premises system. Rather, this tool allows you can export for example the “setup data” for master tables, and secondary tables (a copy of setup).
Sorry, that’s all the space (and then some) we have today, but we’ll continue to cover more Business Central update details in the future, just as we’ve been doing. Stay tuned.