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Microsoft takes next step toward SaaS CRM

Heralding the "portable model," which allows customers to switch between hosted, SaaS or on-premise CRM with the same metadata, Microsoft is releasing CRM Live to its TAP.

Microsoft today took the next step toward offering Dynamics CRM via the Software as a Service (SaaS) model with the next major release to select partners through its Technology Adoption Program (TAP).

Partners will be able to test Microsoft's foray into multi-tenant hosting, entitled Microsoft CRM Live, building vertical applications, mash-ups and integration connectors. The Live application and the next version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, code-named "Titan," are scheduled for release this summer.

"This is our first key external milestone in the launch toward CRM Live," said Christian Pederson, senior director for Microsoft Dynamics CRM. "We are now on a path to follow up and extend with a broad partner engagement." @30699

Microsoft has high expectations of its new multi-tenant application, which will allow users to share the costs of managing the application.

"It will run in a large-scale hosting center, also in a multi-tenant environment, so we can scale to hundreds of thousands of users," Pederson said. "For customers that want specific functionality or detailed customization scenarios, then we involve hosting partners."

Microsoft will start involving customers in the release in March and extend to a beta program in the second quarter, Pederson said. The TAP will include roughly 300 partners this quarter and more than 1,000 partners in the next. Among those is Invoke Systems, a Baltimore-based reseller that provides vertical versions of Microsoft CRM. The chief advantage of the next release for Invoke is the ability to switch among deployments -- on-premise, partner-hosted or via Microsoft SaaS -- all based on the same metadata, according to Jason Hunt, Invoke's chief technical officer. It's what Microsoft is calling the "portable model." CRM Mobile Express allows the entire metadata store that has been defined for CRM application to be extended through mobile without having to be rewritten, according to Pederson.

"With the next version, we're excited we can have a customer on-premise, Live or we can host for them," Hunt said. "And the code and customizations we write or configure will work in any of them."

Microsoft already offers the option of partner-hosting, with Microsoft partners hosting and managing the data, but Hunt said that only two of Invoke's roughly 60 customers are hosting now.

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