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Sometimes if you go far enough you get back to where you started.   I had a sense of that this morning as Steve Ballmer announced at the Microsoft World Wide Partner Conference in Boston that, when we release our next version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, we’ll also launch a new “CRM Live” service.   The déjà vu in this is that when we started building this product six years ago, our original goal was to build a Microsoft hosted service, not the product you know today!  Somewhere along the way plans changed.  Partly it was the “popping” of the “dot com” mania, but mostly it was the result of research that showed that many more customers wanted software that they could run themselves in their own datacenters.  So that’s where our first three releases went.   But, as other companies have proven, there are also plenty of customers who want their CRM as a service, and today we’re announcing that we’ll provide a Microsoft hosted service with the next release.
 
The coolest work we’re doing is that we’re building a single code base that will support on-premises deployments, partner hosted deployments, and the Microsoft Live service.   Our goal is to give customers “the power of choice”, allowing them to choose how they want to use the software and change that over time.   I’m sure we’ll see some customers initially choosing “quick and easy” with CRM Live and later moving to an on-premises deployment with deep customization and systems integration.  Others will opt to go with partner-hosted solutions with vertical flavors or integrated services like e-commerce.  And still others will even mix-and-match, opting to deploy in different ways for different groups of users within the same company.  With the same software everywhere, customers and their partners can tailor a deployment and then move it easily using redeployment tools we provide.


It’s obvious that multi-tenancy will be useful for Microsoft CRM Live and in hosting partners’ deployments, but there is also surprisingly strong interest in this feature from large corporations.  IT managers would love to be able to use a single, multi-tenanted deployment to simply provision and manage (read: “back-up”) CRM solutions for different, independent departments. 


Key work we’re doing right now is re-enabling the multi-tenancy that we originally designed for Version 1 of the product.   Of course, there’s a lot more than that required to support a large-scale service deployment, including advancing the scalability and reliability wins we achieved in Version 3, modifying core services such as reporting and workflow to work efficiently in a shared environment, and, for CRM Live, wiring the software into the operations management systems of Windows Live.   (For those wondering, the next release is not just about SaaS.   We’re also working on plenty of other cool new features, including enhanced Office integration, support for multilingual deployments, more customization options, more management controls, etc.)


We release version 3 over the last seven months around the world (Japan and Israel coming soon) and we’ve been very pleased to see how many customers have chosen the product.  Last quarter we added more than 50,000 new users, a record!   But an R&D team is always looking forward to the next great release, so our focus now is the launch later this year of the first pre-releases of the next version and of the CRM Live service.  


David Thacher
General Manager
Microsoft Dynamics CRM

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