Next Release of Microsoft Dynamics AX Defined by New Interface, Cloud, Lifecycle Services

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Wendy Scheuring reporting for MSDynamicsWorld.com

Set to be released at the end of the year, the newest version of Microsoft Dynamics AX, codenamed AX 7, will be released first exclusively on the Microsoft Azure platform. An on-premise version will be available six months later release. That’s according to Dan Brown, Microsoft’s AX R&D general manager, who keynoted general sessions on Monday and Tuesday at AXUG Focus 2015 in Orlando, revving up talk about the soon-to-be-released AX 7, and personally meeting with users to discuss their issues or concerns with AX.

Three primary updates characterize AX 7: a new user experience, the extended use of Microsoft Dynamics Lifecycle Services (LCS), and the prevalence of the Microsoft Cloud, or Azure.

The AX 7 workspace has been reimagined as a panorama of colorful, pictured tiles that quickly allows the user to view to-do tasks, urgent actions, and any other work-related activities. And it enables users to share common activities with other end-users. With the LCS task recorder, users can record and annotate tasks and keep other end-users informed. There’s also the ability to link two browsers enabling users to collaborate side-by-side on a double screen.

“We are trying to eliminate clicks and give the production planner power within this user experience,” says Brown.

With AX 7 Microsoft is also making efforts to improve interoperability with its other products like Visual Studio, Office 365, Power BI, SharePoint, and Yammer. Brown also explained that AX 7 will more deeply embed Management Reporter in the interface, making it the corporate performance management tool of record for AX and part of the initial deployment.

“The more we bring these things together so you are just using the product, the better the overall experience,” Brown said.

If you’re already an AX 2012 user, your X++ code customizations should remain unchanged, making upgrading to AX 7 seamless. However, developers should prepare to work with Visual Studio as their AX 7 development environment. AX will retain its X++ programming language, which is effectively a .NET language now, Brown said. The process for packaging and deploying X++ to an AX 7 instance is done through LCS.

Brown also stated that Microsoft wants at least 50 ISVs to have AX 7 compatible products at the time of the launch. He says so far, ISVs have been able to get the bulk of their solutions migrated – with assistance from Microsoft or individually – in about a week.

“That’s a pretty impressive thing, it’s further ahead than we’ve ever been working with ISVs because [AX 7 is] mindful of protecting business logic,” he said.

Version 7 will be the first major release since last year’s AX 2012 R3, which added warehouse and transportation management, retail features, and tablet-based point of sale (POS). In June, AX 2012 CU9 will include rolled-up hotfixes, regulatory requirements, and platform capabilities, including compatibility for any new version of Windows.

When it comes to the cloud, Microsoft recognizes that not every business is keen on going from 0 to 120 mph. “The idea of a hybrid cloud is not new,” says Brown. “We want to evolve to the cloud with you.”

Once the AX 7 on-premise version is released, you’ll have the option of using as much or as little of the cloud that you want. The software will also run on Azure Pack, identically packaging your data both on the cloud and on-premise, resulting in more symmetry and less friction.

Still, when it comes to Azure, companies still have questions about security, privacy, and sovereignty of data. “I think trustworthy computing is partially about privacy, but it’s also about high availability and disaster recovery, and redundancy,” said Brown. “Microsoft and Azure are investing heavily in data protection and security, and monitoring in our data centers. Microsoft has the widest range of data centers in the world.”

Even though version 7 has not yet arrived, Microsoft is looking beyond the horizon of its release; Brown hinted that he foresees more capabilities for mobile and on-premise in the future.

“For an owner of a company, Dynamics AX tells us if we’re having a great day,” says Paul Vaughan, AXUG’s new Program Director. “Of course, the big advantage of AX is that everyone in the organization has access to information they need and can interpret that information, all within the user-configurable tools of Dynamics AX.”