Same Yet Different


Microsoft readies 'Green,' unified code base for business apps


Microsoft Business Solutions hopes to deliver on its promised unified code base for business applications by late next year, sources said.

MBS,which encompasses diverse offerings from Microsoft's acquisitions of Great Plains Software, Navision and Solomon Software,plans to offer a unified code base for its full plate of ERP, supply chain management and related business apps.

The "next gen" code base, code-named Green or Project Green, is slated to be in usable form by late 2004, sources said. Microsoft executives have been quietly discussing the plan for some time, but it is a significant undertaking, and partners say the date is optimistic.

A Microsoft spokeswoman declined to comment on timing.

"Green will be the poster boy for the whole .Net [game plan] utilizing Office, SQL Server, SharePoint, the whole product family," said one source familiar with the project.

As such, the technology would deliver on Microsoft's goal of entrenching its entire software stack in small and midsize businesses. Underlying the Green game plan is the Microsoft Business Framework, a development platform, components of which now serve as the basis for Microsoft Business Portal.

Microsoft-CRM and its .Net underpinnings are another early indication of "what they're going to do with Great Plains [and] Navision," said Yacov Wrocherinsky, president of Infinity Info Systems, a New York-based MBS partner.

At Microsoft's Convergence 2003 in March, company executives said an early adopter version of Microsoft Business Framework will be available for use by third-party ISVs for their own development by year's end.

The Microsoft Business Framework, in turn, builds on the .Net framework, adding more functionality to be used by partners as the base for custom applications. "Who really wants to write another general ledger?" asked Mitch Ruud, product planning manager for Microsoft Business Framework, at Convergence.

Some partners say they could win big if Microsoft delivers one set of code that can be customized into vertical application stacks.

"Since I'm Microsoft CRM-only, the complexity of the other MBS products is a barrier to entry for me," said Ben Holtz, president of Green Beacon Solutions, a Watertown, Mass.-based MBS partner. "A unified code base will make it easier for me to broaden out %85 to sell not only CRM applications but ERP as well."

Conversely, for a small shop that made its name specializing in Solomon code, as an example, the unified code base might not be such good news, Holtz said. "This will scare the living daylights out of them," he said.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is not standing still. In June, it hopes to release Microsoft Business Network (MBN), software that promises to help solution providers collaborate with partners and customers over the Internet and transact business,sharing data without rekeying. MBN will be delivered both as on-premises software and as a hosted service.

The offering will rely on the Microsoft BizTalk, SQL Server and Exchange Server stack. MBN also builds on users' familiarity with Outlook and Office applications. "You stay with the apps you know, use Outlook to send/receive mail, and then plug in capabilities as needed so Outlook can expedite B2B transactions," said Marcus Schmidt, lead product manager for MBN.

Pricing is not set, but Schmidt said there will be an annual subscription fee.

MBS Game Plan
Product Status Ship Description
• Microsoft Business Portal • Now available • April 2003 • Exposes Great Plains data in browser-based portal view
• Microsoft Business Network • Beta • June • RTM Software to enable partners to exchange data with each other, suppliers and customers with rekeying
• MBN as a Service • Early beta • Late summer • Same capabilities as MBN but hosted
• Project Green or Green • Development • Late 2004 or beyond • Unified code base for capabilities now offered by Great Plains, Solomon, Navision ERP, SCM accounting solutions
Source: Microsoft