Microsoft Ships CRM 3.0; True Hosted Version Awaits 'Titan' Release

Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Partners wanting to host Microsoft CRM can now do so for $24.95 per user per month via a new Service Provider Licensing Agreement (SPLA) option. That price allows room for mark-up compared to Enterprise Edition which lists for $125 per user per month, and Salesnet Enterprise Edition which lists for $99 per user per month.

Then if customers want to bring the application in house over time, they can fairly easily, said Brad Wilson, general manager for Microsoft CRM. Dynamics CRM 3.0 is broadly available now in English, with other language versions to follow.

With this SPLA pricing, Microsoft has started to move toward true hostable product. But the company has not been able to deliver, as hoped, a true multi-tenancy solution yet.

Multi-tenancy allows an application hoster to put many customer accounts or instances onto a single server without compromising security or management. Dynamics CRM 3.0 requires a host to dedicate a full server to each account.

Sponsored post

True multi-tenancy must await the next major CRM release, code-named Titan, Wilson noted. He would offer no timing or further details on Titan, and would not comment on whether it is the same thing as a "CRM Live," project underway at Microsoft.

As previously reported, Microsoft has sent mixed messages on its own hosted CRM plans for months. While Wilson has maintained that the focus of this CRM 3.0 release will be on on-premises use with hosting to be provided by partners, other Microsoft executives in the past few months have told partners the company will offer hosted CRM on its own servers to customers who want it next year.

Even hosting partners who view this as a potential threat think this is something competitive pressures will force Microsoft to do.

As CRN reported last month non-SPLA pricing and packaging has changed with this release. There are now two major SKUs: The Professional Edition costs between $1,244 and $1,761 per server and $622 to $880 per user depending on volumes purchased.

Professional edition requires SQL Server, and Windows Server, but not necessarily Exchange Server e-mail engine.

The Small Business Edition, which assumes the presence of Small Business Server, costs from $528 to $599 per server and $440 to $499 per user. Prices include a year of software assurance.

Both server SKUs include all three server modules—sales, service, and the new marketing functionality. In the past Microsoft charged $1,049 per server module plus $49 per standard user and $849 per professional user.

One Microsoft gold partner said the new suite pricing is much simpler now and is roughly 4 percent to 5 percent less expensive on the client side and 25 percent to 30 percent less pricey on the server component.

Ascentium, a Bellevue, Wash.-based Microsoft partner, has already implemented Dynamics CRM for the Whistler Ski area, according to David Kohar, CRM practice director for the solution provider.

"The Outlook look and feel means this will be easier to adopt," Kohar said. The trouble with traditional CRM was it was out of the flow of normal work activities, so sales people often did not use it. "This is much more seamless to what they're already doing in e-mail...and this release is incredibly embedded into Microsoft Office," he added.

Bruce Steele, executive vice president of strategy for ePartners, a Dallas-based Microsoft Gold partner concurred and added that this CRM is much more scalable and more easily customized than its predecessor.

Other partners, while lauding the tight integration with SQL Server, were also appreciative that Exchange Server is not a prerequisite. This will be much easier to implement with Domino/Notes or other corporate e-mail, they said.

Unlike its predecessor, Dynamics CRM 3.0 will not ship with Crystal Reports, although it will still work with it. The latest CRM works closely with the SQL Server reporting services that are part and parcel of both SQL Server 2000 and SQL Server 2003 a.k.a. Yukon, according to Jan Jamrich, program manager for Microsoft CRM.

The product can also be used with popular Excel tools. It is now easy, for example, to dump CRM data into a pivot table and live link to that table so it is updated in near-realtime. Or the data can be preserved to a static snapshot to be synchronized when the offline user reconnects, Jamrich said.