20 Scenes From Microsoft Convergence 2011

Microsoft Convergence: Georgia On Their Mind

Atlanta's sprawling Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) was the site for the Microsoft Convergence 2011 convention for solution providers and customers who work with Microsoft Dynamics ERP and CRM applications. (The sprawling facility also hosted last year's Convergence event.)

Some 9,000 attendees devoted four days to listening to keynote speeches, attending business and technical workshops and sessions, visiting more than 230 vendors on the expo floor -- and doing a little partying on the side when the workday was over.

Something Fishy

Microsoft rented out the Georgia Aquarium, the neighboring World of Coca-Cola pavilion and the park between them in downtown Atlanta Sunday evening for the opening reception for Convergence 2011. Here attendees crowded into the aquarium's main atrium where they feasted on Asian BBQ ribs and chicken, southern cuisine such as blackened catfish, roasted chicken tamales and meatloaf sliders.

I Think I Saw A Sawfish

The Ocean Voyager exhibit in the aquarium includes this acrylic tunnel that let's visitors walk through a tropical reef tank with whale sharks, a giant manta ray, hammerhead sharks -- and this humongous sawfish.

I Think We're Going To Need A Bigger App

Don't some people use "swimming with sharks" as a metaphor for the IT industry…?

The Real Thing

Microsoft Convergence 2011 attendees also got to tour the World of Coca-Cola and its exhibits of everything from memorable Coca-Cola television advertisements to Coca-Cola artifacts, and presentations such as the "Secret Formula 4-D Theater" and the "Happiness Factory Theater" that, according to the literature, "gives a glimpse of the magic that goes into every bottle of Coca-Cola."

You also get to see a real Coca-Cola bottling line in action.

I'm Guessing It's A Little Warm In There

Coming in at seven feet tall, the Coca-Cola Polar Bear, from the soft drink maker's famous series of holiday television advertisements, greeted Convergence attendees during the reception.

Belly Up

The bar outside of the World of Coca-Cola was serving a lot more than soft drinks.

Sweet Home, Uh, Georgia

The Nick Brophy band entertained Convergence attendees on the main stage in the park.

ERP Application Cloud Commitment

Microsoft will adapt its Dynamics ERP applications for cloud computing under a roadmap outlined by Kirill Tatarinov, corporate vice president for Microsoft Business Solutions, in a keynote speech Monday.

While Microsoft has offered an on-demand version of its Dynamics CRM application for three years, its ERP applications have only been available as on-premise software (which partners have been able to host for their customers under a service provider license agreement).

The next major releases of Dynamics AX, GP, NAV and SL will be adapted to run on Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud development platform, beginning with next year's update of Dynamics NAV, Tatarinov said. "We thought that it was appropriate for us to articulate the vision and the roadmap, the directional statement," Tatarinov said.

Moving The Channel To The Cloud

In his keynote and again at a following press conference Tatarinov emphasized that as Microsoft adapts its Dynamics ERP applications for the cloud, it will work with its partners to help them expand into cloud computing. "It is hugely important for us to take the entire ERP ecosystem into the cloud," he said.

One way Microsoft is helping partners make the transition to the cloud is with the recently introduced "Microsoft Dynamics Cloud Partner Profitability Guide" that offers partners advice on how to shift to a cloud computing business model.

Dynamics AX Timetable

Tatarinov also announced that the public beta of Dynamics AX 2012, the ERP application that targets midsize companies, is now available. The final release will be available in August.

"This new version of AX is a game-changer," CEO Steve Ballmer added in his own keynote.

Cloud Commitment

CEO Steve Ballmer devoted part of his 25-minute keynote to emphasizing Microsoft's cloud focus.

"Make no mistake, when it comes to the cloud, Microsoft's all in," he said. "Every one, every one of our products will be engineered to deliver the full benefits of the cloud. As I see it the cloud is probably the most important technological generation going forward for the next 10 years."

Looking Forward, Looking Back

Ballmer noted that Microsoft entered the ERP application space 10 years ago when it acquired Great Plains Software and the applications that would become the company's Dynamics GP suite.

But the CEO also provided an overview of Microsoft's broad product line and, more importantly, Microsoft's emphasis on making all those products work together. He noted, for example, that Dynamics CRM "doesn't just work with Outlook, it's in Outlook."

Ballmer also noted the success of Microsoft's Kinect motion-sensing technology for Xbox, which sold 8 million units in 60 days, and pleaded with Convergence attendees to make Microsoft's Bing search technology their "default search engine."

Moving Up In The World

After the Monday morning keynotes the rush was on to move to the conference's workshops and sessions throughout the GWCC. This year's attendance of 9,000 was slightly more than the 8,500 who attended last year's show in Atlanta and significantly more than the 6,700 who made it to New Orleans for Convergence 2009.

Birds Of A Feather...

Convergence attendees could wear buttons with the name of the Dynamics application they use and/or the vertical industry they work in. That way they could recognize like-minded show-goers and share ideas, experiences and advice.

Rubber Rubiks

The Microsoft store in the GWCC offered these squeezable Rubiks cubes with the Microsoft Dynamics logo for relieving stress. (But I thought one of the selling points of the Dynamics applications is that they're easy to implement and use…?)

Software Valhalla?

Yes, that is a Viking demonstrating the benefits of Rockton Software's applications, a series of products that work with Dynamics GP. Sandpoint, Idaho-based Rockton is a Microsoft gold certified partner.

Take Me To Your IT Manager

And what trade show would be complete without a creepy Robot? Here the robot representing Dun & Bradstreet's D&B/360 data service seems to have a couple of attendees confused.

Going Gourmet

The reception on the show floor Monday evening had the usual bars, buffets and cheese-and-cracker tables. Not so usual was this chef who was whipping up servings of Bananas Foster.

Sold Out

One good way to gauge the popularity (or lack thereof) of specific Microsoft products is too check out the attendance at product-specific sessions. This session on Tuesday, "Upgrading to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011: A Practical Guide," was packed and people had to be turned away. Salesforce.com, take note…