07 Jun Dynamics on Azure – Running GP 2013 – A Microsoft Hosting Partner’s Perspective
Dynamics on Azure – With the release of Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013 there has been a lot a noise around the product working on Window Azure. Honestly, not a lot of people truly understand what that means. So as a long-standing hosting provider of Microsoft ERP and CRM solutions, here is our perspective, on what hosting Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013 on Windows Azure really means:
- It is important to know that working with a partner who understands the product is essential.
- Unlike Microsoft Dynamics CRM on-line which comes pre-installed (you do the tailoring and customizing only), Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013 is NOT pre-installed by Microsoft. All Microsoft is providing is the infrastructure to host this application. A certified Dynamics Partner should still be involved in the installation and configuration of the product.
- Someone needs to continue to monitor and apply service packs as needed.
- There is not a 24/7/365 team managing your servers. You still need to do that.
Also, previous knowledge and experience with deploying Microsoft Dynamics GP on-premise or as a hosted service will be beneficial (if not key) when deploying on Dynamics on Azure. So let’s dive into what that entails as well:
A Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013 deployment on Microsoft Azure focuses on 4 main components:
- Virtual Machines – The virtual machines are the Windows Servers that host the Microsoft Dynamics GP components, so in addition to the GP install you will need different virtual machines to run IIS web server, Web Client, and the GP traditional client (if not running the web client). And of course SQL Server – we are already in love with SQL Server 2012 and it works well in this environment.
- Virtual Network – A virtual network provides a network in the cloud for cross-machine communication. A VPN or Virtual Private Network represents the secure site–to-site connectivity between the Windows Azure Virtual Network and your corporate network. This way the Windows Azure Network becomes an extension of your corporate network, with access to on-premise resource such as directory services and DNS (Domain Name System). We haven’t fully tested the latency of this yet, so you might consider adding a read-only domain controller, with local DNS, to the Windows Azure Virtual Network to improve latency for name resolution and user authentication.
- Storage Account – A storage account stores the data disks and the virtual machine files. Of course you need to consider how much storage you need. The recommended storage location for the database backups for a Windows Azure deployment is in Windows Azue Blob storage. We recommend going out the Windows Azure Storage page for more info on this.
- Affinity Group – An affinity group keeps the storage accounts and virtual machines in the same cluster of the data center for optimal performance. Affinity groups are defined at the subscription level and the name of each affinity group has to be unique within the subscription. Affinity groups are the way to group the services in your Windows Azure subscription that need to work together in order to achieve optimal performance. When you create an affinity group, it lets Windows Azure know to keep all of the services that belong to your affinity group running at the same data center cluster. For example, if you want to keep the services running your data and your code together, you would specify the same affinity group for those services. That way, when you deploy those services, Windows Azure will locate them in a data center as close to each other as possible. This reduces latency and increases performance, while potentially lowering costs.
So now that we understand the components needed, let’s talk more specifically about the Microsoft Dynamics GP Components that can be deployed on Windows Azure. Since Windows Azure currently doesn’t have the ability to offer Session-Based Hosting (SBH) using Remote Desktop Services (RDS), the Microsoft Dynamics GP components that require (RDS) for end-user access will only be available using Remote Desktop for Administration. (That means you really need to run Dynamics GP under the Web-client vs. the traditional classic client – for now). Stay tuned for some announcements in July by Microsoft where this will no longer be an issue – you will need to purchases licenses for RDS to get past this issue. (So items below on the chart that currently say “limited” will be available.)
Here is a handy guide that I pulled from the great white paper (Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013 on Window Azure) written by Daryl Anderson, Senior Program Manager that could be found on Partner Source (for those of you who have access). For those who do not have access to PartnerSource, please refer to the following list for component availability.
This gives you a quick overview on what is required to run Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013 on Windows Azure, but here is also a handy recap of how our Dynamics hosting services can be compared to hosting on Windows Azure. And by the way, we are happy to host any client that would like to be on Azure, but we don’t recommend doing it yourself (DIY).
 The Microsoft Dynamics GP desktop client can be used for administrative purposes with Remote Desktop for Administration. Again, this will change in July so stay tuned.
 If the application that is using eConnect requires Remote Desktop Services, then the application can be used for administrative purposes with Remote Desktop for Administration.
 Excel reports connect directly to the Microsoft Dynamics GP databases. Typically the SQL Server is not exposed to the Internet, in which case the Excel reports must be run from a computer connected to the Windows Azure Virtual Network.
 Integration Manager can be used for administrative purposes with Remote Desktop for Administration.
 Analysis Cubes reports connect directly to the Microsoft Dynamics GP databases. Typically the SQL Server is not exposed to the Internet, in which case the Analysis Cubes reports must be run from a computer connected to the Windows Azure Virtual Network.
 The Management Reporter report designer and desktop viewer can be used for administrative purposes with Remote Desktop for Administration. The Web Viewer can be used by all end-users to view reports.
 ISV products must be evaluated on a product-by-product basis.