NAV 2009 may require more server strength

IT managers may have to consider upgrading their infrastructure if they want to get the most out of Dynamics NAV 2009, Microsoft’s update to its enterprise resource planning package released Wednesday.

NAV 2009 includes a role-tailored GUI and Web services integration for mid-market ERP customers, but it also marks the introduction of a new three-tiered architecture to the product. NAV, which Microsoft acquired as part of its takeover of Navision A/S in 2002, used to consist of a client that connected to a database server. With the 2009 version, however, the client will connect to a middle “service tier” based on Windows Communication Foundation that will execute the business logic, connecting to the database level only as data is needed.

Jan Sillemann, director of global product management for Microsoft Dynamics NAV, said the three-tiered architecture will mean greater scaleability, but without complicating matters for customers.

“We managed to do this in a way so that when you install NAV 2009 it takes around 60 seconds. It will automatically install SQL Express,” he said. “We decided to make sure we maintain the simplicity in the product but on the other hand really take advantage of splitting the database and the application into two tiers so you can run on one or more physical boxes.”

For some customers who want to upgrade, it might mean installing a separate server for your application tier, according to Sillemann.

“It’s not like you’d have to replace everything,” he said. “Adding a server is not the most expensive thing to do. Some of what we have seen from earlier customers who have done this is about addressing new users in the organization. Not that we are any way repositioning NAV. Not going for larger customers, but we are definitely going for having more users or being able to support more users within our customers.”

Customers won’t have to move to three tiers right now, he added, but the move was a necessary part of offering Web service integration. “Now that we have the application server that Web services can talk to, we can have a role-tailored user experience that is metadata-driven. A lot of code execution that happens on the client today will now happen on the app server. Less business logic is executed on the client.”

Nigel Wallis, research director with Toronto-based IDC Canada, said the three-tiered architecture could resonate well with mid-market Canadian firms.

“The companies that are looking at doing a big migration forward are going to like it,” he said. “You can combine it into portals, you can do a lot.”

Microsoft owns a handful of ERP products from companies it has purchased, including Solomon, Axapta and Great Plains. About a year ago the company had explored the idea of merging these products into a single code base, an effort that was dubbed Project Green. Technical and business challenges associated with the effort, however, led Microsoft to abandon Project Green.

“The issue for Dynamics is that there is confusion in the marketplace around what the role of AX vs. GP vs. Nav is,” said Wallis. “Microsoft, because they have so many irons in the fire, haven’t had time to spend the money on the marketing to differentiate on why you would use GP on the high end and AX on the low end. NAV fits Canada well in terms of our demographics.”

Dynamics NAV also tends to be priced competitively with other products in the segment, Wallis added.

Microsoft officially launched Dynamics NAV 2009 as part of a customer event in Copenhagen on Wednesday.

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