CIOs are tasked many times with balancing the introduction of new technology (along with its new capabilities, functionality and business promise) with their existing IT investments. One lesser known but significant aspect of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2 is that it can be introduced into an existing Windows Server environment with a minimal impact on infrastructure. Once installed, the introduction of new Microsoft server and client technologies such as Windows Server 2012, Microsoft SQL Server 2012, Microsoft Visual Studio 2012, Microsoft SharePoint 2013, Microsoft Lync Server 2013, and Microsoft Office 2013 can be made incrementally—yielding significant benefit with minimal to modest expense and effort.

We’ve made significant investments to expand the capabilities of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 across the application footprint. Previous Inside Dynamics AX blogs have covered many of the application enhancements. When I think about the new Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2 release from a platform perspective, there are several key areas that will lead to increased agility, productivity, security, fault tolerance and performance.

Let’s briefly explore these 5 focus areas.

Simplicity

Several Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2 application functional areas, such as reporting, business intelligence, and external data connectivity, have been enhanced in this release. Though these functional areas are quite impressive on legacy versions of the Microsoft platform (i.e. SQL Server, SharePoint, Office) the incremental introduction of the latest releases of any or all of these platforms significantly increases the capability of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2 in these functional areas:

  • Reporting: The creation, publishing and visualization of reports in the form of dynamic pivots, animated graphical dashboards and actionable intuitive graphics are all significantly enhanced with SharePoint 2013 and Office 2013. The enterprise portal pages in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2 simply host this information and are completely customizable from their installed base state to meet the needs of your decision makers.
  • Business Intelligence (BI): SQL Server 2012 continues to enable and grow capabilities for Business Intelligence. Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2 utilizes “cubes” to provide a substantial base for reports of many kinds. Not only does Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2 include several “cubes” but additional custom cubes can be created easily, as needed, to provide your organization the information it requires to take action.
  • Data Connectivity: External data sources such as the Windows Azure Marketplace for instance, can be utilized using the “odata” feed capability in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2. odata is a standard XML-based format that simply uses web transports to communicate. Resources such as public demographic, historical and industry data only serves to enhance the reporting and BI capabilities mentioned above.

Productivity

Though there are several dimensions to this, let’s look at a couple: mobile phones, specialized devices and ultralight mobile form factors that can connect to Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2.

  • For insights into mobile application scenarios for Dynamics AX, click here and here
  • Specialized clients, such as reader boards and factory hardened monitors, can display critical information for workers using the reporting capabilities outlined above without requiring physical query or data entry
  • Ultra-light mobile devices, such as Microsoft’s Surface, ease access to critical business information on the go to make decisions without having to be in the office

Security

Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2 takes full advantage of the security capabilities of Windows Server. Windows Server 2012 provides enhancements to the centralization of certificate management and Federated Security services (just to name two) that give customers the ability to cross business legal entities and geographies with ease and reduce expense.

  • Every CIO will tell you that the cost versus ease of use needs to be balanced with the security needs of the business. Windows Server 2012 centralizes all security management for large organizations, reducing cost and increasing ease of use. A key example is Directaccess, which removes the end user’s need to VPN or carry around a FOB security device to gain access to the corporate network from the internet.
  • Federated Security Services enables secure, centrally managed connectivity to:
    • Subsidiaries, existing or newly acquired, that might have different security systems
    • External data sources as mentioned in the data connectivity section above
    • Partners, vendor systems as required

Any one of these scenarios typically was expensive and hard to manage in the past. Windows Server 2012 not only enables all of these scenarios, and more, but does so while reducing overhead and ongoing costs.

Fault Tolerance

Windows Server 2012 and SQL Server 2012 can both dramatically increase system resilience to typical failure scenarios such as hardware failures and natural disasters.

  • Hyper-V, which is part of Windows Server 2012, provides a high performing virtualization environment which, yields many cost saving and fault tolerant capabilities. While the merits of virtualization are still being debated by CIOs, a growing majority have moved to virtualization for many reasons, mostly having to do with cost savings. Hyper-V not only continues to add to these savings, it also provides several fault tolerant features as well. Hyper-V Replica is closely integrated with failover clustering in Windows Server 2012, and it provides nearly seamless replication across different migration scenarios in the primary and Replica servers. This allows virtual hard disks to be stored in a different location to enable recovery in case the data center goes down due to hardware failure, natural disaster or other causes.

  • AlwaysOn Availability Groups, which is available in SQL Server 2012, takes database mirroring to a whole new level. With AlwaysOn, users will be able to fail over multiple databases in groups instead of individually. Also, secondary copies will be readable and can be used for database backups. The big win is that your disaster recovery environment no longer needs to sit idle.

Performance

Simply having your Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2 installation on Windows Server 2012 and SQL Server 2012 gives Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2 increased performance in several dimensions of which many are mentioned earlier:

  • Virtualization performance has increased such that the trade-offs of native installation performance versus the centralized management, fault tolerance, portability to new hardware, etc… is so minimal that virtualization is the obvious choice.
  • Windows Server Storage performance along with SQL Server storage performance can greatly increase performance simply from increase I/O performance.
  • One of the most common uses for Hyper-V Server is in Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) environments. VDI allows a Windows client operating system to run on server-based virtual machines in the data center, which the user can access from a PC, thin client, or other client device. A full client environment is virtualized within a server-based hypervisor, centralizing users’ desktops. By deploying VDI with Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2012, users will have seamless access to a rich, full fidelity Windows environment running in the data center, from any device. Hyper-V Server also gives IT professionals a cost effective VDI solution with simplified administration, flexible storage options, and dynamic allocation of resources.

 

After covering these platform highlights, you start to realize the significant possibilities upgrading the overall platform can bring to your Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2 installation.

What interesting Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2 functionalities have impressed you most?

 

Steven Houglum - Director Technical Product Marketing