During 2011 I have conducted sessions on utilizing cloud services at various events (Convergence US, Directions EMEA, Dutch Dynamics Community Event, NAV Tech Days, Airlift in Munich and Directions US – and every time I have promised that I would blog about how to do these cool things – how can you as a NAV Partner or a NAV Customer take advantage of the Cloud.

So this is the start of a series, that will talk about Cloud Services. As you might have noticed, there is no ending part number (Part 1 of x) – reason is, that the number of Cloud Services out there is not fixed – and if I run into other cloud services later on – I will add new posts to cover these.

Microsoft Dynamics NAV in the Cloud

These posts are not about NAV in the Cloud. Yes, Microsoft Dynamics NAV will be available in the Cloud – we are working on that – but what the exact strategy will be for this offering is not mine to reveal at this time.

When time is right, I will of couse write about this.

What is Cloud Services?

To answer this question, we should probably start by answering: “What is Cloud Computing?”. Wikipedia has the following answer to that question

Cloud computing is the delivery of computing as a service rather than a product, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices as a utility (like the electricity grid) over a network (typically the Internet).

So now that should be clear to everyoneSmiley

My definition of Cloud Services (or at least what I will talk about) is that Cloud Services are services that are available in the cloud rather through a product you would have to install and maintain yourself.

We use Cloud Services all the time. When we check the weather forecast, checking in when we travel, sending e-mails, tweeting, listening to music on spotify, chatting and a lot of other things.

So I am of course not here to tell you how to update your facebook status on a daily basis or anything like that – I am here to tell you about how to integrate services in the cloud with your Microsoft Dynamics NAV and how to take advantage of these things. Some times there will be a clear usage pattern for using a service – in other cases I will just explain how to do this, because I can – and it is up to you to see whether you can use this in your business.

Having talked about Cloud Services – I also have to mention Windows Azure.

What is Windows Azure?

Windows Azure is Microsofts platform in the cloud and instead of writing a lot of text, I will include a small video, which I think does a good job of explaining this:

What is the Windows Azure Platform?

On top of the Windows Azure platform, Microsoft offers a number of services, which I of course will include in the list of Cloud Services. Some of these will require you to have a subscription to the Windows Azure Platform. You sign up for a subscription at http://windows.azure.com, by clicking at the Sign up button:

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The Pay-As-You-Go option allows you to pay for only the stuff you need and you can investigate the rates before you use anything. Some of the services I will be talking about are:

Azure Storage

Current monthly price is $0.15 pr GB (including 10,000 storage transactions – this is the number of times you read/write your data). Azure Storage is used for blob storage, queue storage and table storage – and I will post examples on how to use these things.

Servicebus

Current monthly price is $9.95 for 5 simultaneous connections. The use cases I have for using the Service Bus typically open and close the connections every time, meaning that the 5 connection pack will get you a long way. The Servicebus is used for connecting services (on-prem or hosted) in a secure way through the cloud.

SQL Azure

Current price is $99.99 a month for 10GB database. I must admit, that I find this rather expensive (even though it does include SQL licenses, server licenses, hardware, connectivity, somebody maintining the thing, high security, high availability and high scalability) – but nevertheless, I will talk about how to take advantage of SQL Azure. There are also an additional cost for outbound data transfers (which means that you pay extra for every GB you transfer from SQL Azure to your local box – $0.15 – $0.20). If you have an Azure hosted service (in the same datacenter) reading the data – it is NOT subject to data transfer costs.

Azure Compute

Current price is $0.12 per hour for a small instance. A Small instance is 1.6Ghz server with 1.75GB RAM, 225GB instance storage and moderate IO performance. A Medium instance is the double of everything – including the price. A Large is again the double of a Medium and a X-Large is again the double of a Large.

Running multiple instances multiplies the price for the instance and so forth.

In this price, the instance is maintained and the OS is kept up-to-date for you, network traffic is high capacity and high reliability. If the hardware is not working, you will get new hardware and so forth. No risk, no worry.

Is that expensive or is it cheap – it all depends on what you need I guess.

One thing I will state though is, that in my opinion, Windows Azure is not ready for hosting standard Virtual Machines yet. So if you “just” want to host your Windows Server 2008 in the Cloud and do everything like you did it before – Windows Azure is not the place yet. Today it is designed as a platform for applications that need high reliability, high scalability and high security (I think i have mentioned that a couple of times).

What’s in it for me?

Maybe you are thinking exactly this question at this time – what is in it for me?

Can I use this for anything?

And of course I cannot answer that question. I can however give a lot of examples on what cloud services can be used for and maybe you will find that the Windows Azure Storage can be used to solve a problem that you have had for a long time – or maybe the Servicebus is exactly what you need to solve your connectivity problem with your on-prem server.

Stay tuned for a number of upcoming posts on Cloud Services.

Enjoy

Freddy Kristiansen
PM Architect
Microsoft Dynamics NAV