Microsoft expands multi-tenant push with CRM 4.0 launch

Software can be deployed in cloud, locally or a mixture of both

Microsoft Wednesday began global rollout of its Dynamics CRM application, which is designed to appeal to hosting companies and give the vendor a legitimate place in an on-demand software world now dominated by alesForce.com.

The global rollout of Dynamics CRM 4.0 began with the release of the software in eight languages, and is the start of a 12-week launch plan. The software was first made available in December 2007.

The highlight, however, is the multi-tenant architecture of CRM 4.0, which was formerly code-named Titan. Multi-tenant software, which is used by companies such as SalesForce.com and others, eases hosting chores by allowing multiple customers to be serviced off a single implementation.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said last year at the company's annual Partner Conference that services hosted by a partner, hosted by Microsoft itself or any combination of those two will lead a revolution toward combining Microsoft's existing technology with new service models.

CRM 4.0 is one gateway to that plan in that it can be run as a hosted service, on-premise or a mix of the two. And CRM 4.0 can be integrated with desktop tools, including Office Outlook and Excel, and other server software such as SharePoint Server 2007.

Microsoft, however, is playing from behind in offering CRM as a hosted service and will contend with SalesForce.com and Oracle/Siebel, as well as other players including Entellium, NetSuite and RightNow Technologies.

CRM 4.0 is not the first big services play for Microsoft, which already offers large corporate users Microsoft Managed Services. Those services revolve around Exchange, SharePoint and Office Communications Server, but are not a multi-tenant architecture. Managed Services provides users with a dedicated environment configured to their specifications in the Application Service Provider model.

In addition, Microsoft partner Intermedia on Tuesday launched the first hosted service around Office Communications Server.

Microsoft said the first languages available for CRM 4.0 in both the on-demand and on-premise models are Danish, English, Finnish, Dutch, French, German, simplified Chinese and Spanish. In the next 90 days, the company will release support for Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, Czech, Greek, Hebrew, Hong Kong Chinese, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, traditional Chinese and Turkish.

Three server editions of Dynamics CRM 4.0 are available: Workgroup, Professional and Enterprise.

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