I attended a half day presentation by Microsoft yesterday on the subject of Dynamics CRM 2011 and integrations. It seems that many parterners are a bit hesistant to integrating Dynamics CRM 2011 Online and are promoting the on-premise versions when the issues of integration are important.
Microsoft did a good job in showing that they do have sufficient technology to handle integrations to Dynamics CRM 2011 Online including the Azure based technology ACS – Access Control System that together with Active Directory Federation Services 2.0 can be used to allow Dynamics CRM 2011 Online to use a local AD as authenticator. It is probably not as easy as setting up a normal on-premise solution but at least it can be done and there hopefully are some whitepapers or Youtube-clips on how it is done.
One of the issues that were discussed was the issue of integrations in reagards to Business Intelligence and data warehousing. This is usually done using SQL Integration Service (SSIS) with direct SQL communication. Their suggestion on how to address this issue was to use the new OData interface that exists in Dynamics CRM 2011. I am no SQL expert but I do believe that this being a standardized protocol, integrations will be possible. However, there will still be issues with performance as the amounts of data that need to be transfered are quite large and the OData protocol is still a strict pull-protocol which does not allow for trigger-based updates.
Another issue that I asked about was the licensing issue in regards to Dynamics CRM 2011 Online. Take the following example: A large company of about 40 000 employees has about 500 people activly working in with Dynamics CRM 2011 Online for SalesForceAutomation. A data warehouse is created and data is integrated from many different systems, ERP, production systems, quality control systems and CRM. CRM being the customer data master. SharePoint is used as the global Intranet platform and some of the data from the data warehouse is published on the SharePoint portal to all employees. For instance our currently 10 most important customers. So, the 39 500 employees are only viewing a minute part of the customer data, and it indirecty, via the data warehouse, originates from the CRM system. What licenses in CRM are required for these users?
In the case of an on-premise installation, the best licensing option for Dynamics CRM is the Application Platform Agreement (APA) that is sort of a “free-for-all pass” which is negotiated with Microsoft. However, in the Online environment there is no correlating licensing agreement to the APA. I explicitly asked Micrsoft how this was to be licensed and their answer is that 40 000 separate users licenses are required for Dynamics CRM 2011 Online, making it a rather impossible option, in other words forcing the company to either an on-premise solution, removing some of the data from the data warehouse/Intranet or moving to another CRM supplier. Neither of which is in line with showing off the power of Microsofts cloud services.
I hope this is just a temporary flaw since it does limit Microsofts business opportunities with larger companies and I would think it is probable that some similar agreement form that matches the on-premise APA will be introduced.
On the other hand, the External Connector license is not required at all for CRM Online (or SPLA) making it even more interesting for smaller CRM customers as customer/event/portal integrations are more and more common.
CEO, Chief Architect and co-Founder at CRM-konsulterna AB
Many of my customers are aquiring Dynamics CRM through the Service Provider License Agreement (SPLA) which more commonly is known as Partner Hosted. We are working closely with Hermelin IT-Partner (http://www.hermelin.com/) for this service as they are an excellent provider of IT-infrastructure.
One of the licensing issues I have been discussing with Hermelin IT-Partner and Crayon, a Swedish Microsoft Licensing specialist partner, is how the External Connector is licensed for SPLA.
The External Connector is, as many of you probably know, a special license that is required to license external users to work with data in Dynamics CRM, without working with the normal GUI (requires full license). Despite the name, it just a license form and does not contain any code at all.
Typical scenarios where the external connector is required is for customer portals, case registrations by customers etc. where the portal or other software works directly with the CRM webservice or database. I have had extensive discussions with Microsoft concerning implicit information, like data warehouses and how these are to be licensed but have as of now only got the answer that as long as there is some interaction with the data, like drill-down, a license is required. If there are many users, the Application Platform Agreement is what is recommended. The external connector cannot be used in internal scenarios as it explicitly only gives accessrights to non-employees and the similar.
For an on premise solution, the external connector is typically priced in the area of €25 000 or $30 000 which is quite hefty and a very large pricetag for a small company making it more or less impossible to buy.
So, when working with Dynamics CRM licensed in SPLA, how does the license agreement work? Crayon sent us the following sections concerning this:
For Dynamics CRM 4.0 Service Provider :
You do not need a SAL for external users who access Dynamics CRM 4.0 without using Dynamics CRM 4.0 Client for Microsoft Office Outlook and Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 Web Client software. External users means users that are not (i) a customer’s or a customer’s affiliates’ employees, or (ii) a customer’s or a customer’s affiliates’ contractors and agents.
So, surprise, you don’t need it at all! This is something I think is great since that really opens up the possibilities of really leveraging the full power of Dynamics CRM for our customers even the smallest with only a couple of users.
It also has some other implications, namely that a customer that currently licenses Dynamics CRM as on-premise via Volume Licensing or by renting the licenses and currently are using the external connector, really should start looking at moving to partner hosted since that will remove the quite hefty cost of the external connector. It typically also comes with a SA of about 1/3 the cost per year so it is an ongoing cost.
I hope that Microsoft will be harmonizing this with the rest of the “power of choice” so that it will be more reasonably priced also for on-premise solutions.
CEO, Chief Architect and co-Founder at CRM-konsulterna AB
I have previously blogged on the licensing issues of Microsoft CRM and I am still waiting for an answer from the Microsoft representatives in Sweden who have forwarded the question. As soon as I get an answer, I will let you know.
I have also been involved in some discussions concerning what the specifics of the external connection licese are. The following URL describes the details of this for CRM (and also other products). Please have a look:
Microsoft Dynamics CRM Consultant
Today I attended the CRM 4.0 partner readiness tour and I took the opportunity to ask the technical specialist from Microsoft headquaters a lot of questions. In regard to my entry yesterday concerning licensing, we had an interesting discussion on how it can be managed and how it is handled in CRM 4.0.
In general the same licensing limitations apply as I described in my previous post. The new “light”-userlicense I described bellow will be a read-only user license with a reduced price. The external connector will also be available at a substanially lower cost.
However, we found some technical workarounds that the Microsoft representative actually said were ok but I havn’t asked a Microsoft sales rep and I don’t know if I should…
If you want to create dynamic reports based on CRM data, what you must do is to replicate all the data that you want to base your reports on to your own database. Then create all the reports based on this database, which can be called datawarehouse or something similar.
The same “intermediary” database can also be used when you have, for instance, an internal support page where you can submit your support issue, which is then added to the CRM as a Service case. Let the application write to a database and then create an service that periodically (like every minute or so) reads the new data, and writes to the CRM webservice. There are other similar ways of doing this (like sending emails from the form to a support que) and I think you get the general idea.
The legal workaround using a subsidary company with an external connector license is also valid, but will require you to buy the external connector which has a non trivial price.
I feel this is very strange, that you using a technical solution can bypass some licensing rules that actually should be changed.
CRM and SharePoint Consultant
During Convergence 2007 in Copenhagen, it got into a discussion with some Microsoft empolyees concerning the licensing issues when creating applications that directly or indirectly access CRM-based data.
According to what I have heard, it boils down to the fact that a user license is required for all users who interact with the data in any way. This means that no user license is required for a static report displayed in, for instance, SharePoint, but, as soon as there is any interactivity with the data, as for instance, drill down, a separate user license is needed.
So, if you want to display data in SharePoint that comes in whole, or part, from the CRM-database, make sure it is a static report, so that no special user license is required. Creating a report (with for instance SQL Reporting Services) that has drill-down, will require each user to have a user license.
This rises the question of what kind of licensing is needed to access OLAP cubes that are assembled from a data warehouse based on data from many different system, among these, Microsoft CRM. As far as I have understood a full user license is required for all users who can access the OLAP-cubes.
This issue will probably change in CRM 4.0 when there will be a new “light-user-license”. Exactly what this means is still unclear and I have heard no details from Microsoft.
When creating any outside interaction with CRM, like a web based tool for submitting service cases, the separate “External Connector” license is needed. This is independant of the magnitude of the application or number of external users (company employees cannot use the external connector). It is also independant of if each user actually uses a named user or some common system user. I am unsure of the exact price for the external connector, but I believe it is somewhere around $40 000.
So, what does this mean for CRM-developers? That we have to have some basic understanding of the licensing modell and what limitations there are to it, so that our customers don’t have to pay unnecessary license fees just because we thought that drill-down was a nifty feature in our report that is published on a SharePoint portal.
As many of you, I think these limitations are non benificial for Microsoft since they greatly restrict the possibilities of creating nice Mash-up applications and portals, something Microsoft technology is very good at and something I would view as a great advantage in comparison to Microsofts competitors.
I would also like to point out that I might be wrong in understanding some of these details, and I would be greatful if you could leave a comment if you know or think that I might have understood something wrong.
CRM and SharePoint Consultant
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