Microsoft promises quick deployment of CRM

2 Jul 2004

AMSTERDAM — Software industry giant Microsoft has promised developers a speedy deployment of customer relationship management (CRM) databases by making clever use of meta data and removing the need for developers to write SQL requests whenever changes to a database are made. It also revealed that the CRM technology will be available to users over the web, on Outlook or on pocket PCs.

The upcoming feature pack for Microsoft’s customer relationship platform MS CRM, will offer users greater functionality, according to Jason Hunt, technical product manager and a former developer of the software. The feature pack is scheduled to ship in August or September of this year. Hunt also said that CRM 2.0 will ship in the April-June 2005 time frame.

The feature pack will upgrade CRM 1.2 by adding closer integration with MS Office, support for mobile sales clients, performance and reporting enhancements and a redeployment tool. “With support for mobile clients, CRM now has three form factors,” he told journalists at Tech Ed, Microsoft’s annual European Developer Conference. “These are web interface, Outlook interface and now pocket PC.”

The redeployment tool, he added, would be a powerful tool for independent software vendors (ISVs). It would allow a developer to take a snapshot of a customer’s data, which could then be taken in-house for customisation and tweaking and then be easily redeployed back to the client.

Since its US release last year and its global release in January of this year, Microsoft CRM has been deployed in 53 countries in nine languages by over 2000 clients. What differentiates MS CRM from its competitors is that it was developed not just as an application but also as an entire platform. While other companies create the application first and then release the software developer kit (SDK), he said, Microsoft developed the SDK first and then based the application on top of that.

A further difference, said Hunt, is that the application is based on two databases. The first is the physical database but the second is a metadata database. This means that the developer no longer need to write new structured query language (SQL) requests whenever the tables in the physical database change. “The platform looks to the metadata to build up queries. This is a huge advantage over systems where you have to write SQL to get data in and out.”

Because of the way the platform is structured it is easy for developers to create customised applications. Microsoft CRM is being used in six sectors of which services is the largest. This is followed by manufacturing, transport, communications, utilities, the wholesale trade, financial services and others. “Partners and ISVs are best equipped for such vertical customisation,” said Hunt. “Take for example and an application to track shipping. This is such a small niche it doesn’t make sense for us to develop a specific application but it does for a smaller ISV.”

Also at Tech Ed, Microsoft outlined the roadmap to 64-bit computing. Neil Hudson, director of Windows evangelism and developer platform evangelism, explained that the Windows code base supports three architectures: traditional 32-bit x86, x64 which is a 64-bit extension to the x86 instruction set, and the IPF instruction set used in itanium.

Versions of Windows XP, Server 2003 Enterprise, Server 2003 Datacenter and SQL Server exist for the IPF instruction set with versions of XP, Server 2003 Standard and Server 2003 Enterprise for x64 due to ship in the second half of this year. An x64 version of MS SQL server is due to ship in the first half of next year as is an IPF and x64 version of .Net Framework.

Meanwhile Tom Garrison of Intel confirmed to the details of Intel’s recent announcement of a new 64-bit platform. At the heart of it is a Xeon 3.6GHz CPU. “But it’s a total platform,” he said. “It features an 800MHz front-side bus and new memory technology.” According to Garrison, the new platform, which will be manufactured at Intel’s Leixlip facility, delivers 30pc performance improvement and is intended for use in high-end workstations.

By David Stewart