By Brandon George, Senior Technical Architect, Sunrise Technolgies, Inc.

People have been talking about The Cloud for years, and now it’s arrived. 2010 for sure will be the year of the Cloud. And though it's not on any official calendar, those born under the year of the cloud are sure to be free thinkers, operational vs. capital based, have abilities to get projects going on their feet --- and into the cloud quickly.

Seriously, the next release,  or wave of Microsoft products, will enable more and more solutions to actually be true Hyrbid clouds. This means Dynamics AX customers will need to understand what is expected, as part of their solution design.  The next wave is just the very first part of what is on the horizon. Microsoft Dynamics AX is the business platform, which the rest of the platform makes use of to offer a total, single, hyrbid platform for users.

Most all businesses, in some form or fashion, have an interest level in the Cloud. When I talk to clients about Microsoft Azure, Microsoft's cloud platform, the biggest thing I see as an issue is what the cloud offers.  So here is my take on what the cloud offers now,  and likely in the future.

First, we must understand that  there will be two ways services and whole applications, including legacy, can live in the cloud.

As one approach, you have the true cloud based Software+Services, 'Three Screens and a Cloud' marketing tag lined approach. This includes services that are built using SQL Azure, .Net AppFabric, Windows Azure, etc. that are multi-tenant based. This means they can scale up or down, without need for the services of a system administration, depending on the load of the given service or services at hand.

This first approach is what makes such cloud-based services different from a typical hosting environment, like having a server co-located somewhere and users hitting it. This is also different than having a service hosted on some web server, and users consuming it.

Once created, and set up, then the need of the service, truly governs the resources used to serve that need.

Enter the second option for Azure platform based software or services. This is where, for example, a legacy application could be used. Here, what you have is a provisioned virtual image, which sits on top of the Azure platform. This is very similar to having a co-located box somewhere. This is not dynamically scalable, and so has a set of finite resources... unless an admin type increases those resources.

The second option is a pay-for-use as well, and it's spread out over the CPU, Disk I/O, etc.

So, now we have a better idea of what it means to be built on the Azure platform. The current service offerings from Microsoft, are of option one. These are truly dynamic scalable services, depending on the need, built using Windows Azure, .Net AppFabric, SQL Azure, etc.

While you will have the ability to consume and work with services developed by Microsoft, you’ll also be able to create your own, custom, true cloud services with Dynamics AX, and also make use and consume third party cloud based services.