Years in the making, a cloud + edge model for Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management nears preview

September 25 2020

Microsoft announced at Ignite 2020 this week that they will soon begin the preview of a hybrid architecture for Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management. The model will introduce new Cloud and Edge Scale Unit add-ins that give customers the option to distribute warehousing and manufacturing workloads across geographies and across on-premises and Azure computing infrastructure, the company says.

The preview begins in October, according a Microsoft blog post by Dynamics 365 general manager Manoj Swaminathan. When deployed with local data centers, the architecture will require the use of Azure stack devices, according to. He explained that the service will allow for modeling and planning to optimize results:

Customers can make data-driven decisions before making any investment by easily simulating various factors that impact resilience of their critical manufacturing and warehouse processes, such as network latency, traffic volume, time-outs, or intermittent connectivity. They can then deploy the scale units—edge or cloud—to best overcome these challenges.

And, he continued, the model promises "a plug-and-play experience and allows customers to easily scale during usage spikes to ensure high throughput." And the model will cover asset management as well as "other critical manufacturing and warehouse execution scenarios."

Speaking at Ignite 2020, Microsoft officials noted that the scale units can be deployed either on Azure or on "the edge", meaning in a local data center. Whereas a cloud scale unit may be best used to reduce latency, an edge unit may be deployed to safeguard against downtime. System managers will get data on workloads at the local site level like traffic volume, network latency, and time out requests. They can simulate infrastructure changes before applying them, then monitor the outcome after deployment.

While Microsoft's main message for Cloud and Edge Scale Unit appears to be data throughput and system resilience, Swaminathan stated that regulatory and data governance requirements could also justify their use:

Many manufacturers and distributors are heavily regulated and have strict policy requirements. These customers have been conservative with their migration to the cloud, which has impeded their ability to overcome disruptions like the one caused by the current pandemic. With the ability to run distributed workloads on the edge, these companies can feel more confident running the manufacturing and warehousing workloads on their premises while migrating the rest of their operations to the cloud; thereby digitally transforming their organizations and reducing costs to become more resilient.

Microsoft highlighted a customer already using the edge scale units, Monogram Foods, a US-based food manufacturer. Their developer told Microsoft:

The architectural design of the solution ensures that [critical frozen goods] warehouse workloads are isolated from the rest of our operations, eliminating points of contention during these time sensitive processes.

Years in the making

The reveal of a concrete plan for a cloud + edge hybrid model for Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management comes after years of promises and delays from Microsoft. The company was discussing the possibility nearly four years ago, when the cloud ERP solution had just one hundred customers in production.

In early 2018, Microsoft officials had no update on their hybrid plans, telling an event audience at the time that the plans for a hybrid model had been pushed back to mid-2019. With the preview now set to start in late 2020, a 2021 launch of these scale units seems possible for 2021. But given the inherent complexity of such a model, both Microsoft and preview customers will likely be keeping a close watch on the model's benefits and costs.

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As the editor of MSDynamicsWorld.com, Jason oversees all editorial content on the site and at our events, as well as providing site management and strategy. He can be reached at jgumpert@msdynamicsworld.com.

Prior to co-founding MSDynamicsWorld.com, Jason was a Principal Software Consultant at Parametric Technology Corporation (PTC), where he implemented solutions, trained customers, managed software development, and spent some time in the pre-sales engineering organization. He has also held consulting positions at CSC Consulting and Monitor Group.

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