Good question! Microsoft have made the cost for different elements of Azure in my view impossibly complex, to the point where we find it impossible to predict what it’s going to cost to run what. It’s a great technical achievement but the commercial people want a big wake up call. No change there from other Microsoft licencing, I hear you say.
As an end-user you have a choice. You can sign up for an Azure Account of your own and create and have created for you your whole specific server platform to run not just Dynamics but almost anything else as well. That way you will get monthly or annual bills for usage as well as a very detailed usage record to explain the costs. Trouble is it’s impossible, in my view, to attribute a lot of those costs to specific servers or services you’re running leaving you confused as to what running your Dynamics NAV system, for instance, is actually costing.
The other thing is that you pay for the resources you occupy regardless of what they are doing. Fire up a four processor quad core server with SSD storage for your SQL server and you’re paying for that to be running at 2am on a Saturday morning. That might make sense for a worldwide, follow the sun business, but for the average small to medium business it’s a waste and negates the shared resource pay for “what we need” advantage of hosting in the cloud.
Most decent Dynamics partners through, have taken on the Azure subscription and can provide you with a package that includes both the cost of a subscription licence plus the Azure based platform running the back end services needed, storing and protecting your data. By running 20 companies on the same SQL, middle tier and web servers (sorry if that’s geek speak but they are what you need to run Dynamics NAV 2015) with no discernible performance impact on each other – it becomes much more economically viable. When you throw in the partner’s expert management of that platform often from hard won experience, I believe you get the best of all worlds.
Downsides to Azure? Well the only one I’ve come across verses on premise and partner hosted is that Microsoft is a big company and it’s as not as responsive, when there are issues, as I would like. At times it’s like most large corporates (banks, power and telecom companies come to mind) in that you get passed from person to person. This is another reason for the partner managed rather than direct model. Our day job is dealing with Microsoft and Azure so we are more likely to have seen it before and know what to do without having to ask.
Final point, if using Azure via a partner, is to watch out for multiple links in the chain. Does the company you are contracting with have a direct relationship with Microsoft. Lots of the smaller Dynamics partners don’t do any business direct with Microsoft anymore and have been relegated to going effectively through country distributors; you can tell if your new licence or partner source says QBS as your partner rather than the company name you deal with.
These smaller, and also some of the bigger Dynamics specialist partners, don’t have Azure certified or experienced technical staff and use a third party to manage it for them. That’s not wrong but you should be aware so that you can ensure you don’t fall down any gaps between Microsoft, your partner and the company they use for their Azure platform.