Monday, March 19, 2007

Microsoft's Project Green is dead

Microsoft is now claiming there was never any intention to merge its four ERP products into a single code base.

First a little history. Back in 2003, Microsoft began working on an effort to migrate its four newly acquired ERP products (Great Plains, Navision, Axapta, and Solomon) to Microsoft technology. None of these products were purely Microsoft under-the-covers. For example, Axapta was (and still is) written in its own development environment (MorphX), in its own language (X++ ), using Oracle as its preferred database.

Internally known as Project Green, this effort was aimed at converting the four products to Microsoft technology and converting their program code to a single code base while retaining the best features of each product.

If anyone could afford such a massive undertaking, it would be Microsoft. But Microsoft was not familiar with the enterprise system market and soon found out that its existing ERP customers were not all that keen on Project Green. Most of them were not eager to face a major upgrade/migration to a new product. And competitors used Project Green as a reason not to choose Microsoft, since what Microsoft was selling was going to be replaced by a new product. As Microsoft senior VP Orlando Ayala testified in court, selling ERP was a "humbling experience" for Microsoft.

Early signs of trouble
In addition, it started to look like Project Green was too much to bite off even for Microsoft. In 2004, Doug Burgum admitted that Microsoft was slowing down its work on the project, cutting the developer headcount from 200 to about 70. Some of the delay was attributed to Microsoft's problems with development of Longhorn, its next-generation server OS. Project Green was to built on top of a common services layer known as Microsoft Business Foundation (MBF), which needed capabilities to be provided in Longhorn, so if the delivery date for Longhorn slips, MBF slips, and Project Green slips.

Problems continued in 2005, as Microsoft's ERP unit pushed out its release date for the new version of Axapta and indicated that some products would be going into "maintenance mode." Josh Greenbaum even speculated the Microsoft might sell off its ERP products.

Lowering expectations for Project Green
A few months later, Microsoft began to redefine its goals for Project Green. Instead of rewriting all of its ERP products into a single code base, Microsoft would incorporate new technology and functionality into its existing products in incremental "waves." Microsoft still held out the possibility, however, of merging the four products into one successor product, but it made no commitment.

Later that year, still holding four products in its portfolio, Microsoft took the easy way to convergence. It simply re-branded all its ERP products as "Dynamics." For example, Microsoft Axapta became Dynamics AX, and Great Plains became Dynamics GP. It also announced a reorganization that pushed its ERP unit down one level and demoted its head, Doug Burgum. At the same time, Microsoft appeared to abandon any hope for MBF. Read my post at the time for quite a bit of insider feedback on these developments.

Then, about a year ago, Microsoft indicated that its release date for a converged product would be pushed out yet again.

Attempting to rewrite history
Now, for the latest news. According to Computerworld, Tami Reller, a Microsoft VP of business solutions marketing, is claiming that "there were never formal plans for a big-bang development project to meld the different applications." Furthermore, Microsoft executives are now downplaying "the notion that the software vendor has backtracked from its road map for pulling its four ERP product lines more closely together."

I had long felt that Project Green was not smart from a customer perspective. But it appears now that even the technical migration--which Microsoft should have been good at--was too ambitious. For example, I noticed in a recent Axapta sales presentation that X++ is still around. Instead of converting Axapta to C++, Microsoft has simply embraced X++ in its Visual Studios development tool set. Voila! Axapta is now pure Microsoft technology.

The ironic part is that Microsoft's solutions today are really good products, backed by the deepest pockets in the software business. So, small and mid-size businesses should continue to look at these systems and buy them as they fit their requirements. Perhaps now that Project Green is dead, they can do so without uncertainty about the future of these products.

Related posts
Microsoft pushes out the goal line for business apps convergence
Another false start for Microsoft's business apps
Reorg highlights troubles at Microsoft Business Solutions
Microsoft rebranding its business applications
The Microsoft ERP lock in effect
Microsoft: Project Green to appear in waves
Microsoft fuzzes up the definition of Project Green
Microsoft to put enterprise applications on the auction block?
Is Microsoft dying?
Microsoft eats more humble pie in enterprise software business
Microsoft Longhorn cutbacks threaten Project Green
Microsoft shortens Longhorn
Microsoft slowing down Project Green
Microsoft: selling enterprise software is a "humbling experience"
Yet another update on Project Green
Microsoft Project Green details emerging
Feedback regarding Microsoft's Project Green
Is Microsoft upstaging Great Plains, Solomon, Navision, and Axapta with "Project Green"?


Unknown said...

Speaking of deep pockets, is this the same strategy Larry, Mo and Curly (Safra and Chuck) are trying to pull of on the Oracle platform. If it can't be done with Microsoft's low end products god knows how it will ever happen with the complex collection of software Oracle has amassed!

Anonymous said...

I believed in project green, "back in the days". Since some time back, I lost faith that there would be anything than vaporware. It hurts me to see. I did a writeup on my blog (which is about business solutions in general, for SME:s).

Anonymous said...

I'm not the least bit surprised to hear that MS may sell their ERP products. I interviewed with MS for an ERP position and found the higher ranks were out of touch with how to conduct business. I was told that "even though I had over 15 years of Project Management experience, that meant nothing to MS" - by a VP.

Businesses like gray hairs on their consultants, not zits.

Anonymous said...

Having very inside information about the whole Project Green/MBF/F...ay (additional code name has never been published) I have to say that none of the comment is true in certain extent. It maybe true that Project Green as a "political merge path" is not valid anymore but the results of these VERY INNOVATIVE projects will be used in the Dynamics product line through releases. MS took the evolutional approach to reach its goal. In the coming 2-3 releases of the Dynamics product line you will see appear all the result of Project Green. INMHO you you will see couple of things will come that none of MS competiors ever dreamed of.
About X++ and C/side. The knowledge of the writer is very limited (I can say marketing piece of shit) about these languages capability. Converting X++ to C++ is more than funny. X++ has been developed in C++. C++ wasn't .NET language C# it is. X++ is very similar to C# with integrated and native database handling capabilities. X++ and C/Side can be compared to C# with LINQ. X++ is more capable of building business application that any other languages supported under .NET. The next wave of Visual Studio and .NET will reach the level of the same cababilities that exist around 10 years in Axapta.
Microsoft has been hold demos in the last 4 major Microsoft events publicly(!) and shown what will happen with Dynamics. You have seen the software (!). You have seen “Project Green”. Today communication is more a marketing approach than anything. Microsoft learn its lesson. Technology won’t sell ERP. But this won’t stop their plan.
Anyway. Common code base is a bad idea. SMB need different thing than Corporate/Enterprise companies. They need different functionalities, different implementation, security vs simplicity.

clive boulton said...

8 years later Project Green is still on ice. The original code based flushed down the drain after Vista project was restarted on a clean Windows NT kernel. Yet now it's not just Microsoft with multiple ERP products on different code bases.

Private Equity firms Vista Partners rolled up @Aptean. APAX Partners may roll up @Exact and @Epicore (see supervisory boards). Golden Gate Capital has Infor. Sage and Oracle have multiple ERP products.

The need for Project Green persists, the patents to support are sitting ideal. Microsoft tire kicking indicates ambition remains.

Could Windows 10 + Azure could be the right combination to restart Project Green. The backlog is HUGE!