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Looking Back on 2013 and Forward to 2014

with 6 comments

Introduction

2013 was a very busy year for all of us on the Sage 300 ERP R&D team. Most of us are located in Richmond, BC, but we have remote team members in Kelowna, BC, Victoria, BC, North Carolina, Chennai, India and Bangalore, India. As we approach New Year 2014 let’s look back on what we’ve been up to this past year.

Happy New Year 2014 replace 2013 concept on the sea beach

Product Update 1

We started the year by releasing the Sage 300 ERP 2012 Product Update 1. This included new features like Colorful Companies and a major new release of Canadian and US Payroll.

As always a lot of work goes into product sustainment. Fixing problems caused by new versions of Windows, strange interactions discovered with other programs and other bugs. Diagnosing and tracking down the root causes of these can be quite demanding work, but is completely necessary to keep our customers happy. Quality is always a high priority and always an ongoing concern.

Sage 300 ERP 2014

We have a core team that works on improving the Sage 300 ERP core product and they spent their time working on the Sage 300 ERP 2014 release. This version has been released to a limited VIP set of customers and will start to be publicized to the full Sage 300 audience in March.

I wrote quite a few articles on the various things in this release including:

Another major improvement in Sage 300 EPR 2014 that I haven’t blogged about yet, is the Crystal Reports Support. With this release we are bundling Service Pack 8 of the Crystal Reports 2011 runtime. This service pack has some major performance improvements over the version of the Crystal Reports Runtime bundled with the 2012 version. Actually someone in our office reverse engineered the Crystal runtime to figure out why it was becoming quite slow in some cases and was able to feed this information to the Crystal Reports development team (that is located nearby in downtown Vancouver) so that we could get this rectified. If you are having trouble with performance on the 2012 version, you can now get the Service Pack 8 from Crystal’s website and install this. With this service pack we now get performance that is consistently better than that experience with the older runtime bundled with 6.0A, but now with all the extra features and supported platforms that are provided as part of the their 2011 version. Generally being in the same city makes working with the Crystal development team easier, plus we have a lot of cross-over since Crystal Reports was originally developed as an add-in reporting tool for Accpac Plus.

With this release we add support for Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012 R2 and Office 2013. We also have added support to run when Windows DEP is turned on. Generally updating anything to ensure we run well in any modern environment.

Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 had a bug in their printer drivers that caused many fonts to be converted to bitmaps. This then defeated products like PrintBoss as well as things like Micr checks and anything else that is very sensitive to fonts. This problem was fixed by Microsoft in Windows 8.1 and Server 2012 R2. So if you are having trouble with this, make sure you upgrade these (which is free).

Sage 300 Online

Another major project was the new Sage 300 Online, which we unveiled at Sage Summit. This is a major revamp of our hosted offering. Now we host Sage 300 in the Microsoft Azure cloud and have greatly improved the manner in which we virtualize Sage 300. Authentication is handled by SageID which is also used for our connected services and Sage One. All the management, upgrades and tuning is handle by Sage so that customers don’t need to worry about this.

online

We are managing the site with a new DevOps team that consists of members dedicated to the site along with other members of R&D and IS. This is a new model for running the site, managing loads and keeping everything and everyone up to date.

Sage 300 Online has now started to on-board our first customers. At first we are starting out slowly to ensure everything keeps working fine, but expect to see a major push for this services in a few months.

We are now switching to a continuous delivery model, so expect to see improvement to this service being put on-line frequently.

Sage Connected Services

We have team members helping out with the Sage Connected Services. This year we released: Sage Mobile Service, Sage Mobile Sales and Sage Billing and Payments. We are now working on new versions of these as well as working on building out the Sage Data Cloud platform and bringing out further mobile and web applications.

The cloud part of these applications is developed for the Microsoft Azure PaaS platform. The mobile applications are written as native applications for iOS and in the future Android.

Our core team is responsible for maintaining the Sage 300 connector which transfers data back and forth from an on premise database and the Sage Data Cloud.

Next Year

As we go into 2014 we are building on all these initiatives. The general roadmap is still what I outlined here however as we go into the year, many of the details will be announced. Such as what is in the next version of Sage 300 ERP, what will be in all the Product Updates and what will the next version of Sage 300 Online actually look like.

Besides product changes, we will be having a lot of process changes. Now that Sage 300 Online is launched, we will be living in a continuous delivery, DevOps and cloud first world. Seamless invisible upgrades will be the norm, features can be deployed to all our cloud customers instantly and frequently. Ensuring that all these new processes run smoothly will be one of our major challenges in 2014.

Summary

Sage 300 ERP is an important strategic product for Sage. There is a lot of exciting development going on. We accomplished a lot in 2013 and look forward to even more in 2014. I am really looking forward to attending our various conferences this year to show off all the exciting work that is currently going on behind the scenes.

Written by smist08

December 28, 2013 at 6:33 pm

Sage 300 Online

with 13 comments

Introduction

At our Sage Summit conference we officially rolled out our new Sage 300 Online service. Sage 300 ERP has had an online hosted version for over ten years. The new Sage 300 Online service is meant to radically modernize our cloud version. It is now hosted in Microsoft Azure, sign on is via SageID, and the virtualization software is vastly improved.

We support all the standard Sage 300 ERP Modules, along with integrations to other Sage applications like Sage Exchange and host a number of third party ISV products. Financial Reporting and Business Intelligence is provided via Sage Intelligence (Sage Alchemex).

Using the cloud version of Sage 300 means that you don’t need to maintain your own servers or other hardware, you don’t need to be responsible for backing up your data and you aren’t responsible for data center support. Further you aren’t responsible for maintaining and upgrading the software. We install all necessary hotfixes and product updates. We even perform major version upgrades for you, which can be a major cost saving.

Modern businesses tend to be distributed over many geographic locations with many employees working from home or working while on road trips. Using a cloud based ERP allows all these people to access the central cloud based ERP from any place with Internet access. This is much easier than maintaining expensive and slow VPN type networks.

First we’ll run through how the service looks and then talk about some of the various aspects of it.

Usage

To access and run Sage 300 Online, you go to an URL in your browser that redirects you to SageID.

sage300online1

You now enter your SageID credentials and are signed into the system. This leads to the following page which gives a list of programs that you are allowed to run.

sage300online2

Clicking on “Sage 300 Online” will then launch the Sage 300 Online desktop. Below is a screenshot of the Desktop run from the landing web page and then running the Order Entry UI.

sage300online3

Notice that it now looks exactly like you are running Sage 300 locally. You no longer run a terminal server client which presents a new Windows desktop inside your existing Windows desktop.

SageID

When you first sign up for the service, you provide an e-mail address which will become your SageID. This first user is the administrator for your company and can invite other users from a SageID administrative website to use the system. SageID will then be your login for our site.

Your SageID will be your login for all Sage Cloud services and is also connected to the back end billing systems, so we can provide one bill for all your services attached to your SageID. This includes the Sage Mobile applications unveiled at Sage Summit. This will make reporting and billing very simple for cloud users.

Microsoft Azure

Our Sage 300 Online service is hosted in Microsoft Azure. These are Microsoft’s cloud data centers with locations all over the world. We use Azure due to its reliability and redundancy. If something were to happen to one data center we could operate out of another. Also the Microsoft network that connects these data centers to the Internet is extremely fast and have very low latency leading to great performance.

Microsoft Azure supports both PaaS and IaaS infrastructures. We use PaaS infrastructure for the initial web pages and for the databases. We use IaaS infrastructure to run Sage 300 ERP in a virtualized environment.

Microsoft Azure allows us to offer our cloud solutions to all our customers no matter where in the world they are located from data centers that are in their region or close to their region. Currently Microsoft has Azure Data Centers in the US, Ireland, Hong Kong, Singapore and Amsterdam with locations opening soon in Sydney and Melbourne.

Microsoft Virtualization Framework

Within the Azure environment we run a standard Microsoft virtualization environment that Microsoft has created for any datacenter. This is run on a number of Windows Server 2012’s. The virtualization environment is accessed via RDP8 which supports our SageID integration, supports virtualizing just the applications (rather than a Windows Desktop login), supports expected functionality like copy/paste, supports printing to local printers and supports transferring files to and from the cloud environment.

Microsoft Azure SQL

We run the Sage 300 company and system databases on Azure SQL servers which are a PaaS implementation of SQL Server. This database provides reliability performing every write to three separate places. Further as Microsoft develops out their cloud roadmap, many new features and services are planned for Azure SQL to improve the general robustness of cloud solutions.

ISVs

With our initial offering, we don’t support all Sage 300 third party solutions, but we do provide a set of some of the most popular. Generally the third party solution has to be able to run in the cloud which usually means it must be written with the Sage 300 SDK (the exception to make the rule is PrintBoss).

The third party products we support are: Orchid EFT and RMA, Pacific Technologies Purchasing Workflow and Funds Availability Wellspring PrintBoss, Aatrix Payroll Reports and Avalara Sales Tax.

Customization

Since all companies using this cloud solution are running the same Sage 300 programs, you cannot customize the system by installing any EXEs or DLLs, since then these would be used by all companies subscribing to the system. Similarly security is a much bigger concern in the cloud and we have to carefully regulate what can get into the system.

Also since this is a multi-tenant environment we can’t allow any arbitrary third party solution to be installed. For any ISV that wants to participate in this offering, we need to verify that their solution will run in our Azure setup correctly and not cause any problems for other tenants.

Summary

We’ve started letting people use our Sage 300 Online offering with a Sage Summit Preview program. Then in a couple of months we’ll be making it officially generally available. The Microsoft Azure cloud gives us much more scalability and global reach than we previously had. Integrating with SageID and using newer virtualization technology greatly improves the usability and convenience of our product. We are very excited about this project and are looking forward to adding to it as we develop it forward.