By leveraging Azure, Microsoft is making the required features available earlier than a public release would allow so everyone wins. AX 7 comes out on time, we get a preview of the new features available with the server releases and Microsoft showcases the flexibility of Azure. There’s only one small problem: environment visibility.
By controlling the environments, Microsoft will be removing a layer of server access that many Sys Admins rely upon. To what level this is actually going to happen remains to be seen, however Microsoft has a plan with Lifecycle Services.
Lifecycle Services, or LCS, is a Dynamics AX tool that Microsoft has been slowly growing for years. You can find it at http://lcs.dynamics.com and it is definitely worth the time to at least watch the demo, even if you are not immediately interested in AX 7.
As the name implies, the concept behind LCS is that it helps drive your AX projects from inception through the maintenance cycle following go live. It is free to use and there are a number of tutorials available, however the best way to experience it is to put it into use. Just remember that once signed in, the first thing to do is to create a project. Everything that you do in LCS is contained in a project and you can have multiple projects running simultaneously, such as 2012 Production and AX 7 upgrade.
Once a project has been created, you can follow the Sure Step methodology to create and document the phases of your project plan. There is an area to enumerate your environments, which can also be used to deploy new environments (including AX 2012) directly to Azure, and for each environment a number of useful tools will become available.
Ranging from the Usage profiler and License sizing estimator to Code upgrade and Cloud-powered support, the tools are also designed to help with the full lifecycle of your project. Even if you have already completed some stages of your project, or even gone live, the System diagnostic and issue search are worth looking in to. One of the best features of LCS is that you can largely pick and choose what tools you want to use.
If you are already using LCS or you just went and signed up, you won’t find anything in there about AX 7. That’s because the current iteration of LCS supports AX 2012 only - the updated version will be released in conjunction with AX 7. The new version, available to anyone who has been involved with the AX 7 CTP or TAP process, is populated with a number of additional monitoring and environment maintenance tools specific to AX 7. It is important to understand that these tools will only be available through LCS, they will not be available as standalone or downloadable tools.
So if you are unfamiliar with LCS, now is the time to start kicking the tires. The more comfortable you are with LCS, the faster you will be able to leverage the new shiny required for AX 7 - and you may even be able to learn something about your 2012 environment in the process.