Sage is to hitch its SME enterprise resource planning (ERP) software to Microsoft's Azure in a bid to speed up customer migration to subscription-based products.
The development work has begun on the software – dubbed Sage 200 in the UK and Sage Murano in Spain – to integrate it with Microsoft's cloud platform and the result should be piloted in the next few months before reaching the market in 2013.
Hosting partners Rackspace and Amazon Web Services provided the platform Sage has used to date, but Graeme Edwards, Sage's head of commercial development, said: “A diverse ecosystem requires more standards."
He told Channel Reg the platform model would "speed up development of domain specific customer applications, boost productivity, accelerate time to market and reduce duplication".
At the end of last year Sage had converted just 1,000 of its customers from cloud sceptics to adopters, out of an installed base of 6.3 million.
The move to cloud has caught out a number of firms, including Sage, said TechMarketView chairman Richard Holway, who added: "Sage had become complacent in believing that companies would use their software forever."
He said that unless Sage developed a cloud platform for SMEs, rivals would "come and eat their lunch" and that it would happen more quickly than usual in the industry as the pace of change quickens.
The move to cloud will spell disaster for traditional resellers, Holway added. "[The cloud] has made it easier [for vendors] to support technology without the middle man," he said.
Sage's commercial development head said the firm planned to build "partner engagement" and an "extensive hand-held site programme" in preparation for the Azure launch next April.
"We are committed to empowering our partners to truly support Sage 200 Cloud," Edwards said.
Jo Fulton, sales and marketing director at Datel Group, Sage's largest UK partner, agreed that the days of complex software rollouts for SME customers were gone but the role of the channel partner had moved on.
"But our consultants don't just know the software well; they understand how SMEs work and ways to make business processes more efficient," she said. ®