First the great news: Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 has been officially released today, on October 8th 2013! Not only can you sign up for a brand new Fall ’13 trial environment in CRM Online but you can also download the on-premises bits for the RTM release (build number 06.00.0000.0809). Here are the download links:
Microsoft Dynamics CRM Server 2013
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 Language Packs
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 Email Router
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 Report Authoring Extension (with SQL Server Data Tools support)
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 for Microsoft Office Outlook (Outlook Client)
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 List Component for Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 and Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013 (for multiple browsers)
Servers in the cloud
Now then, what should we do with these shiny new CRM 2013 bits? If you haven’t got any spare hardware lying around but you do have an active MSDN subscription, then why not leverage the subscriber benefits and set up a development/test server in Windows Azure? It’s easy, it’s fast, and if you have the MSDN credits, it’s also FREE!
The discounted rates for MSDN subscribers make it up to 97% cheaper to run a virtual machine on Azure compared to the standard rates, leaving the cost at only $0.06 per hour for a VM (small instance). Combine this with the fact that Azure VM’s are nowadays charged by the minute and they incur no charges when the VM is stopped, you can stretch a few $ worth of Azure credits for quite a long period of testing. If you haven’t yet looked into the MSDN benefits, go and read this article on Scott Guthrie’s blog for all the details.
Not only does MSDN provide you with free credits to spend on your favorite Azure service, you can also leverage the MSDN usage rights for software running on a Windows Azure virtual machine. For a great review of the licensing options for setting up Dynamics CRM development and test environments by using MSDN, look no further than this recent blog post by Leon Tribe.
Preparing a development server for CRM 2013
While you can’t just directly provision an Azure VM image pre-configured with CRM 2013 (at least not yet), you can skip a few steps by starting with an image from the Azure VM Gallery that comes with SQL Server 2012. You will need to setup Active Directory and IIS before starting the CRM 2013 server installation, which requires a set of clicks and a couple of reboots.
To make this process faster, I decided to take notes of the steps needed in installing the required components for CRM 2013 and share them with anyone who’s interested in doing the same. So, here’s a 50 slide presentation with screenshots of the configuration tasks and options to install a working CRM 2013 dev/test/demo server on a Windows Azure VM:
Do take note of this fact before proceeding any further: this is NOT the “how to” of deploying a live CRM 2013 server. These are the minimum steps needed to get the Dynamics CRM server installation process to complete without errors – nothing more. When considering setting up a proper test and production environment, the first thing you need to do is read the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 Implementation Guide.
For taking CRM 2013 on a casual test drive and seeing what your current CRM 2011 organization looks like when imported into the latest server version, the steps outlined in the presentation are all you need to get started. I’ve timed the process and the last time it took around 1.5 hours from provisioning a new VM from the Azure Gallery to having a fully working test instance of CRM 2013 in the cloud. Not quite the couple of minutes that spinning up a new CRM Online organization takes, but short enough to set up an ad-hoc test environment for development and configuration tasks that are more easily accomplished with full CRM server and SQL database access.