OK … Here we go…
Enough time has elapsed since the teaser about “Access Forever” …
Today I am going to build a case for using Access Client Software forever (or effectively forever) in the Cloud and on any device. Really I am.
Firstly I have to say that seeing Access in the Preview of Office 2016 is a surprise to me – a pleasant one. I do still think though that the Access Team should drop the pretense of creating a full-featured database environment under the name of “Microsoft Access” to run in a browser. Frankly I have suffered through 3 iterations now and they still haven’t produced anything that I would use for more than keeping Christmas card lists :-) .. If it’s that hard to do (or if the company refuses to give you enough resources to make it happen) then just give up … drop Access Web .. Enough is enough. Nobody cares.
So where does that leave Access client ?
1. There is and will always be a need for a database tool for RAD development of “Departmental” databases. I am sooooo sick of knowing that so many out there are limping along with bad user-designed, built and maintained email-based Excel “applications” that scream out for a database to organize it all. Or you are spending far more than you can justify to get a solution in the browser that is frankly less capable, and infinitely more difficult to maintain and revise?
The need for a tool that can satisfy this “market” is huge and we who use it know that Access Client is the right tool for that kind of work. Add to that long-term stability and we might really have something.
2. The imminent release of Windows 10 and Office 2016 is a game-changing moment. There is every indication that Windows 10 is going to be a “Base OS”. For the foreseeable future backwards compatibility is going to be a valued feature of this OS – for a long time. If an application runs on Windows 10 it will run on at least the next few versions of Windows (if not even forever until the eventual end of Windows). I foresee that an app that runs on Windows 10 can be assumed to be available for at least a decade and maybe even two. Although I have had solutions that have lasted longer than that I can’t see anyone expecting any more than twenty years use of any application.
Despite what the marketing folks would like us all to believe in their usual self-serving way, every business in the world is NOT in a constant state of dramatic overhaul and change. There are many, many, many businesses that do not change their processes every year and who have been doing and plan on keeping on doing the same business for years and years. Everything does not always change … in fact most don’t.
3. With the broad release of SQL RemoteApps we are able to stage Microsoft Access solutions “in the Cloud” for an amazingly small cost (http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/remoteapp). This site says it all:
Run Windows applications anywhere
Azure RemoteApp helps employees stay productive anywhere, and on a variety of devices – Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, or Android. Your company’s applications run on Windows Server in the Azure cloud, where they’re easier to scale and update. Employees install Microsoft Remote Desktop clients on their Internet-connected laptop, tablet, or phone—and can then access applications as if they were running locally.
Yes … it runs your Access application on any of the listed devices .. With Touch capabilities where needed using a new version of Microsoft’s RDP software.
4. But even more exciting is the fact that if you can connect this RemoteApps staged Access Frontend to a fully features SQL Azure backend exactly as you would to an On-Prem SQL Server (http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/sql-database/). And because SQL Azure’s pricing is based on the number of processors you need (1) and the amount of data you will end up with (which is next to nothing in 100% of Access apps when compared to most SQL Azure users) the cost for the SQL Azure part is ridiculously small and is unlikely to ever rise in the foreseeable future. Alternatively I know of several people using AWS and seem to be having luck with that. Alternatively you could probably also stage SQL Server on a VM running through Azure and get the same result. Lots of options.
5. The same way as with Windows, Microsoft has put themselves in a position where they will be unable to evolve SQL Azure until it makes current solutions incompatible. There is no way that they will be able to go to their SQL Azure users in 5 years or 10 years and tell them that they will have to migrate all their mission-critical solutions to a new version that would leave old solutions cut off at the knees. That is NOT going to happen .. Ever!
So to summarize:
a. An Access client solution (with Forms and reports and VBA and all that good stuff) that works in Access 2013 that is migrated to SQL Azure backend and run on Azure Remoteapps SHOULD run for decades, if necessary, without being made obsolete and
b. Can deliver your existing applications to users securely anywhere with an Internet connection and
c. Can be used on nearly every device you could imagine wanting to use it on (PC’s Macs, Tablets, Phones, Fridges(?)) and
d. Will be scalable beyond anybody’s imagination of just a few years ago and
e. Even if Microsoft ends up dropping the Access client in the future (which is a distinct possibility If you use the run-time of Access 2013 in a Custom Image on RemoteApps it will not only be license free forever as well. Microsoft shouldn’t mind because they’ll make it on the RemoteApps and SQL Azure database and
f. ALL IN THE CLOUD !!
The problem with this picture is ? I’d like to know.
If you’re interested in keeping your existing Access solution alive at a manageable cost and without a complete rewrite, with all the complexity and risk involved to say nothing of the training and deployment and on-going maintenance, feel free to give me a call. Or go out and figure it out yourself but please let me know how it goes.
p.s. Here is an Access Main Menu on my Macbook Pro
and here is the same on my iPhone (hard to read though :-) ).