Cloud computing can always make for strange bedfellows, but when it comes to Unit4, a provider of ERP applications that is in the process of expanding its presence in North America, channel partners will need to check their scorecards.

Unit4 is a roll up of several application providers, the best known of which is Coda, a provider of financial software. To initially enter the U.S. market Unit4 formed a joint venture with Salesforce to create FinancialForce.com. Now the company is moving to bring the rest of its application portfolio to the cloud via an alliance with Microsoft.

Instead of deciding to deploy that software in the Salesforce cloud, Unit4 CEO Jose Duarte said Unit4 opted for the Microsoft Azure cloud because by definition the company’s ERP cloud applications will be deployed in hybrid cloud computing environments. As such, while the Salesforce cloud platform is viable for cloud native applications, when it comes to traditional enterprise applications running on premise and in the cloud Duarte said the Microsoft Azure cloud makes more sense in terms of how Unit4 customers will actually embrace cloud computing.

Microsoft is clearly betting that ISVs such as Unit4 will play a critical role in expanding the number of application workloads running on the Azure cloud. Unlike Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google, Microsoft is committed to making it simpler to manage, deploy and secure applications across hybrid cloud computing environments.

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The most immediate benefit of the Microsoft alliance, said Duarte, will be the ability to better integrate Unit4 software with Microsoft Office and Microsoft Office 365 productivity applications. In effect, Microsoft productivity applications are evolving into front ends for ERP applications running in the cloud

Duarte says one other thing that makes Microsoft Azure attractive to an ISV such as Unit4 is the level of investments Microsoft is making in machine learning software. It’s only a matter of time before advanced analytics coupled with machine learning algorithms winds up automating a vast range of business processes. Rather than reinvent that wheel, Duarte says it will be more cost effective for ISVs to leverage the investments that Microsoft is already making in this area.

Unit4 is hardly the only ISV that will have a tangled web of alliances in the age of the cloud. But as the company’s cloud computing strategy continues to evolve it’s clear from a partner perspective that one of its approaches to the cloud is going to be both considerably larger and potentially a lot more profitable than the other.