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Thursday, April 25, 2013

AXUG Community Site - Collaborate, learn, share & more!

I hope everyone is doing well this fine Dynamics filled Thursday! There is a lot of great things taking place in the Microsoft Dynamics ecosystem, so much in fact that it's easily to get lost in the noise at times. Enter the newly minted, and very active AXUG Community Site.

This site is well under way in adding value to the community at large, and helps further complete the knowledge story for our ever growing ecosystem. I know for example, I find myself deep into scoping engagement and project work. That is what pays the bills, but at the same time am needing new ways to stay informed connected and focused. I'm finding, personally, that there is a lot of great information and value with my recent use of the AXUG Community site.

There are several ways in which you can join into the conversations taking place. Further creating new blog entries and sharing information that you learn. Getting involved with the many targeted communities that are represented in the collaboration site and more.

You will find topics and tags that are trending right now. As you see in the screen shot about, Business Intelligence is a hot topic right now. This is one near and dear to me, being my new sole focus for the Dynamics Ecosystem.

Further, you can see from the above screen shot and resource link, that clicking on a specific topic can take you to very relevant information. This happens to be one of the sessions I was *not* able to lead at Convergence 2013 due to being out sick. However you can still gain access to my slide deck. This can be of help, and further looking forward to presenting on this for AXUG in the near future.

All-in-all, this post is all about highlighting the value the community site at AXUG brings to our ecosystem. It helps customers & partners connect in a way only AXUG can offer.

Well that is all for this highlight post. I hope that you take the time to join in the conversation and get the intended value that this resource brings! Til Next Time!
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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

AX 2012 R2 - Till Partition Do We Cubes Part

Well I hope everyone finds themselves doing well this fine Tuesday. There for sure is a lot of great things going on within the Microsoft Dynamics ecosystem. Spring is finally here for most of us, and everyone is well into this years projects. With this, I wanted to focus a bit on a new concept that came as part of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2. This concept is around partitioning within AX 2012 R2 and how that relates to the cubes that are built.

Before we get to far into this topic of 'Till Partition Do We Cubes Part', it's very important to understand the concept of the new partitioning that has taking place. To help with this, we can look at the following resources.:

Having the above resources, one can start to get an idea - at least technically - the what & how behind the concept of data partitioning in Dynamics AX 2012 R2. Now that we have at least a baseline level of knowledge in which to work from, lets move to the divorce seen in our tragedy.

Now sometimes in my writings I set a bit of flare to it, and this is no different. This tale is less of a tragedy really, but a concept that should be understood in how Microsoft see's Analysis Services working within the context of data isolation. You see, a lot of times it does not makes sense to have everything, including the kitchen sink, in a single cube. There are a lot of reason's, that separate, specifically design cubes would exist for a companies BI story. This happens to help address one of those, especially as you get into larger companies that need isolated data & security elements.

Here is where the value of such a separate plays into the crafting of said BI story for a company. Hence why we see in the examples that Microsoft provides for us. Keep in mind, that the cubes that come with Microsoft Dynamics AX are very generalized, and meant to act as a starting point for OLAP data. They are never meant to address a companies full, specific needs around analytic's.

So, in following with the image we see above partition key plays a role in the number of cube databases that an instance of Dynamics AX 2012 R2 is meant to have. The same cube structure however is found in both databases in the provided example. This implies that you can have similar analytic's that are rendered, but with security & data isolation needs addressed. Finally, if you so desired, you can easily create a cube structure that crossed partitions, or reporting elements that cross partitions. See the below, from so titled 'Partitions, Companies, and Data Isolation in Microsoft Dynamics AX [AX 2012.]'

"-- T-SQL to run in the Dynamics AX database directly in SQL Server: SELECT da1.Partition, pt2.PartitionKey, pt2.Name, da1.ID as [Company-ID] FROM DataArea as da1, Partitions as pt2 WHERE da1.Partition = pt2.RecId ORDER BY pt2.PartitionKey, da1.ID;"

Now do keep in mind what the following is prefaced with, in that: 'If you have sufficient authorization' This means to cross partitions and legal entities. Hence, this is not a technical issue, as much of a functional modeling, data & security isolation need. As you scale up and out with Dynamics AX, and specifically when it's only a spoke in the total solution, such needs exist. Further such possibilities exist, with Dynamics AX 2012 R2, out-of-the-box no other software required!

Well that is all for this post. There is a lot for us to continue to talk about, specifically and we continue down our path of further and further creating Systems of Engagement for Microsoft Dynamics AX customers. Til Next Time!
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Friday, April 19, 2013

Review: "Dynamics AX Performance Optimization Guide"

I hope everyone is doing well this fine Friday! I wanted to spend time today, giving you my insights into a recently published book. That being the title of "Dynamics AX Performance Optimization Guide."

First let me say that the depth on the database & query optimization that is given within the pages of this book is worth the purchase. The focus around optimizing the database, for sure is the right focus. I would say, in the field, 80% of the performance issues I've ran across relate directly to a Dynamics AX instance SQL Server. Further, 60-70% of these performance issues identified, usually relate back to indexes. This could be anything from missing indexes, or not having indexes properly configured and covering for where clauses of select statements.

This book goes into good detail around specific settings, how to trace down resource bottlenecks for a Dynamics AX database and more. It goes into the most commonly used Dynamic Managed Views (DMVs). Further it makes a solid attempt actually on trying to address the virutalization side of performance as it relates to Dynamics AX. Wait types, addressing blocking and other such common performance issues are well addressed in this book.

Now that being stated, like all reviews it can't all be good. You can tell that both Martin Zhen & Daniel Liao have spent time in the trenches chasing down resource vampires. Still even with my recommendation of buying this book already, it lacks in several area's.

First, section 3.11 on page 102 titled "Offload Reporting (SSRS)" is a mere nod at the point of reporting and it's impact around performance. It's a single paragraph, that honestly should have just been left off. There is no depth to this point, and it adds little value to the reader wanting to understand this very important topic.

Finally, it lacks in the focus of performance making use of SQL Server 2012 can bring, and further with it's Always On technology. I would also like to have seen mention around InformationSource. I realize however you can't cover every topic around performance or the book would be about 10 times the size that it currently represents.

Final verdict on this book, 3 out of 5 stars. It's for sure got some really great nuggets of information. It's not just for administrator / DBA / consultant types either. It would benefit well that a Dynamics AX developer, read and understand the contents of this book. It would help them in being able to grasp what their code is doing to the actual underlying data layer from X++ code. Further, helping put forth the practice of using the trace parser when developing anything for Dynamics AX.

Well that is all for this review, many thanks to Martin Zhen & Daniel Liao for completing a very nice book, that helps address and give insight on the majority of where performance issues live - The Dynamics AX Database!Til Next Time!
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Friday, April 05, 2013

From Power View to Cube and back again - A Recap Friday

Well what have we here now? Another Friday has settled upon us. Man what busy week this has been, filled with all kinds of great things. I wanted to take the time, and just post a recap of sorts from this & last weeks post. The goal and focus of these past weeks have been around truly using the BI Semantic Model within the context of Dynamics AX 2012 R2.

Without a doubt for each of the topics covered, there is plenty of room for extended reach & depth of knowledge. We can easily spend hours, upon hours within Power View design concepts and more. Further, we could opine and expound on the many depths that exist within the realm of SSAS cubes. Topics as deep as Tuples, and the underlying structures that contain our aggregated measures & dimension attributes. However, while there might be some value for certain people in such a deep journey of understanding for each of the fore mentioned topics, the point would be lost of what the goal really is.

That goal my friends is the enablement of quick consumption of data assets. This is the real goal of any business intelligence story that is to be crafted for a company. Owning the data, and turning that data into a real asset that goes to work for companies. With this goal in mind then, the following is a recap of the recent post, with the goal of quickly getting you up & running with Power View. Further, showing you how *any* cube can be the target for such personal BI artifacts.

Now having each of these reviewed, you should see how simple it really is to empower yourself and your company or clients to truly start embracing the full BI Semantic Model. When Microsoft Dynamics AX is your system of record, and acting as your main data mart, then you have a great BI offering built right into the product. This is what we refer to as Tier 1 BI for Dynamics AX customers. Meaning that nothing but the stack of Office+SharePoint+SQL Server (OSS) is used to craft a BI story for a company. It's very feasible, and does not take a deep understanding of the empowering underlying technologies to get started.

Well that's all I wanted to gab about today with you. The end result is less focus around what tool really, and more about the data. To much focus at times is placed in the ecosystem currently around specific tools, and myths of 'removing IT' from the equation. The goal is putting your data to work for you, and then the tool comes into focus for the specific BI artifacts that are needed to get the job done.

I would like to add an interesting note here. This is actually my first full blog post, from my new Surface Pro 128 GB version. I'm typing this from the 'real keyboard' cover type as well as having the use of the Surface mouse and stylus for completion of task. I must say I'm very impressed and really looking to push this to the limits. Til Next Time!
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Thursday, April 04, 2013

The Cube behind the Power View - Part II - Create, Deploy & Process

I hope everyone is having a blessed, Dynamics filled week! Hard to believe that we are well into April of 2013. I do love when the days get longer, the sun is closer, and there is plenty of vitamin D to be absorbed. With this, I wanted to continue the series that was started yesterday, focusing on 'The Cube behind the Power View'. In yesterday's post, Part I - Perspective, we covered the in's and out's of modeling a cube from a perspective.

Having gone through the previous post, you should have a perspective that is ready for targeting a brand new Analysis Services project. After generating the analysis services project in the AOT, we will further create, deploy & process our newly generated cube. Lets get's started then!

A - Create

Our next step is to make use of the 'SQL Server Analysis Services Project Wizard.' This is located within a development work space for AX 2012 R2. You then click on the Tools menu option, Business Intelligence (BI) Tools & finally launch the wizard. Shown in the below image is that exact path.

In launching the Analysis Services Wizard, you should see a screen shot similar to what we see in the below image.

Clicking on the next button will take you to the first prompt where we start to configure this session of the Analysis Services Wizard.

You will notice in the above screen shot, that I have selected the create option. Further I've supplied what the project should be called. The goal is to create a separate SSAS database, and cube within. This leaves in tact the out-of-the-box cube database and cube elements. Further you will notice the name I've given this new project. It has a prefix, which is recommended being this will live in the AOT. Since I work for Sunrise Technologies, I use the prefix of "sun".

Clicking next after filling in the prompt for the create option, will lead us to the below image.

You will notice in the above screen shot, that we have selected the Sales Data perspective. This is listed by label, and what the cube will be named. Moving right along from here, clicking next will bring us to the next image, shown below.

The above shows dimension possibilities from the Shared Dimensions perspective. This is not something we care about in our current targeted cube, and therefore we will leave out for now. Clicking next on this screen, with leaving everything left blank, should take you to the following.

What you see with the above, is the date dimensions in which we can select and work with. These are generated and created within Dynamics AX. We can modify these, and further create different one's, like a fiscal date set. Keep in mind that based on any dimension we selected which has a Date or UtcDateTime data type, will be crossed with these date dimensions. Dynamics AX will automatically generate this for yu via the modeling of the perspective that you created earlier. Selecting date above, and clicking next, should take you to the following screen.

The above image shows the language selection for the cube that is being targeted. Based on the languages you have setup within Dynamics AX, such can be taking advantage of here. Translations exist within cubes as they do within Dynamics AX. For our current target we are selecting just U.S. based English. Doing so, and clicking next will take you to the following.

You will see in the above image we are now generating our project. This basically ends the create portion of this post, as the Analysis Service project is now generated and living within the AOT.

B - Deploy

Now that we have created our analysis service project, we will continue using the wizard to finish things out. With that, we should see a screen shot similar to the below.

Clicking on next from the progress update, should take us to the following screen.

You will notice I'm saving the actual project to the AOT, under the name sunSalesAnalysis. This allows for again a separate project not related to the out-of-the-box cubes. Clicking next, after filling this prompt out as shown above, will take me to the following.

Here is where we actually select which cube databases we want to deploy. Since the concept of partitions came into being with R2, cubes take this into consideration. With the demo data set we have two partitions which are initial and ps. Since we only care about the inital partition and the legal entities contained therein, that is the target for deployment.

C - Process

I eject the process here, as it's an option we have selected int he above screen shot. Doing this means once the cube database is deployed it will process as well. Allowing us to remain within Dynamics AX the entire time, without having to jump into anything else to achieve this. Having made our above selections and clicking next, will take us through a series of progress updates.

Having reached the end of the deployment and processing, we should see an image similar to the one below.

In clicking next, that is it! We have created, deployed & finally processed our new cube. If there where multiple cubes targeted for this specific database, then those would have processed as well. Just to show that this processing took place, I quickly consumed the Sales Data cube from within SQL Server Data Tools. You can see this data, processed in the cube in the image below.

Now obvious there are plenty of things that can be done from this point. More advanced topics that could and should be covered. However there is only so much one should write at a given time, specifically for the type of medium you find yourself reading right now. I hope this helps you out, and further helps show how easy it is to create a cube. Finally, keep in mind the focus of extending power view within Dynamics AX. The combined knowledge should give you exactly what you need to really start taking advantage of the bull BI Semantic Model. Make sure to check back soon & often! Til Next Time!

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