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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Managing Your Supply Chain Using Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009 - Book Review

Recently I had the pleasure to receive a copy of Dr. Scott Hamilton's book, ' Managing Your Supply Chain Using Microsoft Dynamic AX 2009.'

This book is by far the best attempt, to give what could be considered an MBA level of knowledge for actually managing a company's supply chain with the functionality that lives within Dynamics AX 2009.

Several use cases are the vehicle in delivering proven techniquse and strategies throughout the entire book. There is a great deal of looking into vertical add-on's as well.

What first struck me about the layout of this book was its role centered approach, so people could jump right into the roles that they best fit into. This was a great move in how this book was structured, as this is exactly how the user experience is meant to be in Dynamics AX 2009, with the Role Center.

As part of my book review, I emailed Dr. Hamilton some interview questions, about this book, and his experience in creating it. Below is the questions and answers from that interview:

i - Scott, this latest edition of your book of “Managing Your Supply Chain with Dynamics AX 2009” has a wealth of knowledge, focusing on several different roles. Did you find it easier to develop this role focused approach to your book, with Dynamics AX 2009 itself introducing Role Center, and Role Focused Experiences for information workers?

A: A role-centered viewpoint builds on the foundation of well-designed business processes that reflect the conceptual models embedded in the AX software functionality. The book directly addresses these conceptual models for handling common and unique varia tions in business processes, which helps define the tasks for role assignment. Each participant in a business process should have a mental model of “how it all fits together in AX”, as well as in-depth knowledge for using AX to perform tasks for their particular role(s). The book supports a role-centered viewpoint by helping to structure these tasks and highlight relevant information for each role.

ii - Did you find yourself wanting a lot of screen shots and how-to steps for actually setting up Dynamics AX based on the theories and knowledge you are sharing in your book? What kept you from doing that in this book, or even creating a companion document / booklet, etc. that did such things?

A: The book’s objectives and desired book length precluded the use of screen shots and step-by-step instructions. These are best covered in one or more separate training guides. Too much detail can obscure an understanding of “how it all fits together in AX”, especially if you attempt to cover every field/parameter or every step.

The book’s content represents the information covered in my training classes. It also represents many conceptual topics that should be part of the AX user documentation for “application and business processes”. These conceptual topics could then provide the foundation for improvements in field/form help and in training materials.

iii - What big ticket items in this book would you have liked to have spent more time on, or felt driven to spend more time on? Did you find it hard to balance the topics out, spread across so much knowledge?

A: A critical issue in writing this book involved the choice of topics, and the sequence and level of detail for explaining these topics. The topics focus on key software functionality that supports the dominant business practices in manufacturing and distribution environments, based on my observations of use cases across more than a thousand firms. The topics reflect those use cases actually tested and proven to work within AX; not all use cases could be tested or proven. The linear presentation sequence was shaped by what worked most effectively in previous writing, teaching, and consulting efforts for the target audience.

You asked about big ticket items not covered in the book. Lean manufacturing using Dynamics AX will be covered in my forthcoming book. Additional topics about Professional Services using AX, or about Accounting/HR/CRM using AX, would best be served by a separate book, written by a relevant expert.

iv - What your take on the current release of Dynamics AX? Going back over the past several years and versions from AX 2.5 to today, what are some of the greatest improvements that have taken place, that you believe have had the most impact on Dynamics AX as an ERP platform?

A: The biggest changes have been the improved quality of training materials and user documentation, especially in comparing AX 2.5 versus today. We still have a ways to go, but the olden days were a nightmare and prompted me to write the first AX book.
It is difficult to cite a laundry list of the improvements in software functionality. The improved functionality has provided more out-of-the-box solution approaches while minimizing increases in system complexity.

v - What future road map item are you most excited about for the next release of Dynamics AX?

A: Lean manufacturing.

vi - Do you plan on continuing to create / develop the next editions of your book with each release of Dynamics AX, and are you already working on that next version?

A: Yes. I plan to write additional editions for each major AX release with significant functionality enhancements. My forthcoming book covers lean manufacturing using AX.

vii - To give the readers of this post a little bit of personal side to you, what your favorite sports or outdoor activity?

A: Most of my favorite activities involve spending time in wilderness areas, whether it is hiking in the Rockies, kayaking in Alaska, or canoeing through the BWCA.

Also, here is Dr. Hamliton's closing statement:

When reviewing or learning any ERP software package, it is important to understand its underlying conceptual models and how it supports variations in business processes. It is easy to get bogged down in the details. Many of the key design factors that differentiate Microsoft Dynamics AX have been covered in the book. These design factors influence how the system fits together to run a business, especially for managing supply chain activities in manufacturing and distribution.

Given Dr. Hamilton's admitted love for the outdoors, it's not suprising that his books are similar to path finding guides for exploring Dynamics AX.

Just look at some of the objectives that this book covers, listed in the below table:

This was truly a pleasure for me to review, and I recommend anyone looking for some proven, deep functional knowledge of Supply Chain management with Dynamics AX 2009, to consider getting this book.

The price of: $29.95 over at Amazon (Click for direct link) is well worth the knolwedge that you can gain from this book.

I would like to thank Dr. Scott Hamilton for contacting me, and for all the hard work he has poored into sharing this knowledge with the Dynamics Community.

Make sure to check back soon, as I have more great post coming out. See you then!

Dr. Scott Hamilton’s Bio:
Scott Hamilton consults and teaches globally on SCM and ERP issues. He has consulted with more than a thousand companies and conducted several hundred seminars, and also taught SCM/ERP as an MBA professor at several leading universities. He authored Maximizing Your ERP System and several books on Microsoft Dynamics AX and NAV. Scott has won the rarely-given Microsoft MVP Award for Dynamics AX, and Microsoft’s Excellence in Innovation Award. He can be reached at ScottHamiltonPhD@aol.com.

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Monday, March 30, 2009

What is xRM?

This part Friday I got some really great information, from the xRM user group. (www.xrmvirtual.com). They had a great live meeting session with Bryan Nielson from Microsoft.

This call really helped shape for me, what xRM really is, what it should be used for, and what it's not.

That's a very good thing, because my focus is Dynamics AX. For the forseeable future, my focus will continue to be on Dynamics AX. That also means, that as the future becomes the present, the need to understand the vertical and horizontal stacks that Dynamics AX is built with, around and connects to is being more and more a higher priority.

This is why understanding xRM, and Microsoft's stance on xRM and it's position on it, matters to Dynamics AX partners, customers and future customers.

So, what is xRM anyway? Well xRM, according to Microsoft, is actually positioning. It’s the new way the Dynamics CRM is being positioned as a platform for rapid development of x or any, Relational Management application.

This means, that xRM is ready for use today. By buying the correct rights and modules of Dynamics CRM, you can then have xRM to use as a development platform.

xRM appliations are very targeted, LOB or Line Of Business Applications. It’s not designed for website development, e-Commerce, etc. The goal is not to address every kind of possible application. That is what the Microsoft Application Platform is designed for. .Net, SQL Server, BizTalk, SharePoint, Office, etc.

These technologies can connect, are used and can be used with and in solutions that are developed with xRM. And that is a strong point of using xRM as a platform.

So if your looking to develop that fully custom e-Commerce site for your company, you would not consider xRM. However, if your looking to develop an intense government grant management LOB application, and do it quickly, then you could consider xRM.

Let’s make this even more clear, in that xRM is meant to be a ‘noun’ relational management platform, to develop LOB applications around. Noun, meaning: person’s, places or things. Assets, Business Relationship’s, warrenties, students, teaching programs, government contracts, etc. etc.

So now that we know what xRM is, and what it’s basic target is, the next questions for me is how and when this should be used in regard to a Dynamics AX implementation / instance.

Dynamics AX itself can be used as a platform, and is best suited for your ERP and Supply Chain Management. If xRM can offer you a platform for custom LOB applications, for anything Relational Management, then when does it best make sense to bring in xRM, vs. doing a custom module inside Dynamics AX to handle what your looking for?

There are a few ways to answer this. One, a decision to bring in xRM could be because your already going to be using the combo of Dynamics AX and Dynamics CRM. Then you might take a move to develop your custom warranty management program via xRM. The benefits of doing such a thing, would be that your using a Microsoft platform, and technologies. Also if you bought 50 seats for the CRM package, and only 5 users will use your custom warranty xRM LOB application, then those 5 users are covered in the 50 seats, if you so choose to allow them.

That’s right, now extra license would have to be bought. They would have to be bought if you needed a lot more concurrent users.

Lets say though that out of the 50, the 5 warranty managers are part of the 50 users that make use of the CRM piece as well. Then they are covered and switch back and forth between CRM and Warranty Management, only taken up one seat license.

There are a hundred different ways of looking at this, functional, technical, all can be different reason’s for when and why xRM applications should and can be used with a Dynamics AX implementation.

Just keep in mind the intended use of the xRM platform. X or anything Relational Management platform for rapid development of custom Line of Business Applications.

Well that’s it for now, check back soon as I have more great post coming out! See you then!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Application Benchmark Toolkit for Dynamics AX 2009 - Released

Last Tuesday, the AX Performance team blog had an announcement, about the recent release of the open source project: 'Application Benchmark Toolkit for Dynamics AX 2009.'

The direct link to the Codeplex site can be found here: Application Benchmark Toolkit for Microsoft Dynamics AX

The link to the AX Performance Team blog can be found here: AXPerfBlog: Application Benchmark Toolkit for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009

From the post:
"We have released the Benchmark Toolkit as an Open Source Project on CodePlex. You can use the Benchmark Toolkit to stress and performance test your AX application or custom classes. The Benchmark Toolkit comes with a predefined set of 12 scenarios such as Sales Order and Project Quotation. You are free to modify these to fit your scenario. The Benchmark Toolkit also comes with the Programming Model Proxy which will allow you to choose X++ classes, enums and tables from your AOT and automatically generate C# proxy code for calls into Microsoft Dynamics AX Business Connector."

I actually saw this last week, but was so busy and swamped that I did not post it. So here you are. I recommend that anyone involved with DAX 2009 take a look at this now.

I plan on diving into this myself, and hopefully have a few good post about it soon. That's all for now. Thanks AX Perf Team for getting this out there! Check back soon!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Perfect Storm - a Case for the Good Ship SourceSafe

It's Friday, everything was going along fine, and the AOS crashes. Ok, go check the event logs, note an error with an AOT object, and restart. Bang, seconds later it crashes again.

Start the AOS service, and go open the AOT to try and get to that object, which happens to be a view, AOS crashes.

There is a corrupt object in the AOT, and you can't get access to it, via the AOT to remove it.

This is what happened to me last Friday. I call it the "Perfect Storm", and the reason why will be evident as you read on from here.

So there I was, AOS crashing, and you can't get to the object that is causing the issue. You also can't import over it, as that causes it to crash as well. It's a corrupt object in the AOT.

So there is a posted blog entry out there, that talks about removing the corrupted AOT object from the instance with code. That blog entry can be found here: Deleting a Corrupt AOT Object via code.

So I took and was lucky enough that a job would come up in a private project. So I created a new job, and changed the code from the above post, to fit my needs. When it made it to the util.delete(); call, the AOS crashes.

Bang! Another wave crashing down.

So moving on, the plan was to try and take and just restore from last night's backup of the /Appl files. But wait, another storm from the other side was coming in. As the last good backup for the /Appl files is 10 days old.

This was because of an issue with the backup solution, shutting down the AOS at night, and stopping the batch job processes and nightly jobs. The backups were scheduled to start back later that night. Not good, waves crashing in even higher, as 10 days worth of work seemed to be possible it could be lost to the sea of no return.

So in a last ditch effort, a plan was hacthed, to take and try to export all the layer objects, but that single one causing the crash. The code was wrote up, based on the following:

"TreeNode treeNode = infolog.projectRootNode(); ProjectNode projectNode; UtilElements utilElements; ;

treeNode = treeNode.AOTfirstChild();

projectNode = treeNode.AOTfindChild('VarLayerChanges');
projectNode = projectNode.getRunNode();

while select utilElements WHERE utilElements.utilLevel == UtilEntryLevel::var {
ProjectNode.addUtilNode(utilElements.recordType, utilElements.name); }


The above was just changed to not include the object that was causing the crash. However when ran, this too crashed the AOS. Arrgh! Nothing that we do works.

Another wave came crashing down. It was bleak looking at this point, we were all hanging on by a thread. And just then, over the last crashing wave, a small light could be seen. Another ship? Another way out? yes! yes!

It was good the ship SourceSafe, Visual SourceSafe to be exact. So quickly we restored to the 10 days back .aod file, after making plenty of backups for the /appl files and database. Then moved on to start everything back up. After that we brought in every object from SourceSafe that had been touched since 11 days back... and the storm calmed, and the sun shown again.

We were save by that good old ship, SourceSafe.

So the moral of this story, making use of SourceSafe is a good idea. Even though it may be a pain at times to setup, and cause some extra steps for making sure things stayed sync on a weekly basis, it's worth it's weight in man hours, as it came in and saved the day!

Check back soon, as I fully recover from the perfect storm last week, and being sick yesterday, and hopefully I can get back to posting what I had planned. See you then!

I wanted to make sure and update this post, letting everyone know that the typical removing of the .aoi file from the /Appl folder location, and even removing of the object in the SQL DB did not have any affect or offer any help.

That is a typical thing to try and do, to get AX to to 'fix' it's meta data about all the objects it manages at the different layers they exists. I did not post that I tried that first, in this perfect storm.

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Up on Twitter - Finally

Well after not making a move on twitter for sometime now, I finally created my twitter home and will start to use this on somewhat regular basis. The link can be found here: twitter.com/dynamicsERP

I will do my best to keep it 100% foucsed on Dynamics ERP topics, and Dynamics platform related.

I admit I am new to twitter. A lot of people use it, and I saw how great of a tool it really can be with the live updating of information from Convergence of this year.

Hopefully I will be using it to update from Convergence, but it will be an add-on to this blog, and my other two blogs that will start to come about soon.

So if you want to, follow me on twitter, as I continue along the Microsoft Dynamics path!

Check back soon, good posts coming out!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Convergence 2009 - Wrap up

Well Convergence 2009 has come and gone. After talking with a bunch of different people from Partners, Microsoft and Customer levels, it seems this years Convergence was a good one. Less people attending, less than 7,000, which is down from more than 10,000 last year. However I have heard the sessions where attended at a better rate, and people were really in tune to what Microsoft and the Partners were having to say.

MSDynamicsWorld.com has a great list of a bunch of different Convergence post, including their overall wrap up, which can be found here: MSDynamicsWorld.com Coverage of Convergence 2009

One thing that I took a big notice too that is not directly AX related is xRM platform, and the Virtual xRM user's group. www.xRMVirtual.com. This is a group focused on the promition of the xRM platform, and it's built on top of Azure while being connected to Dynamics CRM online.

This is something for sure I will be keeping and eye on and posting about, as the xRM platform and Azure start to become tools Partners and customers can use to develop with. So this is going to be very, very interesting to see what direction this goes.

As for Dynamics AX itself, there was plenty of great go lives that we highlighted, and Customers are now in full swing using Dynamics AX 2009. There were some great sessions on Dynamics AX from functional and technical.

Another thing, Convergence 2010 is suppose to be held in Atlanta, GA. So I might actually go to that one, since it will be so close to home. Lets see if that happens!

Well check back soon, and I hope all of those that went to Convergence got a lot out of it. If there are any specific remaining questions by anyone from any level, feel free to leave me a comment and I will do my best to get you the best asnwer possible.

There are some great post coming up soon, this week along, so check back and see you then!

I wanted to make sure and give the offical home page for xRM: www.xRM.com. More soon on this, and how this can be used along with Dynamics AX.

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Blog Spotlight: SQLSkills.com - Kimberly L. Tripp

Convergence is wrapping up as I type, with most people thinking about getting back home and getting a little rest. There has been a lot of good information coming out from convergence, so look for my wrap up next week on that.

Now, as promised, I am getting back to some SQL post. This time, what I wanted to do was actually point out, and do a Blog Spotlight for a great SQL resource. I am talking about Kimberly L. Tripp from SQLSkills.com

Her Blog can be found here: Kimberly's - improving my SQL skills, through your questions - blog

She is just a great resource, and post on a regular basis. She covers internals well, and has a post up right now talking about database maintenance best practices. This post is Part I of a series she is doing right now, and I recommend you check it out.

I also recommend you read back through some of her other post. This is a great resource for all around SQL Server skills, how-to and information. This is not directly related to Dynamics AX, but these skillsets and information that you can learn from her post apply to the Databases and Database Servers that Dynamics AX instances run on.

So thanks Kimberly for doing such a great job over at SQLSkills.com and please keep the good posts coming!

Check back here for more, as I do a wrap up of convergence, continue on the SQL Server 2008 path, book reviews, and much more! See you then!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

WCF: The Enterprise Service Bus for Dynamics AX and the rest of the Microsoft Stack

Recently I did an interview with Microsoft's Lachlan Cash. The interview can be viewed here: Microsoft's strategy and vision for Dynamics AX and SOA

In that interview, Lachlan laid out the vision for what role Microsoft see's SOA playing in the current and future of Dynamics AX.

If you read the interview, you will see that the underlying goal and drive is that SOA, or Service-oriented architecture, will be the design principle for inside and outside development of Dynamics AX. This will be delivered by WCF or Windows Communication Foundation, and can have Windows Workflow Framework be used as well as part of the business process design flows that this stragey enables.

So that means that we should focus are energy and attention for the current version of Dynamics AX integration to be geared around WCF adapters. The reason this is the case, is that this will become even more importantly the focus in Dynamics AX 6.0 that is currently scheduled to be released in 2011.

So with that said, lets start to get our minds wrapped around WCF. The best place to start, if you have not already been, is go to the WCF home on MSDN: MSDN - Windows Communication Foundation - Home Page

A great description of what WCF is, can be found here:
"The WCF unifies the various communications programming models supported in .NET 2.0, into a single model. Released in November 2005, .NET 2.0 provided separate APIs for SOAP-based communications for maximum interoperabilllity (Web Services), binary-optimized communications between applications running on Windows machines (.NET Remoting), transactional communications (Distributed Transactions), and asynchronous communications (Message Queues). WCF unifies the capabilities from these mechanisms into a single, common, general service-oriented programming model for communications.

WCF can use SOAP messages between two processes, thereby making WCF-based applications interoperable with any other process that communicates via SOAP messages. When a WCF process communicates with a non–WCF process, XML-based encoding is used for the SOAP messages but when it communicates with another WCF process, the SOAP messages can be encoded in an optimized binary format. Both encodings conform to the data structure of the SOAP format, called Infoset.

WCF uses a pluggable encoding system, allowing developers to write their own encoders[1]. With the release of the .NET Framework 3.5 in November 2007, Microsoft released an encoder that added support for the JSON serialization format to WCF[2]. This allows WCF service endpoints to service requests from AJAX-powered web pages."

That was taken from the Wiki home page for the Windows Communication Foundation home on wikipedia.org, found here: Wikipedia - Windows Communication Foundation - Home Page

You see when we reference WCF in terms of something that we want to create and make use of, then we are talking about a WCF Service. A WCF Service, as you can read in the wikipedia article, is made up of three parts:

  • Service Class

  • Host Environment

  • Endpoints (aka: Adapters)

So when thinking in terms of today with Dynamics AX 2009, and WCF Service can be defined in the AOT now, and X++ can reference it like a class. This should also be the diffection used for most integrations with AIF, and integrations to and from Dynamcis AX 2009.

(Image Source www.codeproject.com)

This means that when we moved to Dynamics AX 2009, we were a lot closer to having a tighter integration between Dynamics AX 2009 and the rest of the Microsoft stack.

Now there is still a ways to go of course, and since Microsoft is about evolving this, building upon WCF Services now inside and out of your Dynamics AX 2009 instance, means you will be making the right move for the future when Dynamics AX 6.0 & 7.0 comes out.

Because WCF will be moving more and more "into" Dynamics AX and X++, to where WCF could be more tighly used within Dynamics AX itself to delivery internal messaging. This would lead to tighter integration and better introp even more with the rest of the Microsoft stack, which will happen to be also using WCF service to connect and build with.

I think the picture is pretty clear now, WCF should be the focus, and we should start looking into more and more ways of using WCF now and how we will be able to use it in the future.

Some of the latest things out about WCF recently is with REST, Representational State Transfer, which will gives us play into the 2.0 tagged technologies of Enterprise and Web, and the cloud.

Another thing to point out, is how WCF can now, already be used to integrate other existing LOB, Line of Business Applications, like: SAP, PeopleSoft, Oracle, IBM CICS, IMS, etc.

Microsoft released what is calls it's "WCF LOB Adapter SDK" to help with this. The current version is 1.1, and can be downloaded here: WCF LOB Adapter SDK v1.1 Download.

So we have a *Lot* to cover on this as you can tell. The key to take away now, is to start looking into this. Take a dive into the MSDN page, look at the blogs, the articles, what makes up WCF. Also take the time and check out the WCF LOB Adatper SDK. This is a great thing to look at for creating WCF services, that can connect Dynamics AX with other LOB's.

Check back soon, as I will continue to dive into this topic, get back to some SQL Server 2008, cover more BI, and all how it surronds and is used with Dynamics AX.

Also don't miss my post soon on a book review and Author interview I am doing, and the wrap up post on Convergence this week! So much to cover and so little time... see you next time!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Convergence 2009 - All this week!

Well it's finally here, or should I say I can't believe it's already here. I am talking about Convergence 2009, that is being held in New Orleans this week. Today is the actual starting day, with partners meeting and getting together and then the full kick off is tomorrow.

I am not attending Convergence, but I am there virtually with Sunrise being there, and also all the great coverage of the event we will be getting from MSDynamicsWorld.com and the AXUG.com bloggers.

MSDynamicsWorld.com just did a 2009 preview, with comments and quotes from different people, including myself: Convergence 2009 Preview: A More “Intimate” Setting

From the post:
Emphasis on "The Cloud." According to Jeff Onesto "I don't think anybody will argue that ‘CloudComputing' is where the next major battle will take place. I believe withthe current success of Dynamics CRM Live, the Windows Azure Platform will behighly discussed as well as Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), whichconsists of Exchange Online, Office Sharepoint Online, Office CommunicationOnline and Office Live Meeting."

And the one from myself:
"Exploiting Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009. With all the hoopla at last year's Convergence over AX 2009, observers expect the focus this year to be on helping customers get more from their investments, or to upgrade from previous versions. " I don't think this year you will seeanything very ‘new' about Dynamics AX," says Brandon George of Sunrise Technologies Inc. "The road map will be updated, but I think this year's focus will be more about helping customers get use out of their investments already made, and how Dynamics AX can fit into that with customers that are already Microsoft platform customers.""

You can check out the converage by MSDynamicsWorld.com, by going to the following link: MSDW: Convergence 2009

I will also be doing a wrap up post next week, about all the information from Convergence and what it possibly means.

I hope everyone there has a great time, safe & productive time. Also look here for more post this week, on taking a deeper dive into the Lachlan Cash interview from last week, and I am doing a book review / interview soon for Dynamics AX focused book.

See you then!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Friday, March 06, 2009

Today to Julian Date value inside Dynamics AX, X++

I hope everyone is having a great Friday evening, and is ready for the weekend. In light of it being Friday, thought I would share something, maybe some of you already know.

In a project I am working on, one of the needs is to have Julian Date values for specific Date's. This is for an integration project, and the integrating software to Dynamics AX is expecting this value. There can be some possible hang ups if the 0 value date is different, but that's is not anything I can help. (Unless I create a custom Julian function that has the same Zero based starting point.)

Anyway I thought for sure there would be an X++ built in function or WinAPI call. I did not find one, so I turned to the next level in such things, .Net.

The following is code example of taking Today() method value and turning it into a Julian Date value representation:

System.DateTime CurrDT;
int64 jd;

CurrDT = new System.DateTime(Year(Today()),

jd = CurrDT.ToOADate();
info(strfmt("Today is: %1 and Julian Value is: %2",Today(),jd));

So what I do is take and create an instance of the .Net System.DateTime class. Then set it on the new / constructor call to be today's Year, Month, Day. Then I take and call the method off of that DateTime object, ToOADate(). I set this to an internal Int64 variable, and then call an info() to show the difference between the standard date value and the Julian date value.

You can learn more about the ToOADate() method call by going to it's MSDN article stub found here: DateTime.ToOADate - MSDN Home

This is from the MSDN stub for the DateTime.ToOADate method:
"An OLE Automation date is implemented as a floating-point number whose value is the number of days from midnight, 30 December 1899. For example, midnight, 31 December 1899 is represented by 1.0; 6 A.M., 1 January 1900 is represented by 2.25; midnight, 29 December 1899 is represented by -1.0; and 6 A.M., 29 December 1899 is represented by -1.25."

So on any windows based system, you should be ok, because 99% should use the same basis for a julian date value. However you might have to work with this value or create your own custom julian date function if the zero data basis for the system your integrating with is different that the 'midnight, 30 December 1899' value that the .Net DateTime.ToOADate() method call uses.

Now, honestly, that more than I thought I would ever learn about a Julian Date value. I hope this helps someone out, and if there is another way, I am all ears, leave a comment and I will update this post to reflect such options.

Check back soon, Convergence is next week and there will be all kinds of great post from it. Also I plan on really taking the interview with Lachlan Cash and expanding on it. A lot of great things came out of that interview that need explaining and more detail. See you next time, and have a great weekend!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

Microsoft's strategy and vision for Dynamics AX and SOA

I recently had the pleasure of taking the time and talk with Microsoft Senior Product Manager for Microsoft Dynamics AX, Lachlan Cash.

The focus of this interview was driven actually by the recent Microsoft SOA & Business Process Conference held recently. One of the sessions was on 'Dynamics AX & SOA' presented by Leslie Sistla of Microsoft.

I contacted Leslie about this presentation and she was kind enough to get Lachlan and myself together to discuss Dynamics AX, SOA and Microsoft strategy and vision for these topic area's.

Here is the result of that interview:

Brandon - Recently Microsoft hosted their SOA conference, and one of the topics was Dynamics AX and SOA. The session covered a good bit of technologies, and goals. If you could sum up though, in a paragraph or two, what would be the core message that you were trying to get across with this recent session?

LC - "I think the key things that we think about in Dynamics when we talk about SOA is ease of integration and customization of the business application. To this point SOA has been about connecting systems together, we think that it has more a place with-in the application as a fundamental shift in the way business logic is written and designed. This is a long term strategy to make it easier for our customers and partners to adapt the business application to their needs and integrate with other line of business applications. Today we have a very good customization story around AX, and we think we can make it a lot better with adding SOA."

Brandon - Recently Microsoft has started a new trend with ‘____ for the masses’ tags for describing goals and approaches for technologies and platforms. For example the move for taking PerformancePoint and making it part of the SharePoint offerings, was tagged as a move to start a ‘BI for the masses’ approach. Is Microsoft also trying to offer ‘SOA integration for the masses’ or ‘BPM for the masses’ with their approach to Dynamics AX and SOA?

LC - "We have to look at the roles and people that work with a business application and work on implementing it for customers. SOA today isn’t for the masses. Do business users benefit? Yes, if it helps bring new features and new functionality to the application they use. SOA is for developers and will be for developers. So SOA brings new ways to build and integrate systems with Dynamics AX. This in-turn brings new capabilities for business users."

Brandon - With SOA, so many different technologies are used. In Dynamics AX alone, you can choose many paths to achieve such offers. Custom web services and .Net assemblies with X++. AIF, BizTalk, etc. With so many paths to take, and so many different possibilities of connecting technologies and platforms, can you provide us with insight into the desired directions or paths and clear choices of when and why for those different paths?

LC - "Our strategy with AX is simple, we are following Microsoft’s overall strategy with the .NET Framework. This includes Windows Communication Framework (WCF) and Windows Workflow Foundation (WWF). In AX 3.0 we had the Commerce Gateway which provided a integration to BizTalk and provided some basic functionality. We started in AX 4.0 to build a better integration framework and introduced an adapter for BizTalk. Then AIF evolved more in AX 2009 to be a generic integration piece of technology for working with WCF based services. This lessens the needs for a specific BizTalk adapter as we can adapt adapters that are in WCF and use WCF as the Enterprise Services Bus to move data between systems that have WCF adapters like BizTalk. We will continue to evolve the AIF as we go into AX 6.0 to unify integration around the .NET Framework, and the rest of the Microsoft stack. "

Brandon - With doing architectural design of Solutions that span platforms and technologies, with Dynamics AX at the heart of such designs. What types of layout considerations and investmest can customer make in current technology and platform offerings from Microsoft that will enable solutions today, that will also give them a clear path and correct stepping stone for the road map of the future?

LC - "The overall goal of Microsoft is to make sure and be driven by the ecosystem that surronds Dynamics. We have had the ability to watch other companies, take and make major changes in the technical nature of how things are addressed and developed. In doing so we have seen how hard it has been for the customers of these other companies that are now on their legacy systems to upgrade. It's a huge jump.

Instead Microsoft focuses on making sure the changes we make evolve rather than be major changes which can cause an upgrade to be a major decision for an existing customer.

Investing in Dynamics AX, .Net, WCF, WFF, BizTalk and the rest of the Microsoft stack today, means that in the next releases there will be clear paths for upgrading. So building solutions today with Microsoft's current offerings will be the right direction for making an investment for the future."

Brandon - You have mentioned a lot of the technologies that surrond Dynamics AX and make up the Microsoft stack. Since this is the case, and your point about evolving is the focus. What about the .Net business connector / External Connector used to connect .Net managed code to an AOS. It's not managed code right now, and it's lacking in some respects. What or when will this change to offer a more direct, native interaction from say a custom .Net assembly?

LC - "As stated in the previous question and answer, Microsoft's strategy is to evolve. We don't want to make a total change and cause a bottle neck in the upgrade process.

Instead our focus for AX 6.0 is developing new tools, and technologies that allow for better managed interop for Dynamics AX and the External Connector. That will be the focus for this area. Offering better interop between Dynamics AX and .Net, with focusing on WCF as the service bus that facilitates these integrations."

Brandon - Looking at this from the other direction, in what version of Dynamics AX will X++ become a managed language? When will it become a .Net framework language?

LC - "There have been a good bit of prototypes around making X++ a .Net language. In making it a managed language. What we have to look at is what would be gained from such a port?

Microsoft is the biggest user base of X++, with a very large amount of developers working with it. The focus is more on how to improve the interop between X++ and calling to the outside world.

Because this is the case, and so much business logic is tied into X++, it will most likely not ever get ported to become a managed language. It will also not ever be going away, and it will stay as the language used to develop for Dynamics AX.

The whole focus coming out over the next releases will be SOA, via WCF services. That is the key, and doing that will enable better interop, and offer more flexibility and offer more ability to developers and ISV to interact with the rest of the Microsoft stack and custom .Net applications."

This is some great information, and a lot for all of us to dig into. This information will also be talked about and covered at this years Convergence in New Orleans. Lachlan Cash will be there attending a lot of the sessions and also doing demo's in some of the keynote speeches that will focus on some of the technology directions and advancements for Dynamics AX. I recommend, if you have the chance, to stop and talk with Lachlan. Make sure to tell him I sent you! (Convergence 2009 Web site)

Also check out the a demo that was done by Lacklan at the EMEA Convergence this year: Line of Business Demo - EMEA Convergence 2009

Check back soon as I continue further into this Dynamics World. Also this summer I will be re-visiting Lachlan to pick his brain about Dynamics AX 6.0 release and some of the features that were talked about in the above.

I want to thank Lachlan and Leslie for taking the time and talking with me. This conversatin really has my mind thinking about all kinds of things. See you next time!

The link to Microsoft's page on the SOA conference can be found here:
Microsoft SOA & Business Process - Conference Page

A direct link to the PowerPoint that was used for the Dynamics AX & SOA session presented by Leslie Sistla can be found here:
Dynamics AX & SOA - Session PowerPoint File.

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Sunrise over at Microsoft Convergence - 2009

I sat down, virtually, with John Pence, President and Owner of Sunrise Technologies, Inc. to talk with him about Convergence this year, Sunrise being at Convergence and the current economic pains the entire world seems to be suffer through.

Here is that interview:

John, Sunrise is a Bronze level supporter of the Microsoft Converegnce 2009 conference being held at New Orleans next week. What can we expect to see and hear from Sunrise this year?

"We are happy to once again be a Bronze level sponsor at Convergence. We will have our large Sunrise booth at the conference, as well as a large contingent of Sunrise’s sales and marketing team. Convergence is a great chance for us to reach out to our existing customer base and take the “pulse” of how their AX installations are doing. New this year is a booth from our sister company, Huamei Soft, at this year’s Convergence. We hope to raise awareness that this is a resource available for use for customers as well as other partners."

Convergence is usually a very big event in terms of Dynamics AX, and it really focuses on the road map, and also useful sessions for those attending. What are some highlights you expect to see from Microsoft this year that you think our customers and possible future customers will be most interested in?

"I think Microsoft will continue to emphasize the future direction of SaaS / Software+Services availability in the product line, especially in the CRM space and the low end of the ERP market. I believe Microsoft will continue to push on the BI strategy and more clearly define the migration of the Performance Point platform to SharePoint. There will probably not be a lot of “new” around AX this year given the recent release of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009."

Currently the entire world is in an economic downturn. This means that more than every companies are trying to find ways to save cost and improve sales and productivity. What makes Sunrise such a solid Microsoft Partner, and how can Sunrise and Dynamics AX help our current and new customers with lowering TCO and improving the bottom line?

"That is a great question! It is all about reducing cost and surviving in this current economy. First, AX is an incredible value for a full strength, integrated ERP application. It competes very favorably with SAP & Oracle, but with much less upfront cost, and lower implementation costs. Second, Sunrise specifically saves our clients money by executing properly during implementations. We do not over-staff our projects and create an excellent balance between the customer’s resources and our own. We emphasis knowledge transfer and insuring that our customers can support the application without us, all of this saves our clients money. We emphasize speed and a brisk pace that reduces the typical ERP implementation time. Finally, our offshore development model with HuameiSoft insures a low cost of development for the implementation."

"Lastly, but a significant value add that Sunrise brings to every ERP implementation is our “roots” in supply chain consulting. This means we are always on the look-out for ways to improve the business processes of our clients, not just implement software for them. In the long run, this may be the most significant cost savings of all."

Closing Comments:

"Convergence 2009 will be a great opportunity for us to connect with our customers, network with a host of Microsoft resources, and search out new best practices that we can bring to Sunrise. This event is always the single best conference we attend during the year."

Well I would like to thank John for taking the time and talking with me about Convergence this year, and if your interested in talking with John or the rest of the Sunrise Team, make sure to visit them while at Convergence or use the Contact Us Page at Sunrise's web site.

Check back soon, and enjoy Convergence this year!

Information about Sunrise Technologies, Inc:

Sunrise Technologies is an experienced supply chain consulting organization and a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner specializing in the Microsoft Dynamics AX ERP solution. Sunrise offers its customers a combined expertise of business knowledge, strong project management capability, and powerful business software solutions.

Sunrise Technologies exists to help enterprises seize opportunities in creating a new IT framework and gain competitive advantage with the Microsoft Dynamics AX solution. Microsoft Dynamics AX includes integrated functionality across finance, supply chain management, e-commerce, customer relationship management, and human resource management. Sunrise will lead your organization through design, development, and implementation of the entire solution.

Web Site: www.SunriseConsult.com

Information about Xi'an Huamei Soft, Ltd.:

Xi'an Huamei Soft Co., Ltd., a Sino-US joint-venture has headquarters offices in Xi'an, China and with Dallas, Texas, US. Huamei Soft specializes in the Microsoft Dynamics solutions. Our company is dedicated to providing our global customers low-cost technical off-shoring services, while delivering outstanding customer service and world class quality.

Web Site: www.huameisoft.com

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Book: SQL Server 2008 - Administrator's Pocket Consultant

Recently I got the SQL Server 2008 - Administrator's Pocket Consultant book from Amazon.com.

I have reviewed it, and it's just a great handy book to have for anyone that does work with SQL Server 2008. It covers a great amount of topics, including the new Policy Based Management that was introduced with SQL Server 2008.

I recommend having the around, for quick, easy access of exact how to's on SQL Server 2008 DBA related tasks. I mean, know one can recall every little thing about SQL Server, and this helps you get the task done fast.

Check it out, and check back soon. A lot of great post coming up...

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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