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Monday, August 31, 2009

Consuming Service References in Dynamics AX 2009

As mentioned in the following blog post.:
Continued talks of Integrating Dynamics AX to the outside world

I plan on going through some of the integration options that exists with Dynamics AX 2009, and getting into some real examples of this. In order to dive right into this, lets look at Dynamics AX 2009 consuming service references.

Service references are new with Dynamics AX 2009, and map directly to service references that one would see in Visual Studio 2008.

This makes use of .Net 3.5 framework, through creating .Net 3.5 code for the given supplied Service WSDL, that acts as a consuming proxy. This is registered in the AOT, and can be accessed through the supplied .Net namespace from where the given service reference was created.

This can be a given web service, or a Microsoft WCF service adapter / end point. That means that all of what comes with the .Net 3.5 framework with WCF and WWF can be made use of with such integration points.

One of the given main examples that has been used to showcase this is hitting the Live API (I guess bing now!) for searching through it's publish service.

This is great to show case a technical ability of this, but what about functional wise?

Well such an integration point, of it self, is syncrhonous. Now the integration point can lead into a WCF service, that is hosting a WF Workflow, which drives through several different points, including asyncrhonous processes with MSMQ, etc. However the integration itself is synchronous because it expects a return on a given call out.

This means that typical integration for this would be to other System of Record applications or solutions, web services for feeding data from and consuming, external calculations like shipping, tax, etc.

What's great about this integration, is that in X++, the given .Net namespace is used with a preceeding dot (.) to get access to the given service, and any methods it might offer.

One thing I want to point out about that .Net namespace, if for example you have say three web services you want living in the same parent namespace. Well you need to make sure to do something as the following for that namespace.:


You do this for each of the three services you want to live under a single parent namespace. So you would have registered 3 different AOT service references, and in the .Net namespace provided a structure as you see above.

Now when in X++, you reference ParentNameSpace. The three child services will be listed under this single parent Namespace. There will also be three .Net 3.5 Proxy Clients created, on the AOS, under the documents and settings of the given user id that is running the AOS service. They will be named as well.: ParentNameSpace.ChildService1.dll, "2.dll, "3.dll.

That is a good point to keep in mind, espcially for doing larger integrations and so forth.

These work great once setup, and there are some limits though. The following gives you a good idea of those limits, like data conversions, etc.

AIF Services and Primitive Data Type Conversions for XML and .NET Framework

Take a look at the chart for idea of the conversion of data types. Another good resource, is the 'How to: Consume a Web Service from X++'

One other thing I want to point out is that the service reference does not have a great management form for say, changing the WSDL URL or service name. The best approach I have found for doing this, and for deploying to other instances has been to take and export the Service Reference, and change the WSDL URL, and import into your instance of another instance and regenerate the service.

Sometimes you might run into file locking issues, if the service already existed. If this is the came, you will need to (a) take and stop the AOS (I know a pain), (b) delete the actual .Net file that AX is complaining is locked, (c) restart the AOS, (d) regenerate the service reference.

Doing this will allow for your updated WSDL URL, etc. to be read and made use of.

Thats all for now, and check back soon as more to come. August is wrapping up today, and that was delcared as Lean month. However I have some more great Lean based posted to wrap that Lean month up with.

See you next time!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Microsoft: Announcing Longer Support Timelines for Key Microsoft Dynamics Service Packs

Microsoft did a new release to PartnerSource, that effective June 22nd 2009, Microsoft will extend support timeline for Dynamics products service packs.

From the statement.:
"Microsoft is extending the service pack support policy for Microsoft Dynamics SL, Microsoft Dynamics GP, Microsoft Dynamics NAV, Microsoft Dynamics AX, and Microsoft Dynamics CRM to 24 months of support for a previous service pack, when a new service pack is released. Previously, when a new service pack was released for these products, Microsoft provided 12 months of support for the previous service pack."

The following is a direct link to find out the details.:
Longer Support Timelines for Key Microsoft Dynamics® Service Packs

This means that Dynamics AX 4.0 SP1, which was no longer support is now being reactivated and will be support until Oct. 13th of this year. This also means that DAX 4.0 SP2 will now be supported 24 months beyond the next service pack.

This was in response to a lot of customer feedback, for needing more support and giving each service more life to live a fuller cycle.

This can be argued both ways of being positive or not. In the end, this is a heavy customer demand, and after review makes sense to do so.

That's all for now, check back soon!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Blog spotlight: DAXDilip - A good Dynamics Resource

I wanted to do a blog spotlight today, and point out a great new Dynamics Resource. This is Dilip, over at DAXDilip.blogspot.com.

Dilip has been posting since October of 2007 on a regular basis, so it's not really that new.

Dilip seems to have a deep knowledge of the Dynamics space, and a lot of that in Dynamics AX focused posted.

His most recent post, that caught my eye, which broke the news about the X++ Web UI Framework in Enterprise Portal is to be Discontinued has some great insights into his take on this move.:

"1. This is a good move as developers with C# and VB.Net can be more productive in designing the web objects for AX. They need not depend on X++ Application Developers

2. Developing and Deploying web-based portals/webparts will be much more easier and rapid and also one can start using the new Web 3.0 framework as well as the power of Silverlight, AJAX etc."

These are great technical points, of why Microsoft is making this move. It's to consolidate on a given single web platform. SharePoint being a big part of that, including the Office System as well.

I recommend adding Dilip's blog to your list of blog to check for information, and helpful post.

Thanks Dilip for adding good content to the Dynamics Community, and please keep it up!

That's all for now, check back as more to come.

See you next time!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Continued talks of Integrating Dynamics AX to the outside world

Recently I posted the following blog entry.:
Integrating Dynamics AX 2009 with the outside world

This was the start of looking at all the different ways you can integrate the current version of Dynamics AX to the outside world.

As I said in that post, I wanted to move forward which each different type, talk about real world examples, and what I have seen fail and work.

A reader posted a comment on that blog entry, asking.:
"... more and more data needs to be shipped to and from Dynamics AX. What options have been more successful for you when implementing ..."
- Nathan

Nathan, you have great point there, and that is why I wanted to start talking more in depth about this topic. You see, like all things there is a lot of different ways to achieve something. The best answer, or correct answer, has a lot of inputs to reach that.

Same as the cloud conversation, common sense and functional ends should drive the means. This is true also for integration, though integration, it terms of pure integration is mostly technical.

Still the functional ends, should be the driving factor. And what do I mean by that, in this case?

Lets look at some examples. If for example, you have desperate, decoupled older systems that need to talk with Dynamics AX. And this 'conversation' or integration needs to happen in an asynchronous manor, with sometimes queue delivery of data and information. Then looking to middleware, like MSMQ might be something that is considered.

Taking the route of MSMQ, though, brings is on set of enabling functions, and limits with size, performance, and timing.

I have seen a good MSMQ integration work before, but I have seen more bad MSMQ integrations developed for integration into Dynamics AX than good actually. And maybe bad and good are wrong terms. Instead of bad, because MSMQ did what it was told to do, it's more the implemnetations driving functional ends did not really call or have to have an asynchronous integration to reach those ends. Only a part of it did, and since a part of it did, the entire thing was feed through that same channel.

That brings me to another point, a lot of the times a single channel for intergation is not always the best option. Sometimes, depedning on the functional ends or nature of a given process, it could be that a system to system intergation needs more than one channel for communication.

So for the truly needed asynchronous integration point, of queue data, MSMQ be used. But for the other integration path that can handle synchronous, event based integration points, .Net Services / Web Services would be the best approach.

Sometimes technology is the limiting factor, and when that is the case, you have to take the best route for the given limit. For example, it could be the only way to integrate with a given older system is through COM objects.

If this is the case, and you wanted to design some kind of workflow driven, 'smart' integration that could handle errors, routing, and failures. Things that come with newer technologies. Then it might make sense to wrap those given COM objects in .Net Workflow based Service. Where the .Net Service is the exposed integration to Dynamics AX, and it wraps the needed COM objects.

To wrap this conversation up, for now, and get directly to Nathan's question. 'What options have been more successful', I personally have seen many of the mentioned options both suceed with high and low degrees of sucess, and fail as well. It all goes back to the functional ends.

I guess it would be better to change the question, just a little bit, to say which one's have I seen fail the least. That, because of the nature of the integration, would be synchronous integration points. Be that Flat file, .Net Services / Web Services, direct calls to COM or .Net assemblies, etc. These are usually very event driven, easier to debug, understand, and don't usually have as many layers of abstraction.

That's also not to say that layers of abstartction are bad. In designs, if done correctly, the right amount of abstraction is a good thing. This is also not to say that asynchronous should not be used. I am not saying that at all. I am just trying to get across that what should be used, should only be used, based on the functional ends. If a functional ends, or technology limiting means extist and drives to an asyncrhonous type of intergation, where MSMQ or some other form of middleware, message delivery system is needed. Then a correct design and implementation of that, will help make that a success.

That's all for now, thanks for the question Nathan, and check back soon everyone. More great post are coming out.

See you then!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dynamics AX in the Cloud. When & why?

Recently over at MSDynamicsWorld.com an article was posted by one of my peers, Jeff Onesto. The article is: What Is the Future of Microsoft Dynamics AX in the Cloud? Being Upfront About the Obstacles

He brings up good points, of how this is looked at from an OpEx point of view, for controllers and also risk that are involved with this, that are not being addressed, including security.

I think the following two sentences sum up the article well, though I recommend a full read of it.:

"Unfortunately, when it comes to mission critical business applications such as ERP, the model appears to be bit immature for many customers, and with too many questions left unanswered regarding security, control, regulation and speed."


"Until many of the other issues I have discussed are resolved, though, I don't forecast the demand for enterprise business applications in the cloud will change and without demand I don't anticipate Microsoft offering Dynamics AX on-demand."

And to Jeff's points in the article I agree that total AX in the cloud is not something that will be in demand, and actually just does not make sense really at this point. May in the very distant future, or to some level like ERPLive.com will possibly offer to smaller instances.

I have wrote a good bit actually about the Cloud, and Microsoft's platform, Azure. The following are some of those post.:

There are more post, but these post actually show and talk about what Jeff points out. We see already AX consuming services and can consume cloud based services. We also CRM / XRM already in action with the same thing, and offering up as being hosted in the cloud if desired.

What must be stressed, just with anything else, is common sense. The post I did in 2007, the very first post was my vision for what I thought the cloud would mean for AX and the enterprise. It would be a Hybrid approach, to where some services and possible LOB applications will / would exist in the cloud while others remain on-premise.

What functionality makes sense to live in the cloud? This is determined by a lot of factors at times, and technology is actually most of the time least, unless the technology is limiting.

Functional ends should drive the means for what exist in the cloud. So it makes sense to have restful data stores in the cloud, that is common shared data among partners and customers. Like Jeff points out EDI for example, and credit card applications / consumptions and processing.

Look at MRP though for example... Master Scheduling. That does not make sense to live in the cloud. When would it make sense? Maybe never. Could be that feeds come into MRP that are cloud based services, but the actual execution, and processing of the outputs from MRP would live on-premise.

Plus adding the cloud, adds actually extra layer of abstraction, and though in cases that makes great sense, sometimes the extra complexity does not.

In the end, Jeff did a great write up, and I think that it's a timely one. It helps bring together what we have been talking about here, over the past two years. The cloud is for sure here, and here to stay. However, like other utilities and toolsets, when and how it is used for ERP should always be driven by the functional ends desired.

Don't get me wrong, being a technically focused consultant I love working with the latest technology. That however does not mean that the latest technology or possibly offering of technology makes sense to address problems at hand.

Thanks Jeff for the great write up, and check back soon here. More Lean coming with two interviews, one from Andrew Rummey the Org. Architect of the Microsoft Lean AX module, from eBECS and also from Dr. Scott Hamilton about is new Lean and AX book.

See you soon!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

LCE: Lean and ERP co-exisiting

Keeping with August being "Lean" month, I wanted to share a recent video that posted over at the 'Lean Centre of Excellence' (aka: LCE).:

I think this a great, short video, with Andrew Rummey going into some things that should be considered about Lean.

"Can any company use the lean solutions - do you have to be on a Lean journey?"

Enjoy, and check back soon as more Lean information is on the way, including an interview with Dr. Scott Hamilton about his recent Lean Focused Dynamics AX book, and an interview with Andrew Rummey as well from eBECS, and show in the above video.

See you then!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Friday, August 14, 2009

MSDynamicsWorld.com - AX Decisions 2009

MSDynamicsWorld.com is putting on a virtual conference for the first time this year, called 'AX Decisions 2009'.

The idea behind this conference is best summarized by Adam Berezin, Co-Founder and CEO of MSDynamicsWorld.com.:
"AX Decisions 2009 is a virtual trade show and conference for
Microsoft Dynamics AX professionals who are looking for strategies, thought Leadership, and best practices for maximizing the value and effectiveness of their organization's AX platform and initiatives. The event is entirely online and is free to attend.

Attendees can navigate the event directly from their desktop and see and hear Dynamics AX experts discuss the latest trends, technologies, and strategies for Dynamics AX."

- Adam Berezin

The direct link to AXDecisions 2009 site can be found here.:
AX Decision 2009

Some of the speakers that are already registered to speak is.:

  • Ray Wang - Industry Analyst

  • Crispin Read - General Manager Microsoft Corp.

  • Scott Hamilton - Consultant & Author

  • Many more...

Scott Hamilton is also the author of the latest book, 'Managing Lean Manufacturing using Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009'.:

That book is actually due out tomorrow, and you can pre-order it today. I am hoping to actually get Scott Hamilton back on here for an interview about his latest book, seeing how August has been deemed 'Lean' month in the Dynamics AX world.

I recommend taking the time, and going to axdecisions.com, register, it's totally free! You can attend this conference from your own desk, with no travel expense. You can connect with a lot of the Dynamics AX world movers and shakers, and hopefully help you make that next step of going to Dynamics AX.

Also there is benefit for those that are already on Dynamics AX, and looking to get more return on your Dynamics AX investment.

That's all for now, check back soon as I have more great post coming out.

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Integrating Dynamics AX 2009 with the outside world

One topic I wanted to start really spending some time on, in the next few months is Integration options for Dynamics AX 2009.

There are several ways for doing this, and what I want to take and look at each. Go over some pro's and con's, and when should the different approaches be used.

So the following is a list of ways you can integrate Dynamics AX 2009 with the rest of the world.:

Outbound Integration

  • Calling a COM Object - Server and Client Context

  • Calling a .Net Assembly - Server and Client Context

  • Calling a Web Service through a .Net Wrapper

  • Calling a Web Service or WCF Service through Service Reference in AOT

  • Out of the Box AIF Outbound End Points

  • Custom AIF End Points - (MSMQ, File Transfer, Web Service, FTP)

  • AIF End Points for BizTalk - BizTalk then offers a wide range of options once inside it's scope

  • Your own custom or Third party developed framework that lives inside Dynamics AX 2009

So the above list can be sliced upon into sections of itself. Like Server or Client context, AIF, Web Services, etc.

The approach I want to take is now take the above list, on my next post, and talk about the pro's and con's of each type. After that, take the same list, and talk about when each of the types would be used, and what would be driven factors to use those.

Hopefully by the time we cover these options a solid understanding of what all exist for integration Dynamics AX 2009 out to the rest of the Microsoft stack, and world can be understood and we can move forward with inbound integrations.

I also plan on giving examples of some of these. Like the Reporting Options in Dynamics AX 2009, the integration options are many. And there is specific factors that drive you to choose different paths.

That's all for now, check back as more to come. August is Lean month, so another post tomorrow on the LCE, and interviews are coming up. See you then!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Lean Centre of Excellence

With Microsoft releasing, as of Aug. Lean Manufacturing Module for Dynamics AX 2009, and Dr. Scott Hamilton's new book coming out, I thought we could make August 'Lean Manufacturing' month. With this I hope to dive into what it means to implement and make use of Lean Manufacturing inside Dynamics AX 2009. What is the ROI, and try to find some success and failures, examine these and hope this will benefit all of us.

So the next step for making August 'Lean', is giving a formal introduction on this blog to the 'Lean Centre of Excellence'.

This is a portal created by Stephen Wilson, from eBECS, that is focus in and around Lean Manufacturing principles for Dynamics AX. This is a great site, that has a number of video's, information, white papers, etc.

I recommend signing up with the LCE, and going to the following video to get an idea about Lean and DAX.: Free Introductory Lean Master Class Training Video - Lean Manufacturing in Microsoft Dynamics AX

About this video.:
"This training video features eBECS Solutions Director and Microsoft Dynamics AX Lean Manufacturing original solution architect, Andrew Rumney. Andrew will guide you with an explanation of the lean concepts using practical demonstrations (pull and flow). The master class also includes a step by step Kanban demonstration, establishing a finished goods buffer and customer pull scenario."

I plan on moving forward through August with pointing out other resources from the LCE, including I have schedulled an interview with Andrew Rummey, the org. Architect of the now Microsoft Lean Manufacturing Module.

That's all for now, check back soon!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

SSRS Reports URL - Performance issue on 64 bit with SQL Server 2005

Something I recently came across on an Dynamics AX 2009 instance, was a SSRS reports URL, performance issue.

This is also referred to as the reports manager URL, it's the http://server/reports URL.

What I saw was that the reports URL would be working fine, and then after some time of being idle, the worker process that runs that URL in IIS 7.0 would of course get destroyed to free that RAM up.

On start back up, of that worker process, the reports URL would enver return. Closer details show, this is a thread error taking place.

After much search, and working with the Microsoft SSRS Performance Development group, a solution was found. We had to modify the machine.config, found in the .Net 2.0 Framework, to set the min. thread workers.

After seeing this work, turns out this is now a know bug by the Microsoft SSRS development group, with performance. This has only been seen on SQL Server 2005 64-bit Edt. running on Windows Server 2003 or 2008 64 bit edt. with *greater* than 4 processors. (4 processors or lower this does not show up.)

Turns out the code, for the SSRS service handles this fine, the processor affinity masking. However the code for the reports URL, does not.

So if you run into this, there is a fix, and Microsoft should be coming up with a fix for this in SQL Server 2005 SP4 and I am sure a hot fix before then.

This has not been seen in SQL Server 2008 code base.

Well check back later, more great post to come!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Monday, August 03, 2009

Lean Manufacturing for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009

* PartnerSource Required *

Microsoft, over the weekend, has released the RTM version of the Lean Manufacturing for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009.

I did a post, back in the spring, when the pre-release was done.:
Pre-release of Lean Manufacturing for Microsoft Dynamics AX

You can download the release, from PartnerSource from the following direct link.:
Microsoft Releases, Lean Manufacturing for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009

From the overview.:
"Lean Manufacturing for Microsoft Dynamics® AX 2009 can help manufacturing organizations implement, energize, and sustain lean manufacturing initiatives by delivering the tools and information support needed to streamline processes, reduce waste, enable demand-pull operations, and promote continuous improvement. As part of the Microsoft Dynamics AX solution, robust lean manufacturing functionality complements the solution’s comprehensive customer relationship, financial, collaboration, and supply chain management capabilities to help manufacturers increase efficiency and profitability and gain a competitive advantage."

And it's very important to understand the base modules and requirements to run this.:

  • Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009 with Service Pack 1

  • License keys for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009 Production I and Master Planning modules

  • Lean Manufacturing for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009 installs into the SL1 layer. You should not have any other products installed in the SL1 layer.

So must be SP1, have Prod I and MRP, as well as nothing in SL1 already. Dr. Scott, who's book release in April I did a post about, Managing Your Supply Chain Using Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009 - Book Review, is coming out with a new book focusing on this topic for Dynamics AX 2009. (Expect a review and interview here on this blog.)

Well that's all for now, check back soon!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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