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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dynamics AX 2012 - Table & Type Hierarchies

One of the huge, underlying changes from a architecture, and really database design point of view for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 is the use of Type or Table Hierarchies.

This is actually extending upon the type hierarchy system that already existed within Dynamics AX, however to a whole new level!

[Image Source: techmaniac1, Rodrigo Fraga while attending #DAXCONF 11]

As you can see from above, thanks to Techmaniac1, the screen shot shows off the Type Hierarchy of a given table. This is actually showing from within the Dev workspace, looking at the AOT as a new add-in for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012.

With this concept, OO Design is being forced onto Relational data. I know, I know, that statement seems like it would be an oxymoron. I mean how can relation data truly be and live with OO attributes, design concepts, and adhere to such rules that govern things like: inheritance & polymorphism?

The answer to that is super normalization! That is what is taking place with Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 and type hierarchies for Table objects.

Because Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 manages it's relation database, through a meta layer, then through the combining of these two concepts, such things as inheritance and polymorphism can be applied.

So with this, we now have new attributes of tables, called: concrete or abstract, as well as if a table inherts from another table or not.

In doing this 'extending from' at a table level, the table that extends from an abstract table, inherits the fields and methods of the super or base table being inherited from.

This new approach along, plus just adhereing to BP, means that you should *never* access to the database of an Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 instance directly. So many reasons why, and with Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, so many more reasons will exists.

And this is true today actually, should not have direct access to the DB of an AX instance, however it's still done today in certain cases.

That's all for now on the continued coverage from the #DAXCONF 11. I hope that I have your wheels turning, and thinking about the possibilities this means, and doors this opens from an Architecture and Design POV. Also, what this means for outside development that may directly access the database of an AX instance today.

This leads me into my next focus, which is OData Feeds and EDM, and how they will enable secure, easy access to Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 data and business logic, without ever needing direct access to the DB again!

See you next post!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

SCOM Me this, PowerShell Me that! (Dynamics AX 2012)

So, trying to have an inventive title, the "SCOM Me this, PowerShell Me that! (Dynamics AX 2012)" is in reference to some of the key technologies that are being used from the rest of the Microsoft Stack, to help make lives easier, in terms of Manageability and Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012.

One of the first area's of improvements is around the SCOM Pack for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012. This is, System Center Operation Manager Pack. This exists with Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009, but in a *very* limited basis.

So much so, that not a lot of people actually are moved to make use of the SCOM Pack for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009. Well welcome to Dynamics AX 2012!

The amount of detail and effort that has went into the SCOM Pack for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 is amazing!

  • Diagram view of an instance, and all parts that make said instance up

  • Ability to remotely restart services. (Thanks PowerShell!)

  • Drain users, check online users, all from SCOM console

  • Most all Admin task, from within the SCOM console. Less having to be done directly through Dynamics AX itself

  • Total visibility through the entire enterprise, and the many instances, like Dev, Test and Prod - for a company

  • Much more!

This means, that for anyone that has more than instance, and more than a single AOS, with anything beyond the core area of AX, needs to invest in SCOM and make use of this great tool.

Something I also mentioned above, is PowerShell. How much have we been talking about PowerShell? I believe in PowerShell!

With Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, so much around Manageability improvements exists around the use of PowerShell, and delivered Microsoft Developed, PS CmdLet assemblies!

I went to the Reports Deployment session, and the entire session was focused around PowerShell, and a set of PowerShell scripts and Cmdlets that are used by said scripts to deploy and manage the deployment of Report Elements and Artifacts.

PowerShell is also a key piece to the SCOM management pack, as well as other area's like automating the deployment of .axmodel files from one instance to another.

What using the ISE (Integrated Scripting Editor) of PowerShell, and PowerShell framework itself brings to Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 is greater flexibility, while promoting reuse, and lowering the manual administrative task associated with the many different aspects that exists for a Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 deployment.

With these two key area's, it's important for a Dynamics AX Architect, Technical Engineer and Admin to learn now the syntax, usage, and ins and outs of. To see how this can help save time, promote reuse, and help lower the TCO of having Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 as the ERP of choice for a company.

As more and more session content become ready in the CTP release coming soon, a lot of references, example PowerShell scripts, and usage highlights will be seen right here just on these topics! (Among others!)

That's all for now, and I hope you enjoy the second installment of Post #DAXCONF 11 coverage. This should be used as a build up to Convergence 2011, being held in Atlanta again this year! I am planning to be there myself.

Check back soon, as more to come!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Modeling the world, with Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012

Well as promised, this post is a part of my post Microsoft Dynamics AX Technincal Conference 2011 (DAXCONF) coverage. As the name implies, we are going to talk about models.

Now with Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, modeling concepts are seen throughout the entire application. This ranges from deployment, to business logic, to the data layer, and beyond.

To help with all this modeling, I think its important to understand a general theme that is being used across Microsoft products and technology research. Take a look at the following site.: Microsoft's Technical Computings - "Modeling the world" Site.

It's very important, as a technical person, to understand the high level concepts, and theme's that Microsoft is using throughout it's products, and "Modeling the world" site is a PR attempt to help the world understand's Microsoft vision in this area.

Now take these concepts, and add pratical application to them. What do you get? A Generational Shift in ERP with Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012.

This, by far, is not just a marketing tag line. The sheer amount of changes that is represented in the Dynamics AX 2012 release is huge compared to all the changes and improvements done to all the version of Dynamics AX, since Microsoft took over the development of the product.

These investments are all geared toward driving powerful, flexible & yet simple ERP software, that is designed with today's proven design models, and focused on modeling over coding.

This is actually not new to Microsoft Dynamics AX. Modeling concept has driven the product since day one. Ask any one of the Damgaurd guys, and they will tell you Model Driven Development was as the heart of the design, in creating concepts like an AOT. (Application Object Tree).

So with this shift in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, if Model Driven design has been a part of the many versions of AX that have been released, what is new? A lot!

First, lets start at the deployment level, with .axmodel files, and models that exists in layers. We got are first peek that this here.:

Dynamics AX 6.0: A look at MFP's write up on the AXModel concept

In this model concept, we see the ability to deploy objects through a new axmodel file concept, and also, we see within a given layer, the ability for multiple models to exists. This in turn empowers the ability for the AX customer to have multiple ISV solutions within a given layer. This also opens the door for more options between ISV's to offer a more simple and unified model for a customer with multiple ISV solutions as part of thier instance of AX.

The goal with this concept.: Simplify the deployment of objects, and multiple ISV solutions to a single layer

Moving from this level, we see modeling taking place at the database layer within Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012. This, I should say is taking and modeling the dataset's that make up Dynamics AX 2012, through the use of table type hierarchies.

One could argue this point as more focring OO design concepts, onto relational data. Such concepts are not in place within Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, with it's use of super types and sub-types for table objects. However, taking and designing such dataset layouts is based on a data modeling concept.

The goal here: Greater flexibility, with reduced size and greater noramilzation

For this area, we have not seen much in the public domain released yet. Only talked about. However in two weeks Microsoft will be releasing the compiled contect from #DAXCONF. With this release, we will see more concreate and abstract examples of this. ;-)

Moving up the chain, from the data layer, and into the business process layer, we see Workflows within Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012.

The above is a screen shot, from the following, in which the AX '6'+WF+.Net 4.0 preview was done, by Microsoft. Of course we know this now as the WF within Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012. Dynamics AX 6, DotNet 4 and the WF Designer

This modeling, for functional and technical consultants, will be a huge game changer. This alone with change the face of how Microsoft Dynamics AX ERP implementations are designed, planned, developed and executed. Why? you ask

Go back to modeling the world, and the theme being applied. This is Model Driven Development, for AX, at it's next level. Bringing the documentation of a process, the configuration of a process, and the modeling of a process together with WF.

In doing so, taking and raising the level in which business process modeling, or BP Modeling, takes place. It will use code elements, which some will be custom, or veritcal specific. However the idea is less code, and more modeling. Therefore taking and allowing the knowledgable BA or functional consultant to model a process with WF and AX 2012, and enable that process in doing so.

This is where the concepts of DSL's or Domain Specific Languages start to apply to Dynamics AX in a pratical way, to help resolve and address a companies business domain issues.

The point: Simplify the configuration and setup of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 for a customer, with less code and more modeling.

So as we can see, modeling the world is a theme very much a part of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012. This truely is a Generational Shift with ERP design, and one that we all need to understand --- at all the levels it exists. It is going to change how we think, design, develop, deploy and run Microsoft Dynamics AX.

That's all for now, but be sure this is the first in many post. We are just getting started, with so much more to cover. Check back soon, as more to come!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

DAXCONF 11 still live and kicking

I am at the last regular day for DAXCONF and let me say I am tired. My brain is packed full of information overload. So much to talk about and cover, and I will have article coming after the conference actually on all the topics.

Continue to go to twitter and search #daxconf for keep track of information.

Check back and there is so much coming!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Strong Statements during keynote at DAXCONF

While at the keynote session at DAXCONF, I noticed a strong undertone. This has nothing to do with the model theme, which by the way is for sure a dominating word.

No this is more around the following facts.:

  • 1.) First section of the keynote started out in VS2010.

  • 2.) Second section of the keynote, started out in EP.

  • 3.) Final section started out in Office.

Surely, from reading the above list, you can see the onw area that nothing started out in? I am talking about the rich client.

While none of these options can totally replace, or is even intended to replace the rich client of AX, as point out here.: Official Details about Dynamics AX '6' released, including comments from Microsofts Kees Hertogh, its still a very strong statement from Microsoft, that for AX 2012, the rest of the stack matters.

It matters not just to integration specialist, or some one of processes. No, it matter to core processes, to those people that feed and work with the AX Rich client everyday.

With all the great stuff taking place in AX 2012, there is plenty of room for advancement within the community, in helping Partners and Customers understand the true value of what is really taking place.

With all this said, tomorrow should be a great day filled with even better sessions. I hope everyone is enjoying the conference, and if your not here, just check out my twitter account. See you next time!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Great first day at DAXCONF

Today has been a great first session filled day for DAXCONF. So much to cover and talk about. Topics ranging from new architecture approaches, architecture design of AX 2012, new investments in the global address book and importance of party dataset.

More of course, including the break down of model, and modeling used throughout the concepts and solution development and management within AX 2012. Also included in part of this is development changes, including event handlers, that can be activated both pre and post event activation, as well as managed code development that inerwcts and works with Xpp objects near natively.

I will be covering all of this is great detail, but I did want to take and get this information out. I am actually sitting in the modeling and metadata session right now, and my brain is full of all kinds of wonderful things, questions and possibilities with all the new features.

When Hal Howard said this is going to be a generational shift, and Crispin Read explained what the thought behind this meant, well they are correct. This is a new generation of ERP, for s new and brave dynamic business world.

That'd all for now, however I will continue to cover the event on my twitter account, and also blog post here.

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Monday, January 17, 2011

The Value of Conferences like DAXCONF

Today I wrote my lastest column on the official Microsoft Dynamics Community site. You can find that article here.: When to introduce Convergence, AXUG & MSDW Decisions to a new Client

Being here at #DAXCONF, I thought it was a nice point to be made.

Being in the Partner Community, and being focused mostly on the implementation side of things, it's easy to get into the "focus of the project".

So not only is it important for Customers to maximize thier ROI for AX, but also for Partners, that both types of focuses take a part in these Community "gears" or drivers.

I hope the point comes across, because I think it's a very important statement to the customer, and important they think about these resources early on, so the stage can be set for them to take full advantage of all the resources that are around them.

So make sure Partners and tell your Customers about these great resources, and events, and the value of being involved!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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DAXCONF 2011 - A look towards tomorrow

Well after a long flight, on a older 737 (yes 737 from East to West Coast... most unpleasant), I arrived late at the #DAXCONF last night.

Its tough going from East Coast to West Coast. I can bet, that those European Peers of mine, have it a lot tougher though!

It's finally here though, the week in which the Dynamics Ecosystem can consume and talk more opennly in a public fashion about the next release of Microsoft's flagship ERP package called Microsoft Dynamics AX.

Today is actually a very light schedule, with registration around lunch time, and then a meet and greet later this evening. It's kinda of like the 'deep breath' or quite before the storm of information that will lash about starting tomorrow.

Kicking off tomorrow, is the keynote, in which Kees Hertogh gave us some things to look for, during my interview with his last week.: Official Details about Dynamics AX '6' released, including comments from Microsofts Kees Hertogh.

It should be a great keynote actually, as Hal Howard, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Dynamics, and Crispin Read, General Manager, Dynamics ERP "Highlights the generational shift in technology that Dynamics AX ‘6’ represents"

I think the use of the phrase 'generational shift in technology' will end up being a good way to summarize all the great new improvements, and product stack investments that AX '6' will have and make use of.

From the keynote the day is packed, like every other day will be through Friday, having deeper dives into all the improvements, both technical and functional, that will be apart of the Dynamics AX '6' Official release to the public.

I have my schedule picked already, and so tomorrow I will be attending the following.:

  • Opening Keynote

  • Architecture: Reviewing What We did and
    Why in the Newest Microsoft Dynamics AX

  • Investments in Global Address Book

  • Developing in .NET Managed Code and other
    X++ Enhancements

  • Models and the Meta Data Architecture

  • Models and Meta Data Architecture Q&A

There are a lot of great sessions and wish I could attend them all. That is, however, impossible. So I will cover as much as I can, while on-site here at the Microsoft campus.

For those that are attending, and make use of Twitter, make sure to use the #DAXCONF hash tag. And for those that are not here, you can follow my twitter account: @DynamicsERP, as well as this blog. Also, feel free to click on the above #DAXCONF links, and you will be taking to see all tweets that are about #DAXCONF.

That's all for now, I hope everyone had safe travels, and those watching and waiting that you get the information needed to help kick off your learning plans for Microsoft Dynamics AX '6'!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Microsoft Dynamics AX 2011 Technical Conference Next Week!

Well, we are finally at the point to where Microsoft Dynamics AX '6' information will be flowing like crazy soon. A lot of information, deep dives, talk & chalk, Q&A will be taking place next week at Redmond.

I am talking about the Microsoft Dynamics AX 2011 Technical Conference. Kees Hertogh, which I interviewed here: Official Details about Dynamics AX '6' released, including comments from Microsofts Kees Hertogh this past Monday, just posted recently a nice resource for the session content, travel, etc. You can find his post here.: Preparing for the Dynamics AX Technical Conference next week…

This has been a real build up, and a lot of people are ready to get their collective hands on AX '6' and all that it brings. We have had some previews of what to expect, and it should be a great event.

Like I have stated earlier, I will be covering this event live from my twitter account.: DynamicsERP @ Twitter (Has tagged: #DAXCONF).

I will also have plenty to write and post about as well. I hope to see some of you there, and if not, keep an eye here for information about AX '6'!

See you next week!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Expert SSRS with AX Tip from Michael Stashwick

One of the things I like to do, from time to time, is have guest bloggers appear here. This is to help bring more and more relevant content to you, the readers of this blog.

A new person, to the blogging ring this time is a fellow peer at Sunrise Technologies, that goes by the name of Michael Stashwick. He is a Senior Technical Architect, like myself, and have a lot of passion for AX and Technology.

One area that Michael seems to focus on a lot is BI and AX. I have wrote a lot over the years about BI, from concepts, to specific technical howto's. Today falls into that howto or technical tip area.

Without getting to much into the debate of how SSRS should be used with Dynamics AX, Michael choose for his first guest post to focus on using native SSRS reports with AX.

This is not the Dynamics AX SSRS Visual Studio focused reports, but rather trying to take and offer best of both worlds. So with that, I will give the "blogging stick" over to Michael.:

A common debate in every Dynamics AX implementation is, “What tool should I use for custom reporting?” For many years, the battle was between using native MorphX reporting, and SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS), a widely used tool that can be used against any SQL database. In AX 2009, another contender emerged, AX 2009 SRS, which is a hybrid of the previous two choices.

AX 2009 SRS reports is a SQL reporting option that can access Dynamics AX business logic, as well as inherit AX security--and run natively in Dynamics AX, which is one of the best arguments as this reduces end user confusion in their search for data. Unfortunately, AX 2009 SRS reports void the great functionality found in Report Manager (report subscriptions, caching, file share, e-mailing, et al), which is one of the reasons to go down the road of SQL reporting in the first place.

With a little ingenuity, SSRS reports can appear to run natively in a Dynamics AX 2009 environment, which not only provides the most professional, native aesthetic, but in my opinion, make SSRS the best reporting option available.

First, open Visual Studio and create a new Dynamics AX Reporting project. Give the project a meaningful name, one that will ultimately be the same file name as the SSRS report.

Next, deploy the blank project to Dynamics. This will create an AX 2009 Report Library in the AOT.

This is the aforementioned ingenuity. Report Libraries reference files [only] in the Dynamics folder in Report Manager. The file name is the only connection between the deployed report and library.

Now all we have to do is create a SSRS report in Business Intelligence Development Studio (BIDS) with the same Report Definition Language (RDL) filename as the Report Library, which is ExampleSSRS in this case.

Create a new SSRS report in BIDS, or preferred application. Remember that the SSRS report project can be any meaningful name, but the report file itself must match the name of the Report Library.

Upload the RDL to the Dynamics folder in Report Manager. If the proper target server URL is setup in the Report Server Project in BIDS, it can also be deployed to Report Manager from there.

Next, in AX, create an output menu object. Make sure that the object type is SQLReportLibraryReport, and that the object is the name of the Report Library.

Now, the menu object can be placed in an AX menu, or called via x++. Parameters can still be passed through the URL in an Args object, albeit rendering format, report values, or command parameters (refer to URL Access on MSDN MSDN - SSRS URL Access), just disclude the portion of the report server and name.

The following example runs the report, renders it in HTML, leaves the toolbar visible, but hides any parameters:

When the report is run, it will appear natively in an AX 2009 window, and no one will know the report was actually written in SQL.


Well I would like to thank Michael for taking the time and sharing this nice tip. I hope that this is just the first from Michael, and we hear about many more tips and tricks when it comes to BI / Reporting related topics for Dynamics AX.

Here is Michael's Bio:
Michael Stashwick is a Senior Technical Architect at Sunrise Technologies. He has been working with Dynamics AX since version 3.0 in tandem with many Business Intelligence projects focusing on SSRS and SSAS for Dynamics AX.

Michael has a bachelor's degree in Business Information Technology with focuses on Decision Support Systems and Operations Management from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. He is also a Microsoft Certified Business Management Solutions Professional.

That's it for now. Make sure to follow me on twitter.: DynamicsERP on Twitter For next week, as I bring you live coverage of the Microsoft Dynamics AX 2011 Technical Conference. (#DAXCONF). I will also be creating a lot of new blog post, and guest columns throughout the Dynamics Community sites, based on the contect from next week. See you then!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Official Details about Dynamics AX '6' released, including comments from Microsofts Kees Hertogh

Here we are, kicking off 2011 with a bang for Microsoft Dynamics AX! Next week in the Microsoft Dynamics AX 2011 Technical Conference, in which the primary focus in on Microsoft Dynamics AX '6'.

To kick things off, Microsoft today did a press release, in which official details about the Microsoft Dynamics AX '6' product was released. A direct link to the Press Release can be found here.: Microsoft Previews Next-Generation ERP

This press release was well covered by both MSDynamicsWorld.com, here: Microsoft Confirms Details of Upcoming Dynamics AX "6" Version, as well as MaryJo Over at ZDNet, on her 'All About Microsoft' blog, found here.: 2011 to be a big year for Microsoft in ERP

In reading the press release, and extra coverage, I had to many questions that I wanted to get more details about, for the AX '6' news that was released today. So Kees Hertogh, Director, Product Management, Microsoft Dynamics AX agreed to do a phone interview with me.

Below is the result of that interview.:

Q: Kees, one of the highlighted features of AX '6' is the unique model-driven, layered architecture. However this already exists in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009. Can you share more details about how Dynamics AX '6' improves this area?

Kees: It is true that the layered concept already exists in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009. However there have been a lot of improvements in this area for AX '6'.

One of the biggest improvements, is around enabling ISV solutions to be installed into the same layer, without issue. Before, even with Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009, one would have to manually compare the code from two ISV solutions, then import, 'fixing' the objects so they could work together in the same layer. Now with Microsoft Dynamics AX '6' that is no longer a need.

The model-driven development aspect somewhat exist in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009, however we have really improved on this, as you and I have talked before. (see: Interview with Microsoft's Kees Hertogh)

With moving the application code, and meta-data of the objects to a SQL Server Database, this opens a whole new world for developers and customers with Dynamics AX '6' around model driven development.

For example, now with a single click, web forms can be generated from rich client forms, with no extra coding needed. This, along with other things will be shown during the keynote of next weeks Dynamics AX 2011 Technical Conference.

Q: Kees, the second listed bullet in the press release, focuses around Microsoft Dynamics AX '6' Pre-built interoperability with products like Office 2010, SharePoint 2010 & Visual 2010. This too though, actually exists 'technically' with Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009. Can you shed some light on how Dynamics AX '6' improves or offers more in this area?

Kees: For us this is a big area of improvement actually. It is true, that at the server level, and some at the client level, Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009 has interoperability with the above mentioned products. However, not at the level you are going to see next week at the Dynamics AX 2011 Technical Conference.

You see a lot of our compotiers, for example, need middleware to ineract with products like Microsoft Office 2010. This is true at the server and client level. What we have done with Microsoft Dynamics AX '6', is get rid of the need for any such middleware, ineractions through COM, etc.

So for the client interop, we are blurring the lines between Microsoft Dynamics AX '6' client, and Office 2010. By this, I mean for the user experience level. Making the UI's more similar, having functionality within Office, that can more natively interact with Dynamics AX '6' out of the box. This does not mean that Office 2010 can replace the Rich Client of Dynamics AX '6'. However it does mean, that for the user, that loves to Excel - which happens to be the most widely used piece of software in the world - then that seemless experience will now exists, with having to do nothing more than install Dynamics AX '6' and Office 2010.

For developers, a lot of time is typically spent on getting the right hooks, and defined interactions to take place, in order to have this kind of interop we will now be offering with Dynamics AX '6' and Microsoft Office 2010. These kinds of efforts will save developers a lot of time, when customizing and developing solutions for Microsoft Dynamics AX '6' that include Office 2010 and the other Microsoft product stack offerings.

There are also big improvements, for example around Dynamcis AX and SSRS. For more native development, and features that come as part of SSRS, to work more natively, with less headache and setup issues that we have seen before.

These are just two examples, that you will see, along with others at the Tech Conference next week. It's important to note, that this is how we look at interoperability. Both Server and Client. As well as End User and Developer.

Q: Kees, you have mentioned several times in the interview about next weeks Tech Conference, and I know I have been talking about it since last Sept. What do you see as the 'big picture' take away for next week?

Kees: Next weeks Technical Conference should not be seen as a goal, or an end point. It should not be a conference you go to, and then just walk away. It just be viewed as a jump start to you and your companies ramp up plan for Microsoft Dynamics AX '6' release in Q3.

There will be a lot of coverage, with all kinds of great sessions, topics, etc. However, one should walk away and have viewed the conference as the starting point to build their own ramp up for AX '6' with.

This goes for the developer, the implementer and the customer. It's very important that everyone who attends, and is serious about Microsoft Dynamics AX '6' do their homework, and walk away from the conference with a sense of direction for creating their own plans for training, and knowledge sharing within their own companies.

Well once again, I would like to thank Microsoft, and Kees for taking the time to allow me to virtually sit down and pick his brain. I will be attending next weeks, conference - as long as the 7 inches of ice and snow melts away that is currently around me. (Yes that much in Alabama! Roll Ice Roll I guess?)

We have a lot to look forward too next week, and I will be covering the event from my twitter account and this blog.

That's all for now, check back soon as I have a new guest blogger, with his first column appearing at the end of this week. See you then!

Also, for those who are not familiar with Kees Hertogh, below is his bio.:
Kees Hertogh is a director for Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS). He leads the Microsoft Dynamics AX Global Product Management team. In his current role, Hertogh is responsible for developing and driving global product strategy for Microsoft Dynamics AX.

In 1999, Hertogh joined Navision a/s, which was later acquired by Microsoft Corp. Before leading the product management for Microsoft Dynamics AX, he worked in the Microsoft Business Solutions marketing strategy group as director of the group’s competitive strategy, and before that he was a group product manager on Project Green. Before joining Microsoft, he held the position of product director on the MBS management team at Microsoft Netherlands, and was responsible for local product strategy and the local product management and development teams.

Hertogh has a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a focus on management accounting from Haarlem Business School in the Netherlands. He also achieved Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) status from the Association for Operations Management (APICS).

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Thursday, January 06, 2011

Interview with Apparel and Fashion Veteran, Joe Fink

Recently, I had the pleasure to, virtually, sit down with a Mr. Joe Fink and talk shop around Microsoft Dynamics AX.

For those of you that may not know Joe Fink, he has been around the Fashion and Apparel industries for years, including.:

- 25 years of focused Apparel, Fashion, Retail & Wholesale Experience
- Served as CIO / COO for: Guess?, Nautica and GNC
- Specializing in ERP Implementations, including focusing on Microsoft Dynamics AX

Joe Fink's Site: FinkConsultants.com
Joe Fink's LinkedIn Profile.: Joe Fink on LinkedIn

Being now an independant consultant, Joe has actually work with us for some of our clients.

In these projects, he was a great assest to both us and the client, in helping get the project done, and done right!

So, with the new year, I thought it was time to kick my interviews off with Mr. Fink, and pick his brain a little bit about Dynamics AX, and other things. The following is the result of that interview.:

1) Joe, as a Former CIO of Guess, and now Consultant - what is your take on Microsoft Dynamics AX, and why you think it's a top ranked ERP / SCM platform?

I think Microsoft Dynamics AX is a very exciting product. There are so many things that I like about the system so it’s difficult to pick a few features, but the things that come to mind immediately are flexibility, tight integration between the modules, the layering concept, and the state of the art technology.

2) Can you give us a more detail on what you mean by flexibility, and layering?
One of my clients had a very diverse product line (Jewelry, Apparel, and Furniture). We installed Microsoft Dynamics AX and we were able to support all three areas of the business without significant modifications.

As a former CIO I love the fact that the Microsoft Dynamics AX ERP system is fairly easy to modify, and that those modifications can be carried forward into future releases of Microsoft Dynamics AX. The layering concept is what makes this possible. For any CIO this is a powerful concept because it protects your software investment.

3) If you could give a company thinking about Dynamics AX some advice, a couple of points, what would those be?

Have a dedicated Project Manager. This person should be someone that has had the experience of managing an ERP project to a successful implementation. The project manager should be a good communicator, and should hold regularly scheduled meetings to discuss the progress of the project and to solve any issues or obstacles that may impact the project. Management of the company should show support for the project and the project manager by attending the meetings, and being actively involved.

4) When companies look at Dynamics AX, what kind of ROI elements exist with choosing Microsoft Dynamics AX that might get overlooked?

Any company installing an ERP system should think about how to bring value to its customers. An ERP system should help a company improve its inventory accuracy, on time delivery, and process improvement.

The MIS / IT department can and should have benefits like reduced “Total Cost of Ownership”, reduced maintenance costs, and a lesser dependence on “technical heavyweights”. I have found that many companies don’t think of the MIS or computer department when think about quanatative benefits of ERP.

5) In the industries where you do most of your consulting, what are some solutions that that work well with Microsoft Dynamics AX in expanding the solution footprint to product development?

Most of my work is in the Apparel industry. The nature of our business says we depend on the introduction of new products. We therefore need a strong PLM or Product Lifecycle Management system. Companies like Sunrise Technologies that have a relationship with a company like PTC and can bring that PLM capability to the table with Microsoft Dynamics AX have a significant advantage.

If you are thinking about installing an ERP system I recommend that you include Microsoft Dynamics AX as part of your evaluation process. We have discussed a number of excellent features of the Microsoft Dynamics AX system, but we were able to share only a small part of the systems capabilities.

One of the most important things that Microsoft Dynamics AX can do is to serve as a vehicle that can transform a business. There are many best practices that are built into code that can bring real gains in productivity and cost reduction to any business. I can say this because I have experienced it with my implementations. If you need more information on how my customers we were able to do this please contact me, and I will share with you how we were able to use Microsoft Dynamics AX to accomplish our goals. I will be attending the National Retail Federation in NYC from 01/12/2011 thru 01/13/11. For more information go to www.nrf.com/annual11. Thank You

I would like to take the time to thank Mr. Joe Fink for this interview. I hope you have enjoyed hearing about Microsoft Dynamics AX, from a Fashion and Retail industry leader. I think such insights on Microsoft Dynamics AX and PTC's FlexPLM are most valuable! Feel free to go and see Mr. Joe Fink and Sunrise at the NRF next week!

That's all for now, check back though as more to come. We are very close to the AX 2011 Technical Conference! I will be covering from my blog and twitter account, as well as plenty of write ups afterwards!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Tuesday, January 04, 2011

2011 is here, and the Clouds are still forming!

Last year, I wrote this article, to kick off 2010.: The Year of the Cloud: How Coming Microsoft Products Will Make Dynamics AX the Basis of New Solutions

In this article from the start of last year, I declared 2010 to be the year of the cloud. After years of talking and Microsoft as well as Google having 2009 filled with beta's and some releases, 2010 can for sure be marked, at least for Microsoft, the Year of the Cloud.

This can also be said, for other companies as well, as for the Microsoft 'All In' marketing tag line, I can bet more partners and customers of Microsoft learned about 'The Cloud' than in any other previous year.

Ending the year, Microsoft taclked the consumer end of the cloud, with commericals showing off Windows Live services and Windows 7 working together.

Also at the end of the year, there was this article wrote, that questions Microsoft's 'All in - bu Dynamics'. The arctile can be found here.:
Microsoft is “All In” for the Cloud, but What About Dynamics?

Also at the end of the year, there was an article by Richard Hunter, who writes at the following location.: A Buyer's Guide to Accounting Software - Online Accounting Software. The article questions Microsoft's 'All in - but Dynamics'. It can be found here.:
Microsoft is “All In” for the Cloud, but What About Dynamics?

In his article, Richard actually does a good job at taking and laying out why Dynamics ERP is not a true cloud solution yet. Such solutions, when looking at ERP, are smaller ones. Lower end ERP solutions, that don't have the deep product level that products like Dynamics AX has.

Also, for example, cloud based solutions like NetSuite, and others, are very scary solutions. What happens if NetSuite, and their *cough* single point of failure goes belly up? They don't pay their bills? Where do you think that customer data will be?

Getting taking out of the leased Datacenter space, and sold! Scary if you ask me for sure!

Beyond that however, and going back to the fact, that those who are demanding cloud based only ERP solutions are smaller shops. So when hunter points to this fact.:

""Most Importantly, if Microsoft did commit to moving Dynamics to the cloud, would the market be ready?""

He goes on, and I agree, to answer with a sure No! And this is the truth. Sure some companies are, but the fact still remains that trust is an issue with the cloud.

Taking to the point of Hunters post, he asked what is our take? Being involved deeply with the Dynamics Community, and have been writing about cloud computing for nearly 5 years now as it relates to AX, I have the following thoughts.:

Microsoft Dynamics ERP will be 100% cloud only, or on premise - and a hybrid mix of those offerings by choice of module.

Attending Convergence 2010 last April, Hal Howard, and Mike E., both stated in the Future on ERP, that Microsoft Dynamics ERP will be developed actually for the Cloud First. Just as Dynamics CRM is now.

What will run on Azure, and therefore take on the benefits of scale, will also run on-premise, or in a hybrid mode.

And that last peice, the hybrid clouds, where some things are on-premise while others are in the cloud, will be the normal selection for most companies that use the cloud and ERP, for the next 2-3 major release cycles of Dynamics.

Within the next 2-3 major releases, I am predicting that you will see a formal plan for Dynamics ERP.

That is a single source code, development, workflow, that takes and offers - depending on size and needs, the best of breed from all the current Dynamics offerings.

I believe deep now as well, that Dynamics AX, being the flagship of the Dynamics ERP brands, will be what Dynamics ERP mostly looks like, when that 2019-2021 release of Dynamics ERP takes place.

So yes, I am putting a year out there.: 2019-2021 Is when I believe that Dynamics ERP will exist.

By this time, what we know of cloud computing will be changed in a dramatic way. What we view the cloud today, is like viewing the internet now, compared to the dial-up days of the 90's.

In this area and realm, we will see were is truely does not matter to the end customer if it's on-premise or not.

Now take a step back and look towards Dynamics AX '6.0' and what we have been publicly told on this blog and other resources by Microsoft Dynamics Team. SOA within Dynamics AX. That means the ability to split out modules, which is a step to take and this module and that module on-premise or not.

The move for the kernel in AX '6.0' to be wrote in IL, or MSIL, which is to say .Net based kernel. This means, running on Azure, or services possibly running on Azure.

Now I am not saying AX 6, is the cloud version of Dynamics AX. That's never been said by anyone I have interview at Microsoft, and I doubt very seriously that will be the case.

Instead, we are seeing a move, along with the some rate of customer or Market readiness, that allows the creation of services in the cloud, that can be used with a Dynamics AX investment. As these Hybrid clouds build out, and the years go on, more and more can live in the cloud, vs. on-premise...

Still, and most important to understand, a choice will exists. Because even when Cloud Computing of the future, in that 2019-2021 time frame arrives, still then there will be plenty of companies that will not use the cloud as much as others.

Even with it's ability to scale, the cloud, like all ways of creating, consuming and serving software and services - has it's pros and cons.

We also must look at a product like Dynamics AX, which sits on the top of the Microsoft stack, and see that it must lag behind Microsoft's move into the cloud. Technologies must be developed, frameworks must exists and be tested, so that when released, a business system, or system of record like Dynamics AX, is released and it works!

When it comes to the CEO, the Product Manager, the Buyer, the CFO. Technology is great, but it better work. If it does not work, or is not trusted... it can be the best, but it will only be the best peice of crap that company will never use.

To finalize, Richard has a timely post, and one that I hope makes everyone question and think. However I do believe we know how this is playing out for Dynamics, and that Microsoft is doing this correctly. Building this out, as the rate the market is ready for it.

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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