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Friday, February 25, 2011

Update on the Connector for Microsoft Dynamics AX and CRM

This week, Microsoft released a new "out-of-the-box" connector for Microsoft Dynamics AX and Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

I covered this release, in the following blog post.: Out-of-the-box Connector for Dynamics AX and CRM

I had an open question to Microsoft, specifically around how the connrector would, or could be used for developing deeper or vertical specific integrations, or workflows. If the connector would be the base, or if a total custom integration would still have to exists.

I got feedback from Elizabeth Alexander, senior product manager, Microsoft Dynamics ERP, who is involved deeply with the Connector itself. This is the feedback she gave me.:

"Assuming what you’re asking is basically ‘can the connector be extended to cover customizations’, that the short answer is yes. The extent of work required depends on whether it's a case of adding fields to existing maps, creating entirely new maps, or new services need to be enabled in Microsoft Dynamics AX. The connector is a constant, it's the maps and integration components that get extended or created to support additional integration scenarios."

So we have our answer here to this, in that you extend this connector through it's integration components and field maps. This is what I was hoping would be the case, and so this new connector should be considered the base in which more complex workflows and integrations are designed between AX and CRM.

That's all for now, a big thanks to Angie L. for helping me get this answer. She is always so very helpful!

Till next time!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

New Community Article: To Upgrade or Not To Upgrade. Is that the Question?

Well as promised, I have my new community article up, for the Official Microsoft Dynamics Community Site.

A direct link to the article can be found here.: To Upgrade or Not To Upgrade. Is that the Question?

From a higher level, most all technical aspect aside, in this article I try to lay the ground work in which companies can use, to ask themselves what is the right choice? Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009 or Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012.

From this article, I will link back to, and build more details on my blog here. Some technical, and some not.

The end result, is meant to try and drive the right decision for you and your company!

Enjoy, and see you next time!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Out-of-the-box Connector for Dynamics AX and CRM

Today, Microsoft has a new press release focusing on some new tools that allow customers to possibly save time and money. The full press release can be found here.: New Microsoft Dynamics ERP Resources Save Customers Time and Money

"Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq “MSFT”) today announced new resources to help improve productivity and save Microsoft Dynamics enterprise resource planning (ERP) customers time and money through new interoperable Microsoft technologies. The new resources include an out-of-the-box connector between Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Microsoft Dynamics AX and a Data Migration Assistant for Microsoft Dynamics AX customers moving from an Oracle database to Microsoft SQL Server.

“These offerings help enable Microsoft Dynamics ERP customers to take full advantage of the benefits of Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Microsoft SQL Server in an easy and cost- effective way,” said Guy Weismantel, director, Microsoft Dynamics ERP Product Marketing. “By offering out-of-the-box interoperability with these Microsoft technologies, as well as Microsoft Office 2010, Microsoft SharePoint 2010 and Microsoft Visual Studio 2010, we’re further supporting our customers’ path to becoming dynamic businesses.”"

Both are great moves by Microsoft, but for this post I want to focus on the out-of-the-box Connector between Microsoft Dynamics AX and CRM.

Before this official release, connectors between these two products where developed either by VAR, custom for a given customer, or where developed by third party ISV's that focused in a specific vertical expertise.

Now with this new out-of-the-box connector, we have a base level of integration between Microsoft Dynamics AX and Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Lets look at this closely though, and think about the nature of both CRM and AX.

Both are very flexible, and both can look way different from one customer to the next. What is being attempted is to offer a way for more standard integration to be achieved between these two products and their data.

This is great, and for a lot of customers this will most likely fit the bill for enabling the integration between the two products. There will still however be a need for custom integrations, workflows, and vertical / industry specific integrations that go deeper than what can be achieved with this new 'out-of-the-box' offering.

I bold this point, so that we can understand what this offers, and still want will exists within the Dynamics Ecosystem, in the form of need of services, and software that enable deeper integration for these two products and their respective datasets.

I have not yet had a chance to dig deep technically into this new offering, and I have a pending question out to Microsoft if this is an open integration in which such deeper, vertical specific needs can be built on top or, or used to connfigure from. Once I have that answer I will let you know.

Needless to say this is a very right move, and will help enable the adoption of Microsoft Dynamics CRM for existing Microsoft Dynamics AX customers that might not already use CRM but want to move from the 'Sales & Marketing Module' within AX to a more robust CRM solution.

That's all for now, but check back soon as more to come!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Software Advice Video Interview series about Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012

I wanted to post about a new series of video interviews that were created by Software Advice. The first in this series was released yesterday, and will continue with a new one today.

This first in this series on Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 can be found here.: What's new in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012

These are being published via YouTube, and are a great look at what all is going on with Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012. Guy Weismantel, Microsoft's Director - ERP Marketing, is the voice from Microsoft in this video that goes into What's new. It's at a high level, with some details and highlights that fellow bloggers like Dilip (Dilip's Blog) and myself are covering. One thing that is touched upon, is the fact of how the generational shift Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 represents means for tackling the larger and larger deals that older software packages like SAP have so long held a pricey death grip on.

Today's video interview is meant to focus on the Cloud and what that means for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 and beyond.

I will link to each of these as I see they are posted, and keep an eye for more post by me and others for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, and more!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Highlight: AXUG AX2012 Review by Gary Holsopple

I wanted to take the time, to kick off this week and highlight a presentation that took place this past Friday. This was done as part of AXUG webinar. It was a session on an overall look at the technical changes, from an architect and developers point of view.

A direct link to the presentation can be found here.: AXUG AX2012 by Gary Holsopple

This is a very nice presentation, done by a true AX Pro, that is involved in the Community, specifically through AXUG and his work he shares with the world. I am talking about Gary Holsopple, and I have the pleasure of first meeting Gary at AXUG Summit, this past October.

You can find out more about Gary, by checking out his linkedin profile.: Gary Holsopple on LinkedIn

I would like to thank Gary for using my blog as a source for this presentation, and I hope everyone enjoyed and got a lot out of Gary's efforts.

I for one think it's a very cool presentation, and is a good re-cap of all the posting that are going on right now. Thanks Gary for sharing, and keep it up!

That's all for now, but more to come this week, including my next column for the Official Microsoft Dynamics Community Sites!

Till next time!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 and the importance of PowerPivot

As my continued series on Microsoft's next release of AX, Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, I wanted to take and focus around Microsoft Office PowerPivot.

I first wrote about this topic back in May of 2009, which you can find here.: The Future of Microsoft BI: Project 'Gemini'

In that article, I attempted to explain the benefits and purpose of what then project Gemini, and now that we know it as PoverPivot, will have for Dynamics AX.

Today, with Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009 and the Office 2010 system PowerPivot is already being used in some forms or fashion, however as I pointed out in a previous AX 2012 post, through the use of OData feeds, it will have a much bigger role. Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, OData and EDM

Moving beyond this, lets think about what PowerPivot means for a customer. The point of PowerPivot is to enable true self service BI within a company. To allow IT depts to control, through security, access to certain datasets, published feeds, etc. that can then be handed off to power users, who can consume and work with those feeds, published cubes, etc. to perform self service BI with that given data and it's context.

PowerPivot takes the need of having every little cube type, out of the hands of a OLAP developer, and places its ability to get at the same data within the power users that need to define the model and reporting results desired.

Looking at this from Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 point of view, we will see PowerPivot users consuming AX data, in really three ways.:

This is very powerful stuff, because all of these ways of exposing datasets that come from Dynamics AX 2012, all interact and get their respective data through the Application layer.

Very important to understand this point, and so it's very powerful indeed. What you will have then is a Developer, or Architect create a Cube from a perspective within AX, also maybe a couple of Query Object based OData feeds, as well as some AX SSRS reports. These can then be consumed by a PowerPivot user, with proper security context and rights to perform self service BI needs.

There is a great article on Microsoft TechNet about consuming SSRS 2008 R2 Atom Data Feeds for PowerPivot.

"With the release of SSRS 2008 R2, we now have a new rendering extension to render Atom data feeds from SSRS reports. You use this extension to generate Atom-compliant data feeds that are readable and exchangeable with applications that can consume data feeds generated from reports. For example, you can use the Atom rendering extension to generate data feeds that you can then use in the SQL Server 2008 R2 PowerPivot client."

Now will these replace the need for dashboards, No! In fact these will help enable more AX mashups, that mix and match technology, that enable secure access to company data, while enabling the users tools they need to get at and work with that data.

That's all for now, but check back soon as more to come!

Till next time!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

2011 Top 100, and I was interviewed

Well, I have plenty in store for you this week for AX 2012, new column soon on the Microsoft Dynamics Community Site on upgrade decisions, as well as my continued series on MSDynamicsWorld.com.

As a little break from that schedule, I thought I would post about the fact that DynamicsWorld.co.uk has openned their doors once again for the Top 100 Most Influential People for 2011, in the Microsoft Dynamics.

Right now you can go to this link, Nomiate Someone, and nominate someone that you think deserves this honor. They are very specific about how these are awarded, and lay out on their site how this is achieved.

I also wanted to point out that DynamicsWorld.co.uk took the time to interview me. You can find that direct link here.: Interview - Brandon George - February 2011

That's all for now, I hope you enjoyed my interview answers! Check back soon as a WHOLE lot more to come!

Till next time!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

StandOut International - Standing up for those who cant do so on their own

Well I enjoyed a day off yesterday, and got to spend sometime with my girls. Got to watch them laugh, and have a good time. Play, worry free, and enjoy a warm, safe home --- together.

With that said, I can't help but think about how both of my girls could fall prey to a most horrible issue that exists not just in the world, but in America all over. That preys on the youth of this country and others, were some are as young as 3,4 & 5 years old when forced into human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Please check out the following link.: StandOut International

Take a little time to read how they are standing up for those that can not, all over the world. See how you can StandOut!

Make no mistake, this is not some far off, third world only problem. In which, America does not suffer from such problems. I will not link to it, but go to backpage.com and you will see young children, being pimped out and sold, as young as 12 and younger, to have sex with men.

Craigslist, finally, stopped their service which enabled this kind of horror to take place. To which the love filled eyes, of our young girls, who want to play, be kids, love and live... are taken, stripped, robbed, stolen.

This is not a wrong any of us should dare to allow it to continue. This is something that needs a louder voice, for all the countless faces here and abroad, that we stop this, and help save our innocent kids, and give a chance to be just that... a kid!

Will you StandOut?

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

MSDW: Getting Ready for Development with Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 – Part One: The Vision

Well as I promised last week, my next focus for coverage of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 would be around Development.

When I started to sit down and write about this, I realized very quickly this would be best served as a four part series. I also am using MSDynamicsWorld.com to write this series of articles on.

So the first in the series in on Vision, and a direct link to that first series in the article set can be found here.: MSDW: Getting Ready for Development with Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 – Part One: The Vision

This is not meant to be a total encompassing technical coverage of development within AX 2012, but rather to help set the stage for the Vision for Developemnt with Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012.

From here I will continue the series with: Training, Approach, & Execution.

When the series is complete, I hope that a better understanding will exists from a higher level, that will help us all be ready to take advantage, and continue to extend our ROI for what we are already doing with AX.

Enjoy and till next time!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Microsoft Dynamics AX Lunch'n Learn for the Furniture Industry

As a break from my coverage of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, I thought I would highlight a new Lunch'n Learn that will focus on Microsoft Dynamics AX for the Furniture Industry.

You can find out details here, about this very focused Lunch'n Learn.: Microsoft Dynamics AX Online Lunch n' Learn for furniture

What's great about these, as they are very similar to Virtual Conferences, in it's all web based, and you can attend from your desk.

Sunrise Technologies, Inc. is hosting this Lunch'n Learn, and will provide for you a delivered lunch of your choice from a local to you location. So some true localization on a learning event taking place here!

This makes it very easy for you to gain knowledge about Microsoft Dynamics AX, and how it can help your company, that operates within the Furniture Industry Space.

At Sunrise, this is a vertical we are well known for, and have deep functional knowledge that we have applied and are applying to customers within this space.

So go ahead, sign up, kick back and enjoy a lunch on us, and maybe have some good take aways that can help you and your company grow!

I have a great new series I am starting over at MSDW focusing on Development and Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, so look for that, as well as my next article on the Official Dynamics Community site and many more post here!

Till next time!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Thursday, February 03, 2011

Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 and Eventing

One of the great new development improvements for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, that was talked about and demoed at the DAXCONF11 was "eventing".

For most people, that have ever done any Object oriented development or programming, eventing is a concept that most familiar.

It's is a concept that is used to fire before, just before or just after a given method call takes place. These can also be design within the middle of a method as well, if a given peice of business logic within the middle of a method, make sense to tie an event too.

If you bring this to a more functional level, you can think of eventing as something that happens for a given object. So if you have PackingSlip and Invoice. These are functional concepts represented by technical objects. Classes, business logic, etc.

So when something happens, you can say a Sales Order was invoiced, or packing slip updated.

To help explain, take a look at the following diagram.:

As you can see, we have a basic workflow of functional concepts taking place. We see that the two main functional concepts are PackingSlip and Invoice.

With these two concepts we see two common "events" or a Pre-PackingSlip Update, and a Post-PackingSlip Update. The same is said for Invoice, in that we have a Pre-Invoiced and a Post-Invoiced. What we also see is a custom, Mid-Invoiced event as well.

From this, we see two events that are used to call into CSharp or Xpp business logic, when these events are fired.

One is Post-PackinSlip and the other from the Custom Mid-Invoice event. This, I hope gives a good construct and idea behind the purpose and use of eventing.

You have the ability to "raise" and event, depending on certain actions within business logic. These events, when raised, have listeners, that can then fire into either Xpp code, or CSharp (.Net) developed code.

Moving forward, events are meant to support the following development concepts.:
  • Observation

  • Information dissemintation

  • Decoupling

After getting into what eventing can offer a customer doing custom development, or an ISV offering vertical expertise, we can see how this can help with the pains of upgrading.

So with eventing and Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, a new possible way to develop custom code for a customer, or as an ISV is offered that has all kinds of great benefits. Everyone that does any development in Microsoft Dynamics AX, that does not undestand eventing, needs to make a priority to understanding eventing.

The above are some great resources to help understand eventings, event, delegates, and technical uses of events from a .Net point of view.

This is very important, as Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 eventing, is based on .Net Eventing Concepts. What you will see, when looking at eventing in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 is.:
  • Producer - business logic or entity that raises an event

  • Consumer - a event listener, or logic called when a specific event is fired

  • Event - the given event called or raised when a process takes place

  • Event Payload - data or information caried within a fired event, for the consumers use

  • Delegate - is defined as informatin that was passed from a producer to a listener or consumer when an event is raised

I hope that you enjoyed this deeper dive into eventing with Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, and eventing concept. It's a great move, that allows all kinds of possibilities, that all of us .Net developers, who also develop in Xpp have been looking for!

Visit Hillstar Business Intelligence (www.HillstarBI.com) in order to truly unlock your data trapped in your Microsoft Dynamics investment. With our value driven business intelligence strategy Hillstar help you transform into a data informed company.

Check back soon, as my next topic will be Development in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009 and 2012. Differences, what's new, what can be done now and in the future.

See you next time!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, OData and EDM

Well as promised in my last post, this next post is going to focus on the move for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 to focus integration and access to data contained within an AX 2012 instance through OData feeds, and EDM. (Entity Data Model Framework).

Mike Ehrenberg, a Microsoft Technical Fellow for Microsoft Dynamics had to say:
"Consistent with that, Microsoft Dynamics AX '6' does provide its own model store -- and per the announcement, a very sophisticated one," Ehrenberg stated in an e-mailed response. "First, the model store has moved from the file system to SQL Server in this release, improving scalability, model reporting, and deployment. Layering in the model store allows efficient support of a base model, extended for localization, industry specialization, and on top of that, ISV vertical specialization, reseller and customer specialization, with the ability to model very granular changes and effectively manage the application deployment lifecycle from ISV through to customer and the upgrade process. We provide a service interface to the model store, and it is possible to layer ODATA or EDM on that service."

One of the things that I saw while at #DAXCONF11 was this concept in full working demo.

I saw a given Query Object be published as a service, and then having that service once published consumed as an OData feed, from within Microsoft PowerPivot, and easily working with the content and layout of the given Query.

To give a little more about OData, check out the following.: OData Home on the web

"The Open Data Protocol (OData) is a Web protocol for querying and updating data that provides a way to unlock your data and free it from silos that exist in applications today. OData does this by applying and building upon Web technologies such as HTTP, Atom Publishing Protocol (AtomPub) and JSON to provide access to information from a variety of applications, services, and stores. The protocol emerged from experiences implementing AtomPub clients and servers in a variety of products over the past several years. OData is being used to expose and access information from a variety of sources including, but not limited to, relational databases, file systems, content management systems and traditional Web sites."

Looking at PowerPivot, one needs simply open up Microsoft Office 2010, and make use of it's native support for OData feeds as a source for data for a given workbook.:

In doing this, we see the power of Office 2010 and Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012. To transform the complex integration needs, into a more simplified approach for creating a service, having it hosted within the AOS and WCF itself, which in turns allows for consumption of the service as an OData feed within Microsoft PowerPivot.

You can take now, and think a little further of having an employee self service page within Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 EP, that would list possible feeds ready for consumption by users, and filtered by the users security context!

This is very powerful, and will change the way integrations are done within Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 and the outside world!

Other area', that I will highlight is the EDM. You can find out more about the purpose and point of EDM here.: MSDN - Entity Data Model

"The Entity Data Model (EDM) is a specification for defining the data used by applications built on the Entity Framework. Applications using the EDM define entities and relationships in the domain of the application in a design schema. The design schema is used to build programmable classes used by application code. Storage structures that persist data for applications in this model are represented in another schema called the storage schema. A mapping specification connects the design schema and the storage schema."

The key here: define[s] entity and relationships in the domain of the application.

This would allow for more structured, domain specific data access within an more complex external service, and allow for more complex and "smarter" integrations with other LOB applications.

If you can take this in a pratical look, having a given external LOB application that can use EDM in such a way that would allow it to better understand the data model that it needs to understand for working with it's part of Microsoft Dynamics AX.

This equals more robust integrations, with less code, and less time!

Well that's all for now, check back soon as I continue the deeper dive of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012. Next on the block is a deeper look at eventing!

"Visit the Dynamics AX Community Page today!"

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