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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Spotlight: To the Cloud with EDI via Data Masons

Today's, I wanted to do a spotlight post on EDI and specifically options for EDI in "the cloud." In looking to have more information on this topic, I always revert to blog sponsor and top ranked ISV Data Mason's. They are the true experts when it comes to EDI and Microsoft Dynamics AX and the defacto choice for EDI needs by Dynamics customers.

With that in mind I virtually sat down with Glenn McPeak - Principal of Data Mason's about their EDI solution, and vision for the cloud. The following is the result of that interview.:

Glenn McPeak - Principal of Data Mason's

1.) When we think about cloud solutions, scale & agility are two attributes that typically take focus in people's minds. Can Data Masons speak to the scale their EDI cloud solution offers customers?

"Interestingly, our largest volume EDI processing customer is cloud-based and has processed more than 5 million sales order lines in a single day into Microsoft Dynamics AX. This customer receives point-of-sales data from thousands of retail stores each day. The customer then has to transform those sales transactions into invoiced orders in order to relieve inventory that needs tracked at the store level so that they can control and plan inventory replenishments. Fortunately, the processing power of the cloud-based data center could be leveraged to handle the spikes in transaction volume that is inherent in EDI relationships. Replicating this processing power in an on-premise environment would have been prohibitively costly.

As far as agility is concerned, there are actually pros and cons that many cloud-based solutions bring to the table. In a multi-tenant environment, where many organizations share a single application instance, the ability to customize the solution can be quite restricted and there is no control over software updates and releases – the software updates and releases are executed at the timing of the solution provider – which is not necessarily beneficial to the customer. The advantage of the multi-tenant solution is that the cost of maintenance is lower for the software provider, which can be passed on to the customer.

Data Masons provides the best of both worlds – a cloud-based EDI solution that can be run in a multi-instance or a single-instance scenario. While the multi-tenant solution has slightly lower operating costs, either option is available based on the needs of our customers. We think it’s important for mission critical solutions to offer this level of control and flexibility for our customers."

2.) Another focus for a lot of companies is making sure their data is secured. Can Data Masons speak to the security that helps govern within the application, as well as access points for the solution in general? Further how was security considered, when thinking about creating the "EDI for the Cloud" offering?

"Data Security is paramount to the types of transactional data that is the norm in an EDI processing environment. We employ AS2 communication and PCI compliant transaction handling (when appropriate) through our Value Added Network solution (VAN). Data Masons is thoroughly committed to the Microsoft Azure platform and our application follows all of the best practices set forth by Microsoft."

3.) The next major focus for customers, when they start to evaluate cloud solutions is the service level. What kind of service level agreements exists for the "EDI for the Cloud" offering?

"Service level agreements for cloud-based applications are more definable as the solution provider is responsible for application, data and infrastructure. As a result, cloud-based options are more appealing to organizations that want to limit the points of failure and have those failures rest on a single (or a few) set(s) of shoulders."

4.) In looking towards the future, what is Data Masons doing for investments towards their "EDI for the Cloud" offering?

"Our architecture and technology design enables our solution to be run on-premise or in the cloud using the same code set and data. If a customer decided to utilize Data Masons’ cloud-based offering and later bring it ‘on-premise’ there would be no loss of data or functionality. The same applies in reverse – an on-premise instance of our solution can be moved to the cloud in a multi-tenant or single instance scenario. "

Further the following are closing words from Glenn & Data Masons.:

"We look forward to sharing more information on this subject with the AX community in a few weeks at the AXUG Summit. If you’re making the trip to Seattle, email us and let us know if you would like to schedule some time to see a product demonstration or to just talk further about your own EDI-related projects. Or you can stop by expo booth #233 to see one of EDI experts.

We also invite you to join us during our ISV Partner Showcase, “EDI Trends: The Outlook on What EDI Should Deliver.” During this informative session, you’ll learn the latest trends in EDI that are driving customers to adopt an innovative technology model that eliminate common inconveniences and streamlines EDI integration and compliance requirements without AX platform customizations. Check the AXUG Summit agenda for times and locations."

I would like to thank Glenn and the team behind Data Masons for the taking the time to sit down and talk about EDI and what the cloud means for EDI customers. As stated, make sure and connect with them, and further schedule a time to speak while attending AXUG Summit! I know I will be there as well!

That's all for this post, but check back soon as more to come. Till Next Time!
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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Intelligent Data Management Framework in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 - Courseware

Good morning everyone! I wanted to take the time and do a small, quick highlight post about recent courseware that was released on PartnerSource. You will need PartnerSource Access with a Training plan in order to be able to access this courseware.

What I'm speaking about is.: Course 80425 - Intelligent Data Management Framework in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012

From the description of the courseware.:
" This training provides a thorough look at Intelligent Data Management Framework for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012. The topics covered in the training include installation, configuration, scheduling management and troubleshooting.

Audience This training is intended for database and system administrators, who are responsible for the administration and maintenance of the Microsoft Dynamics AX application and the Microsoft SQL Server database."

You can find out more around the IDMF offering from this following highlight post I did some time back.: Spotlight: Dive into IDMF for AX 2012

That's all for this morning! I hope you enjoy this new courseware, and helps add to your learning - and driving overall value for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 customers! Till Next Time!
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Monday, September 17, 2012

Using XDS to Secure data via the Organization Model (Part 1) - AX 2012

Recently, I posted an article that covered the resources for helping one understand the options, and how best to model a companies organization within Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012. You can find that article here.: A question around Organization Modeling for AX 2012

As promised, this post kicks off that two part series, in where I will dive into the use of XDS for securing data within AX 2012.

Before we dive right into securing data, based on the organizational model within AX 2012, first it's important to understand the parts that will make up our solution to this. Keep in mind, that the focus for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, is always to model more and code less!

With that in mind, and referencing the above image the are we are talking about focusing on is the Data Security area. This is where deny takes place, where as above it in the authorization section, in which we do role based modeling of security, grant takes focus.

For the sake of this post, and it's focus around data security, lets assume then that you already have your role based modeling of security petty much complete. With that assumption aside, our focus for this effort is around the Data Security Policies. This is where we will live, and what objects we created will have context.

As mentioned in previous post, Query Elements are meant to be a re-usable API in AX 2012. They are considered modeling elements, vs. custom code elements.

The idea, is that we create a modeling query used to represent the policy, in what we want to deny. In doing this we then, as stated above, start with a query. For example, if we wanted to model a query that limited prospects, by inbound user id, then that would be the target of our query.

Lets then look at the start of this example query. Since we want to constrain the Prospects from the Sales & Marketing module, we need to first target the smmBusRelTable. Since we want to constrain these for the inbound user id, lets assume responsibilities have been modeled and we have a "Sales Rep" responsibility tied to prospects.

With having this, then we need to add to our query, the smmResponsibilitiesEmplTable table. This is joined to the smmBusRelTable by RefTableId & RefRecId as a 1:n join type in the query design. Further, since we are targeting the "Sales Rep", we add to our ranges, the ResponsibilityId field, and add for the value: Sales Rep.

The next trick we need to focus on, is then having the query take us from the Worker associated with the responsibility for the the prospect, to the user id. This assumes, then that User's are associated with employee's of type workers via user relations. In that assumption, we can make the connection from smmResponsibilitiesEmplTable -> HcmWorker -> DirPerson -> DirPersonUser.

Now that we have achieved this, we next need to focus on our final range for the DirPersonUser table. That being of the user field. For the value that we supply for the range, it is a function: (currentUserid())

Now that we have this supplied, our query is ready to be set for the basis of a Security Policy. That is the next element of focus, in modeling security with XDS, a security policy. Doing this, we create a security policy, set our constraint properties, and finally enable the policy.

The above we see the correct security policy, and that it is further constraining the SalesQuotationTable as well as the SalesQuotationLine table. Further, the following is the properties of the above listed security policy object.

With the above enabled, and not having anything supplied for the ContextType, this policy is not enabled for anyone, and will deny access to the Prospects & Quotation tables based on the query we modeled. Meaning anyone that does not have a Sales Rep responsibility association for a prospect will not see that prospect when access AX 2012 from the Rich Client, EP, Reporting or service integration. Only users with System Administration role can see everything.

This would mean, that most likely you would want to at least apply this by Security Role, say Sales Rep that you had modeled. Then this policy would only deny access by the modeled query, for the specific user id's, when having the Sales Rep Security role applied to their user id.

Another point about security policies is that the intersection of multiple policies is what is shown. Where as in the grant focused authorization of role based security modeling, that will take the sum of all granted rights, for all applied security roles. Security policies, all that are enabled, must fully be satisfied. This means you could enable overlapping security policies that have adverse affects on what is trying to be achieved. Therefore, like all things, use caution.

Having the above base knowledge, and walk through for using data security policies to deny access to specific data, we can then move forward with part II of this focus, with using the organization model relating to released products, to model security against.

That's all for today's post, I hope you find it useful. Check back soon as more to come, including part II of this post, more on BI and the System of Engagement, as well as upcoming AXUG Summit coverage. Till Next Time!
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Friday, September 07, 2012

Friday Code Fun - X++ TextBuffer Usage

Well Happy Friday to everyone! Man what a fast week this has been. For me short weeks, because of long weekends are great when your in the long weekend. However the work does not go away... just means you have to cram more in a shorten time span.

With that I wanted to have a little code fun Friday post to lead you into the weekend with. I love chances of what I get to jump back into doing development. The Software Engineer in me I guess. At any rate, something I thought might be handy and useful that I would post and pass along is around the use of the TextBuffer class.

The following is the home for the TextBuffer class object for AX 2012.: TextBuffer Class [AX 2012]. It has some useful information, specifically an example of using it to read in a file. However my focus and use for this fun Friday code session is using it to detect numeric only string values.

With that, have a look at the following code segment.:

TextBuffer txtBuff = new TextBuffer();

txtBuff.regularExpressions(true); //Activate regular expressions

if (txtBuff.find("^[0-9]+$"))
// Has numeric only values
// Has Other characters, possibly including numeric values.

With the above usage of the TextBuffer class, and turning only Regular Expressions, we can now detect if a string value has numeric only characters, or has other Alpha, or non-numeric characters. This could be useful for several needs when working with Text files and string values in Dynamics AX. Further this logic works with previous versions of AX as well, not just AX 2012.

For those of you wanting to learn more about Regular Expressions, the Wikipedia home is a pretty good source.: Wikipedia: Regular expression

Well that's all for this week, check back soon as I will have a follow up post on the Organization Modeling example, back to Office 2013 + AX 2012, BI, Cloud and much more! Till Next Time!
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Thursday, September 06, 2012

A question around Organization Modeling for AX 2012

I hope that you have had a productive week thus far, filled with all things Microsoft Dynamics! As promised earlier this week, I wanted to post today about a specific question that came from my post on AX 2012 - Understanding & Extending the Organization Model.

The question posed by a reader of that post, is around the modeling of their organization for business units, and associating released products to specific Business Units.

Lets take this possed question a little further, and assume that the business unit association is desired to limit the use of released products.

Since released products, with AX 2012 out-of-the-box, are legal entity specific entities, that is the level of separation that comes as offered. Further out-of-the-box, with configuration, you can have business units used as financial dimensions. Meaning that we could then associate a released product, within a legal entity, to a business unit.

Having this association however, would not by itself limit the use of products, for users of AX, that work within specific business units. We have added something new here right? We can associate business units with released products, as financial dimensions. However the new element that we need to try and achieve is limiting the released products in a legal entity by business unit.

Now let us think about this. We could easily jump right into code driven design, that would allow for releasing products to business units, within legal entities. But why do that? The idea with Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 is to model more and code less.

Our secret to success in this endeavor then, would be to think in terms of modeling. This includes having Organizational modeling that has an operating model, that gives us legal entities, with business units under them. Further having the financial dimensions modeled and configured so that business units are used as financial dimensions. Finally, we need to model security with the use of Extensible Data Security Framework (XDS).

Now with this, I must warn that there are very specific warnings when using XDS for modeling security. The idea is that it would only be used with Master Data elements, according to best practice. With that warning in mind, my next post on this topic will go into greater detail of how this can be achieved with modeling, and minimum code. Till Next Time!
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Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Revisit with Version Control for AX 2012

Well I hope everyone is doing well! I admit I have been super busy, and realized that I've not posted in two weeks. I typically try and post at least 2-3 entries a week, but my recent schedule both professional and personal has kept me from this passion.

With that, I wanted to get back cranked up posting, with a revisit of sorts around the topic of Version Control for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012. I wrote about this sometime back, around the options we have, located here.: AX 2012 & TFS 2010, along with other Version Control Options

In that post I cover the major options, as well as other resources around the topic of version control. This revisit, I believe is deserved for two main reasons. One, it's a topic that I still get asked about from a true options perspective. Two, there is a new release from Joris, fellow Dynamics AX MVP and blogging peer for his AX TFS Build Library v0.2.0.0.

Starting with point one, it is true that TFS is not the only valid option to use for Dynamics AX 2012 version control. As picture above, and what the above picture is meant to represent, shared development enabled with MorphX VCS is still a valid option. Typically we see this with shops that don't have the resources for a Full Time Employee (FTE) who can be dedicated to the administration of TFS.

Make no mistake about it, TFS is an investment which requires an FTE who thinks, and lives TFS for an organization. This person can also do development work, but depending on the size of the development team or teams, might have a zero time for anything else but TFS.

When thinking about the options for version control, a great resource that I previously highlights can be found here.: Version Control System [AX 2012]

That resource has a nice table that lays out the options, and value points of what each option can offer you. Going back to MorphX VCS being a valid option, this does mean there are some limits. The biggest is the fact that this only helps control version's of objects that are apart of the AOT. If you think about this, say their are outside services you create as part of your total solution. What about SSIS packages that make up your solution? These will not be apart of a MorrphX VCS instance.

Further other draw backs are how report development for AX 2012, as well as Enterprise Portal Development takes place.

There are still ways to develop for each, but what the TFS option enables is developer instances of AX for each developer. Where as the MorphX VCS enables a single shared development instance of AX 2012.

Finally on to point two, with Joris updated release of the AX TFS Build Library. You can directly download the latest release from Joris, here.: Codeplex: Dynamics AX Build Scripts. And further, his latest post on the topic.: New release of AX TFS Build Library Beta (v0.2.0.0)

Most notable in this release is Joris' focus on fixing several label related issues, allowing for Visual Studio Projects to be imported, and splitting out system classes at the end of a build cycle to help avoid stability issues.

Well that all for this post. Feels good to get back into the swing of things and writing again. Check back soon, as I will post again this week - next up a look at a specific question that came from my post on Understanding & Extending the Organization Model. Till Next Time!
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