Power Automate: Deploy and Execute an Ethereum Smart Contract

Power Automate (aka. Microsoft Flow) is a great cloud-based tool to automate all possible tasks. There is a Ethereum connector (Beta) that can be used to deploy a Smart Contract to an Ethereum Blockchain network and execute functions.

Ethereum Network

You need to connect to an Ethereum network. There is a fully managed Blockchain Service in Azure. I’m running my private network with Proof-of-Authority. At the Azure management portal, go to the transaction node to get the required information to connect.

Blockchain Service in Azure
Blockchain-as-a-Service in Azure

Smart Contract

I’m using Visual Studio Code with the Ethereum Blockchain Development SDK to implement a Smart Contract in Solidity. You can find the link to the SDK at the Azure Blockchain Service portal.

Blockchain Development Kit for VS Code
VS Code with Azure Blockchain SDK

The SDK requires a lot of other software products to download and install. I found that the solidity compiler installed was newer than expected. As result the demo smart contract you get from the SDK did not compile. The simplest solution was to change the pragma of the contract

pragma solidity >= 0.5.16 <= 0.7.0;

ABI and Bytecode

In order to automate the deployment of a Smart Contract via Power Automate you need to provide the ABI and Bytecode. Both can be found in VS Code, at the build directory in the context menu.

Solidity ABI and Bytecode
Copy ABI and Bytecode directly from VS Code

Power Automate

You can directly provide the ABI and Bytecode in the Deploy Smart Contract action. However, I decided to place both in an Azure Table Storage and fetch it from there. To do so, I create a table with a column for the Bytecode, a column for the ABI and a name.

Store ABI and Bytecode in Azure Storage Account

The first step in my flow is to connect to the Azure Storage account and get the smart contract I need. The result from the storage is a JSON string which is parsed so the ABI and Bytecode is available for the next steps

Deploy Ethereum Smart Contract from Flow
Fetch the smart contract binaries from the storage account

Next the Deploy Smart Contract action is used to deploy the contract. There you need to provide the connection to your Ethereum network. In my example there are two parameters for the constructor and for testing purpose these values are hardcoded. In real life you would provide values from the calling sources. The third parameter for the connector action requires the Bytecode which is taken from the storage account. The result from the deployment is the smart contracts address which is stored in a flow variable.

Deploy a Smart Contract to a private Ethereum Blockchain Network
Deploy a smart contract

Interacting with the smart contract

After the Smart Contract has been deployed to the Ethereum Blockchain Network, use the Execute Smart Contract Function action in the flow. For each step you have to provide the address, the ABI, the name of function and the parameter as JSON string. A function without parameters has to be called with {} because the parameter property is mandatory.

Execute a Smart Contract Function via Flow
Execute a Smart Contract function via Power Automate / Flow

Here is an example for a function with some parameters. These parameters have to be provided as JSON string in Flow.

function SetupMachine(int sawLength, 
                      int waterTemp, 
                      int rpm,
                      int speed) public
    {
        if (State != StateType.Assigned)
        {
            revert('Assign to a machine first');
        }

        SawLengthMM = sawLength;
        WaterTempDgrC = waterTemp;
        ExtruderRPM = rpm;
        ExtruderSpeed = speed;

        State = StateType.Setup;
        Worker = msg.sender;
    }
Execute a Smart Contract Function via Flow
Execute a Smart Contract function with parameters

Use UI Flows in Power Automate to interact with a web site

UI Flows are new features from power platform april 2020 wave, and allow you to integrate local installed applications and web sites. I’ve made a video with UI Flow for web sites. In this demo I’ve create a flow that reads the Bitcoin / Euro rate from a web sites and sends it per Email.

Call an Azure Function from X++ in Dynamics 365 Finance / SCM

Create an Azure Function

Azure Functions are simple way to pack and provide business logic as web service without worrying about hosting a web server. Azure Functions can be implemented in different programming languages like C#, JavaScript, PHP, Java, etc. and can be hosted on Linux and Windows with different runtime environments that feed your need.

In the Azure Portal click + Create a resource and search for Function App:

Create a Azure Function App

In the next screen choose a subscription and create a resource group (or use an existing one if you like). Provide a useful name and choose code as Publish method. Select .NET Core 3.1 as runtime stack and a region that is near your location:

Configure the Azure Function App to use .NET Core 3.1

Click Review + Create to create the Azure Function. It takes a view minutes to provision all the required elements:

Deploy the Azure Function App

Click on Go to Resource. Next to the Functions group click + to create a new function and select In-Portal to edit the function code direct in the browser:

Create a new HTTP trigger

Choose the webhook + API to create a demo function that can be called via HTTP POST.

Use webhook for the Azure Function

This will create a function that takes a name as parameter and returns “Hello ” + the parameter name.

C# Azure Function code

You can test the function by using Test tab on the right. The function takes a JSON string with a name parameter and returns a simple string.

Test the Azure Function with a JSON string

Call the function from X++

In the azure portal get the function URL with a function key. Copy the URL with the key:

Copy the Azure Function URL with function key

In Visual Studio create an X++ class with a main method for testing. Use the System.Net.Http.HttpClient class to call the service. The content is a JSON string encoded in UTF-8 with a name parameter and value. In this example the name is Dynamics:

System.Net.Http.HttpClient httpClient = new System.Net.Http.HttpClient();
System.Net.Http.HttpContent content = new System.Net.Http.StringContent(
        "{\"name\":\"Dynamics\"}",
        System.Text.Encoding::UTF8,
        "application/json");

At the moment X++ does not support the await keyword for asynchronouse calls. The workaround is to use the Task.Wait() method. Call the service with your function URL async and get the content of the call:

var task = httpClient.PostAsync("https://<YOUR_FUNCTION_URL>",content);
task.Wait();
System.Net.Http.HttpResponseMessage msg = task.Result;

System.Net.Http.HttpContent ct = msg.Content;
var result = ct.ReadAsStringAsync();
result.Wait();
System.String s = result.Result;

info(s);

Start the class from Visual Studio. The result should look like this:

Call the Azure Function from Dynamics 365 Finance

Create an Email Tag Cloud with PowerBI and Cognitive Services

PowerBI and Cognitive Services are a powerful combination. A nice example is a tag cloud based on the key phrases in your daily emails. This example requires the following cloud components:

  • PowerBI (of course)
  • Cognitive Services for Key Phrase extraction
  • Exchange Online
  • Flow and Table Storage in Azure

Cloud Infrastructure

First, go to your Azure portal and create a new Cognitive Services Resource. In the creation wizard place the cognitive services to a data center near your Office subscription. I’d also recomend to creata a seperate resource group where you place all the services.

Cognitive Services in Azure

At the Cognitive Services Overview tab, copy the Endpoint URL. From the Cognitive Services > Key tab also copy the Key1. You need both to connecto to the cognitive services.

Azure Storage Account

Next create a new stroage account. Like in the Cognitive services place it in the same resource group and same data center. After the storage account has been created successfuly go to the overview tab.

Azure Table Storage

Select “Tables” and create a new table. Give it a useful name e.g. keystorage. A table storage can be used to place structured data, which require at least to fields a RowKey and a PartitionKey. It is up to you to provide meaningful values to theses fields when inserting data.

Copy the storage account name and from the Access Keys tab the Key1 value. You will need both to connect to the storage account.

Implement transformation pipeline in Flow (first naive approach)

Now, lets create the extraction logic using Flow. There are some limitations with this approach that will result in errors. A more stable version of the flow is discussed at the end. Go to https://flow.microsoft.com and create a new triggered flow from blank.

Automated Flow from Blank

The trigger for the flow is Outlook > When a new email arrives.

Because almost all my mails are HTML formated, I need to add the Content Conversion > HTML to Text step to remove the HTML code from the email body.

The third step in the flow is the key phrase extraction. Therefore add the Text Analysis > Key Phrase extraction step. There you need to provide the Cognitive Services Account Key and Endpoint. The text to analyze is the output from the HTML to Text step.

The last step writes the key phrases to the Azure Table Storage. Like in the Cognitive Services step, you have to provide the name and a key. From the Table dropdown select the table you have create earlier in the Azure portal. The entity has to be a JSON string. In my example the Partition is always 1 and the Row key is a Guid. Because, one mail will have more than one key phrase, the insert is encapsulated in an Apply-to-each block

{
“PartitionKey”:”1″,
“RowKey”:@{guid()},
“KeyPhrase”:@{items(‘Apply_to_each’)}
}

Keyword Extraction Flow

Test your flow by sending an Email to your account. All the steps should succeed

Keyword Extraction Flow Test

You can use the Azure Storage Explorer in the Azure portal to lookup the phrases extracted from the email. In this example I sent an email from my company account, to my private mail account. The flow extracted the key words from the mail (Signature).

Azure Storage Explorer

Tag Cloud in PowerBI

In PowerBI add a new data source from the Azure Table storage. Again you need to provide the storage name and one of the keys. After connecting successfuly to the table, open the transformation window an take a look at the retrieved keys. You can remove the PartitionKey, RowKey and Timestamp from the data set.

Azure Table Storage in PowerBI

In the PowerBI report window, from the Visuals, klick on the Elipsis (…) and search for the Word Cloud in the marketplace. Add the Word Cloud Visual to PowerBI

Word Cloud Visual for PowerBI

Add the visual to the PowerBI report window. Set the Key Phrases as category in the visual.

Word Cloud in PowerBI Desktop

PowerBI Online Service and automated Refresh

Publish the PowerBI report to your workspace. Within PowerBI Online, go to your workspace and navigate to the dataset. From the Elipsis (…) open the settings page. Provide the Key for Azure Table storage.

Azure Table Storage Connection

Now you can also schedule the automatic refresh

Automatic Refresh from Azure Table Storage in PowerBI Online Services

Implement transformation pipline with a more stable Flow

Unfortunatelly, the text processing in Cognitive Services is limited to 5120 characters. In many cases, Emails contain more characters than this and the flow will fail with an error from the Cognitive Services. One way to address this issue, is to implement a loop that cuts the Email body into pieces of 5120 characters or less before feeding it to Cognitive Services. However, Flow is not very developer focused and requires some workarounds for simple tasks like assigning function calls with a variable to itself e.g substring()

In the first place, delcare 4 variables

Some required variables in Flow

Next execute the HTML to Text block. An optimization is to use the Builtin Data-Operations action Compose to trim() the result to remove blanks from the start and end, and populate the STRLEN and EMAILBODY. Whereas the STRLEN requires a function: length(outputs(‘Trim_Text’))

Set the variables in Flow

Next, create a Do-While Loop from the Control elements in Flow. The condition for the Loop is STRLEN <= 0 because we are cutting the Email into pieces until nothing is left

A loop to cut the Email into pieces of 5120 characters (or less)

Within the Loop, create a IF decision depending on the STRLEN. If the STRLEN variable is less then 5120, the STRLEN is set to 0 to end the Loop. The variable TEXT is set to the EMAILBODY.

Email body is shorter than 5120

If the Emailbody is longer than 5120 characters, the first 5120 characters are copied to the TEXT variable: substring(variables(‘EMAILBODY’),0,5120)

Next the variable STRLEN is reduced by 5120: sub(length(variables(‘EMAILBODY’)),5120)

In the third step, the variable EMAILBODY_SHORT is set to the substring starting at 5121 till the end of the original EMAILBODY. Is is done, because Flow does not support variable asignment by a function that contains the variable itself: substring(variables(‘EMAILBODY’),5121,sub(variables(‘STRLEN’),1))

In the last step the orignial EMAILBODY variable is set to be the EMAILBODY_SHORT. It contains now the body without the first 5120 characters.

Email body is larger than 5120

Within the loop, after the IF condition, Cognitive Services are called with the TEXT variable and the results are written to the Azure Table Storage like in the first naive implementation.

Save Cognitive Services Results to Azure Table Storage

More Optimization

There are three additional ways to optimize this solution.

One may argue, that cutting the text into pieces might cut a releveant word for the Word Cloud into pieces and therefore cannot be recognized by Cognitive Services, e.g. Micros … oft. One way to address this is to modify the substring function, by checking the last index of “_” (Blank) and cut there.

Another issue is that Cognitive Services are not aware of all stop words. Especially if using Non-English Key Phrases you may end up with a messy cloud. However, there are public available lists of stopwords in certain languages out there, that can be loaded into PowerBI and used to exclude certain findings from Cognitive Services. The Word Cloud visual provides an Exclude property where you can provide stop words to exclude.

In the example from above, the language for Cognitive Services is set to DE (german). Howerver, this might not be optimal if you receive Emails in different languages. An optimzation could be to use Cognitive Service to detect the language, and switch the Key Phrase Detection Call for the most common languages in your Email inbox, in my case German and English.

Flow Download (package)

Please find the Flow Package in the Sources Onedrive Folder. Import the .zip File in your Flow Tenant. You need to map Outlook, Cognitive Services, Azure Table Storage, etc. to your configurations.

Object Detection with PowerApps AI Builder

Power Apps recently got the capability to create some computer vision AI models. One of the IMHO most popular ones is called object detection, which is used to detect (predefined) objects on images. For getting started you may use the free edtion of power apps.

Environment and CDM Entity

AI Builder is bound to a Power Apps environment and the Common Data Model. If you don’t have already created an environment, logon to https://web.powerapps.com and create a new environment.

Create new environment

To use the CDM entities you need a new database. In my case, I created a new one with USD and English as preferred language.

Create new database

It may take a while, and you may need to refersh your browser screen, but the AI Builder (Preview) option will appear on the left menu bar.

Create new Power Apps AI Builder Object Detection model

Next, go to Data > Entites and create a new entity for the type of objects you want to identify. In my case, I’m playing around with Nerf guns, therefore I created a new Nerfgun entity. It requires at least a useful name. Feel free to add more fields.

Select entity from Common Data Model

Provide entity data

In a next step you have to provide information about the different elements that shall be identified. In my cases, which Nerfs guns will be on fotos e.g. Rapidstrike, Slingfire, Cyclonshot, etc.

Entity in Common Data Model

There is an option to edit the entity via Excel. However, in my case the Excel addin is not working, and failing to authenticated 😦 If this happens to you, a workaround is to create a simple Power App and edit the entity via Power App.

Fill CDM entity with data using Power Apps

Create and train AI model

In Power Apps go to AI Builder and create a new model for object detection.

Create new AI model for object detection

Provide a name for the model and select the created entity for detection. From the records in the entity select those records that are relevant for detection.

Select object to detect using AI builder

Next comes the time consuming part, take pictures of your objects in different locations, lighting, quality, day time, etc. upload it to the power apps model. You need at least 15 pictures for each element you want to detect.

Upload images to Power Apps AI Builder

Tag each of the pictures with the corresponding object on the picture.

Tag object on images in Power App AI Builder

After uploading and tagging each picture, train the model. This may take a while and will result in a (not very usefull) quality estimation. Right now I didn’t see recall, precision, AUC, or any other more detailed information. If you are satisfied with the models estimated power, publish it so it can be used in your apps.

Train AI model for object detection

Use AI model in Power Apps

It’s easy to use the trained model in a Power Apps application e.g. on the smart phone. Create a new power app with empty layout. From the menu insert the object detection component.

Create a new PowerApps app with AI Builder

Select your object detection model for the component. Save and publish your app, load it on your phone and test it.

Test Power Apps AI Builder in real life

Using Azure Automation to copy Live Transaction DB to Test

Updating the Test system with actual transactional data from the Live system is a common task. This can be accomplished using scripts. However, in a hybrid IT environment you might want to organize, manage and monitor all your on-premises and cloud based scripts at a central place. Azure Automation is the platform to do this.

Prerequisites

  • Dynamics AX Live and Test installation on Windows Server 2012 R2
  • Azure Account (all services can be used for free in basic mode)

 

          Azure Automation

        In Azure Portal create a new instance of Azure Automation. When the instance was created, use the key to display the keys and URL. You’ll need this to connect your on-premises server with Azure Automation.

      Azure Automation

        Operational Insights

        Azure Automation can be instantly used to script your cloud-based datacenter. However, to manage the on-premises environment you have to connect your local systems with the cloud. This is done via Operational Insights.

        1. In Azure Portal create a new instance of Operational Insights
        2. Logon to Operational Insights Portal and start the “Get Started” checklist
        3. Add the Automation Solutions
        4. Connect the Dynamics AX server by downloading and installing the Agent for Windows

        Operational Insights

        At your on-premises server open PowerShell in admin mode and go to the agents installation directory e.g.

        cd "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Monitoring Agent\Agent\AzureAutomation\<version>\HybridRegistration"

        Import the Hybrid Registration module and register the server in Azure Automation.

        Import-Module HybridRegistration.psd1
        Add-HybridRunbookWorker –Name <String> -EndPoint <Url> -Token <String>

        Add-HybridRunbookWorker

        In this example I’ve used the Name parameter value “Dynamics” at the Add-HybridRunbookWorker Cmdlet. This creates a runbook worker group called “Dynamics” with one assigned on-premises server.

        On-Premises configuration

        Create a folder where to backup the Dynamics AX database. In this example I’m using a directory on the local system drive C:\AxTemp (which of course is not best practice). By default the Ops. Insights Agent runs as Local System. Make sure to give the account “NT Authority\System” appropriate rights in your SQL Server installation to access the Live DB and Test DB.

        SQL Server Security

        Runbook

        In Azure Portal, go to Azure Automation > Runbooks > Create a new runbook > Choose runbook type “Powershell”. Add the following code to your runbook.

        echo "Stopping Services"
        Stop-Service -Name AOS60`$01
        Stop-Service -Name AOS60`$02

        echo "Creating Backup from Live"
        Invoke-Sqlcmd -Query "backup database [Live] to  Disk = N’C:\AxTemp\Live.bak’ with copy_only" -QueryTimeout 0   


        echo "Restoring Backup to Test"
        Invoke-SqlCmd -Query "restore database [Test] from  DISK = N’C:\AxTemp\Live.bak’ with file = 1,  move N’R3Demo1‘ TO N’C:\Data\Test.mdf’,  MOVE N’R3Demo1_log‘ TO N’C:\Data\Test_log.ldf’" -QueryTimeout 0   
           
        echo "Cleanup Backup"
        Remove-Item -Path "C:\AxTemp\Live.bak"   
           
        echo "Starting Services"
        Start-Service -Name AOS60`$01
        Start-Service -Name AOS60`$02

        This will stop both AOS instances. Make sure the AOS service name fits your environment. The service name can be found in the services mmc. For example my Live AOS is named AOS60$01. Make sure to use the ` to escape the $ sign in the AOS name.

        Dynamics AOS name for scripting

        The script will then create a backup from database “Live” to C:\AxTemp\Live.bak. If your live DB has another name, change it to fit your name.

        Next the script will restore the backup to database “Test”. In my case the logical name of the database file is called “R3Demo1” and it’s log is called “R3Demo1_log”. Make sure this fits your installation. You can find the names in SQL Server management studio, by checking the database file properties.

        SQL Server database logical name

        Finally the script removes the backup file and restarts both AOS

        Runbook Execution

        In Azure Automation Runbook editor, save the actual runbook code and click publish.

        Runbook execution

        At the Azure Automation main page go to runbooks, select your newly created runbook and press the start button. On the next page select execution using a Hybrid Worker and select your worker group. In my example it’s called Dynamics (see PowerShell screenshot)

        Runbook execution

        This will submit your runbook to the on-premises server and execute it. You can check the execution by monitoring the C:\AxTemp directory where the backup will be placed. Don’t worry about the warnings when the workbook finishes. Starting the AOS’ takes a while and results in the typical message “service is not responding”.

        Runbook result

         

        More

        • Azure Automation supports timing of runbooks, so you can create a batch in the cloud to copy your data on-premises
        • This example uses a single server installation. However, the script can easily be modified to run on different servers
        • Using the Invoke-SqlCmd Cmdlet you can do all the cleanup work like changing the reporting server instance etc.