Microsoft-hosted Dynamics 365 Finance Tier1 Sandboxes are dicontinued: Switch to Cloud-Hosted

Dynamics 365 Finance / SCM Tier1 sandbox environments are heavily used by partners for development and building Dynamics 365 Finance / SCM applications. Microsoft-hosted Tier 1 environments were a great deal because we got well sized VMs with 28 GB RAM and 4 Cores plus SQL Server, Visual Studio and Dynamics 365 Finance pre-installed for a very small fixed price per month available 24/7. Now Microsoft recently announced that they will no longer include Microsoft-Hosted Tier1 Sandbox environments with the Dynamics 365 Financen / SCM license and we will no longer be able to purchase additional Tier1 sandbox Addons. The preferred solution is to use Cloud-Hosted environments instead.

No more Microsoft-Hosted Tier1 environments

Microsoft-Hosted vs. Cloud-Hosted

From a technical standpoint there is no difference between a Microsoft-Hosted or a Cloud-Hosted environment. Both solutions deploy a Windows Server VM in Azure. In both cases the deployment is managed via Lifecycle Service (LCS).

LCS management of a Cloud-Hosted environment
Artefacts of a Cloud-Hosted Dynamics 365 FO Tier 1 environment in Azure

However, there are 3 major aspects to consider:

One big difference is the pricing model. Microsoft-Hosted environments (or Addons) come with a fixed (!) price per month while Cloud-Hosted environments deploy on an Azure subscription and therefore are billed like a classic IaaS (aka. virtual Machine in Azure). Make sure to calculate the costs (!) and turn of the environments if not needed.

Another difference is the ability to choose the sizing of the deployed environment. In contrast to Microsoft-Hosted Tier 1 environments, you are now free to choose a sizing that fits your needs e.g. more (or less) RAM, CPU, Premium SSD storage, etc.

Moreover, in contrast to Microsoft-Hosted environments, we now get an Admin account on our machines. It was understandable that Microsoft tried to lock down the cheap VMs to prevent the misusage with anything else then Dynamics 365. Since we own and pay the VM in a Cloud-Hosted environment its more than fair to have Admin access on the machine.

Video: How to deploy a Cloud-Hosted Dynamics 365 Tier1 developer VM

Make sure to visit my Youtube channel and watch how to deploy a Cloud-Hosted Dynamics 365 FO developer VM using an Azure Subscription.

Update: Management Certificates

The use of management certificates is not supported when using a CSP Azure Subscription. Use a user-connection instead.

Update: Provisioning Admin User

Please note that the user deploying the environment is provisioned as the administrator. Microsoft-Hosted environment had to be signed off using a user from the customer tenant. I’d recommend to stick to this process when deploying a Cloud-Hosted environment

Use Power BI dataflow to decouple report design from ETL logic in an ERP upgrade project

A common requirement during an ERP upgrade project (e.g. from AX 2012 to D365 Finance) and transition phase is to include both systems in the BI or reporting environment. Because of its tight integration with Dynamics, in many cases PowerBI is the preferred reporting and BI platform. PowerBI is capable to combine different data sources like OData feeds from D365 and SQL connections via gateway. However, for the person developing reports, it will become complicated to integrate cloud and on-prem datasources. For example, to create a sales report, one would need to include the Customers, SalesInvoiceHeader and SalesInvoiceLine entities as well as the CustTable, DirPartyTable, CustInvoiceJour and CustInvoiceTrans tables.

Different data sources in one PowerBI report

One way to address this issue can be to separate ETL logic from report design. PowerBI supports this approach by using dataflows. By using dataflows you can place PowerQuery logic direct in the Microsoft cloud and offer reuseable data artefacts. People designing reports simply connect to the dataflow but are not concerned with the ETL logic required to combine data from the old AX installation and a new Dynamics 365 ERP cloud environment.

Use PowerBI dataflow to decouple ETL logic from report design

Example

From PowerBI workspace create a new entity using dataflow. Choose the OData feed for Dynamics 365 and provide the URL for the CustomersV3 entity.

OData feed for entities from Dynamcis 365 Finance

Clicking next will open the Power Query editor and load the customers from Dynamics 365 Finance. Remove all the fields you don’t need in your application. In this example I’m using the DataAreaId, Account, Name, Group, Address and Delivery mode + terms.

PowerBI dataflow based on Dynamics 365 Finance OData CustomerV3 entity

For an on-premises AX 2012 installation you need to install a data gateway, so PowerBI can access the local SQL database. If you already have a gateway, create a new dataflow in PowerBI and use the SQL connection. I’d recommend to create a view on the database instead of loading tables in PowerBi.

CREATE VIEW [dbo].[PBIX_Customer] AS
select
DataAreaId, DirPartyTable.NAME, ACCOUNTNUM, CUSTGROUP, TAXGROUP, LogisticsPostaladdress.ADDRESS, DlvTerm, DLVMODE
from CUSTTABLE
join DIRPARTYTABLE
on CUSTTABLE.PARTY = DIRPARTYTABLE.RECID
join DIRPARTYLOCATION on
DIRPARTYTABLE.RECID = DIRPARTYLOCATION.PARTY
join LOGISTICSPOSTALADDRESS
on DIRPARTYLOCATION.LOCATION = LOGISTICSPOSTALADDRESS.LOCATION
where
LOGISTICSPOSTALADDRESS.VALIDFROM <= GETDATE() and LOGISTICSPOSTALADDRESS.VALIDTO >= GETDATE()
GO

Choose SQL Server data source for PowerBI dataflow

Select the data gateway and provide a user to access the database

Connect a PowerBI dataflow to your on-premises AX 2012 database using a gateway

Select the view and load the AX 2012 data to PowerBI. Save the dataflow

Dynamics AX 2012 customer data via data gateway

After you have created both dataflows return to your workspace, go to your dataflows and refresh both to load the data.

Refresh dataflow from Dynamics 365 Finance and Dynamics AX 2012

Next, create a third dataflow to combine the data from the Dynamics 365 Finance and AX dataflow. This time choose to link entities from the other dataflows:

Link PowerBI entities via dataflow

Select both dataflows

Select PowerBI dataflows to merge

In the Power Query Online editor rename the fields in both dataflow entities so you can append both queries. Be aware that Power Query is case sensitive and dataAreaId is not the same as DATAAREAID. When you have done this, append both queries as new one.

Append queries in PowerBI

From the new query make sure to remove duplicate customers

Remove duplicates in Power Query Online

If your have a PowerBI Pro but not a Premium subscription, deactivate load of the underlying queries.

Deable load when using PowerBI Pro

Save and refresh the dataflow. From the settings schedule the refresh and endorse the dataflow as “Promoted” or “Certified”. This is not necessary but it adds a label to dataflow and your report designer users see that they can trust the datasource. In PowerBI Desktop open Get-Data and choose PowerBI dataflow as data source:

Get data from PowerBI dataflow

Select the merged Customer data source.

Promoted and certified PowerBI dataflows

You can use the dataflows in your PowerBI datamodel but dont have to worry about the logic behind

Linked dataflow sources in a PowerBI data model

Conclusion

Using dataflows has some advantages. It helps you to decouple ETL logic from design logic. Especially when working with older versions of Dynamics AX you have to have deeper knowledge about the data structure. Another advantage is the reuse of dataflows. Typically you are not creating 1 single report, but more reports that require the same dimensions e.g. customers. By using dataflows you don’t need to maintain the load and merge in multiple PowerBI files.

Video: Configure PowerBI for Dynamics 365 Finance in a Cloud hosted Environment

I’ve recorded a walkthrough how to configure PowerBI for Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain Management and deploy the standard dashboards.

If Sort-Field is empty sort by another field

At work we recently discussed a customer requirement regarding sorting of a SalesTable data set in Dynamics Ax. The requirement was to sort by ShippingDateConfirmed. If the order has no confirmation date yet, use the ShippingDateRequested instead.

If exists sort by Shipping Date Confirmed otherwise by Shipping Date Requested

There are several ways to implement this requirement. Depending on the technology you can use SQL code, computed columns in Dynamics Ax 2012+ or a union query in AX 2009.

SQL: Select CASE

The easiest way to achiev the goal is using pure SQL code where you can define a new column within the select statement and use it for sorting. Here is an example:

SELECT 
SalesId, SalesName, 
ShippingDateRequested, ShippingDateConfirmed, 
CASE 
WHEN ShippingDateConfirmed = '1900-01-01 00:00:00.000' 
THEN ShippingDateRequested 
ELSE ShippingDateConfirmed 
END 
AS ErpSortField
FROM SalesTable
WHERE DataAreaId = 'CEU'
ORDER BY ErpSortField

The result in SQL Server Management Studio for a Dynamics Ax 2009 database looks like this:

SELECT CASE WHEN .. THEN .. ELSE .. END in SQL
SELECT CASE WHEN .. THEN .. ELSE .. END in SQL

You may use such a SQL query as data source for an SSRS report

SSRS Report based on AX 2009 Sales Order
SSRS Report based on AX 2009 Sales Order

Dynamics 365 F/SCM: Computed Column

Since AX 2012 we can use computed columns in views. One way to address this requirement is to create a column that contains the same CASE – WHEN SQL Statement. To do so create a new view based on the SalesTable. Add a new static method:

private static server str compColShippingDate()
{
  #define.ViewName(MBSSalesTableView)
  #define.DataSourceName("SalesTable")
  #define.FieldConfirmed("ShippingDateConfirmed")
  #define.FieldRequested("ShippingDateRequested")
  str sReturn;
  str sRequested, sConfirmed;
  DictView dv = new DictView(tableNum(#ViewName));

  sRequested = dv.computedColumnString(
                   #DataSourceName,
                   #FieldRequested,
                   FieldNameGenerationMode::FieldList);
  sConfirmed = dv.computedColumnString(
                   #DataSourceName,
                   #FieldConfirmed,
                   FieldNameGenerationMode::FieldList);

  sReturn = "CASE WHEN " 
          + sConfirmed + " = '1900-01-01 00:00:00.000' THEN " 
          + sRequested + " ELSE " + sConfirmed + " END";

  return sReturn;
}

Add a computed column to the view and set the method as view method. Build and synchronize.

View with computed column in Dynamics 365 Finance
View with computed column in Dynamics 365 Finance

This will result in the following SQL definition in the AXDB:

Generated SQL view code in AxDB
Generated SQL view code in AxDB

Use the view as data source in form:

View in Dynamics 365 F/SCM form
View in Dynamics 365 F/SCM form

Dynamics AX 2009: Union Query

Older versions of Dynamics AX link 2009 computed columns were not supported. One workaround is to use a UNION Query.

First create a new view called ERPSalesTableConfirmed. Set the SalesTable as data source. Add a range based on the ShippingDateConfirmed field and set the range value to != ” (i.e. not empty). Add a view field based on the ShippingDateConfirmed and call it ERPSortField. This view will return all SalesTable records with a confirmed shipping date and a new field with the value in it.

SalesTable with confirmed shipping date
SalesTable with confirmed shipping date

Second, create a new view called ERPSalesTableRequested. Set the SalesTable as data source. Add a range based on the ShippingDateConfirmed and set the range value to = ” (i.e. empty). Add a view field based on the ShippingDateRequested and call it ERPSortField. This view will return all SalesTable records without a confirmed shipping data and use the ShippingDateRequested for the ERPSortField.

SalesTable with requested shipping date
SalesTable with requested shipping date

Next, create a query called ERPSalesTableSort. Set the query type to UNION. Add both views as data source. The execution of this query will return all SalesTable records. If the sales order was confirmed, the ERPSortField will contain the ShippingDateConfirmed value, otherwise the ERPSortField will contain the ShippingDateRequested.

UNION query in Dynamics AX 2009
UNION query in Dynamics AX 2009

Finally, create a new view called ERPSalesTableSort based on the query with the same name. Use all fields you like to see and the ERPSortField.

Dynamics AX 2009 view based on UNION query
Dynamics AX 2009 view based on UNION query

Open the view. The result is a SalesTable dataset that can be sorted on the confirmed shipping date, and if the confirmed date is not present sorted by the requested date.

Sort SalesTable in Dynamics AX 2009 by confirmed or requested shipping date
Sort SalesTable in Dynamics AX 2009 by confirmed or requested shipping date

Extend SalesTable2Line Framework (Dynamics 365 Finance / SCM)

This is an update to my older post how to extend the SalesTable 2 Line framework. The big difference is that in Dynamics 365 Finance and SCM overlaying is not supported and extensions and delegates need to be used. This post uses the same use case. A sales-notes field from the SalesTable needs to be updated in the SalesLines if it is configured so.

Download the sample source code: https://erpcoder.blog/source-code/

Extend the data model

Create a new string datatype and call it ERPSalesNote. Extend the SalesLine and add the ERPSalesNote datatype to the list of fields. Extend the SalesTable and add the ERPSalesNote to the fields. Also add the ERPSalesNote field to the field group HeaderToLineUpdate.

Extend the user interface

Extend the SalesTable form. Place the SalesTable.ERPSalesNote in the Delivery group of the HeaderView tab.

Add the SalesLine.ERPSalesNote field to the delivery group in the LineView tab.

Prepare the update-order-lines dialog

The dialog to choose if and which fields need to be updates at the lines is generated automatically based on the HeaderToLineUpdate field group. There is some code needed to show the fields name in the dialog. This is done by subscribing a custom method to the delegate SalesTable2LineField.lineUpdateDescriptionDelegate

Create a new class that returns a name for the ERPSalesNote field.

class ERPSalesTable2LineField
{
[SubscribesTo(classStr(SalesTable2LineField), delegateStr(SalesTable2LineField,lineUpdateDescriptionDelegate))]
public static void lineUpdateDescriptionDelegate(FieldId _fieldId, TableId _tableId, EventHandlerResult _result)
{
  if(_tableId == tableNum(SalesTable) &&
  _fieldId == fieldNum(SalesTable,ERPSalesNote))
  {
    _result.result("Sales Note");
  }
}
}

Open the Header to Line update dialog by clicking on Accounts receivable > Setup > Accounts receivable parameters > Tab update > update order lines

Extend the framework classes

Create an extension for the AxSalesTable class and create a parm method for the ERPSalesNote field

[ExtensionOf(classStr(AxSalesTable))]
final class AxSalesTable_Extension
{
public ERPSalesNote parmERPSalesNote(ERPSalesNote _salesNote = "")
{
  if (!prmisDefault(_salesNote))
  {
    this.setField(fieldNum(SalesTable, ERPSalesNote), _salesNote);
  }
  return salesTable.ERPSalesNote;
}
}

Create an extension for the AxSalesLine class. Implement a parm and set method. Use the chain of command pattern to extend the setTableFields method.

[ExtensionOf(classStr(AxSalesLine))]
final class AxSalesLine_Extension
{
public ERPSalesNote parmERPSalesNote(ERPSalesNote _salesNote = "")
{
  if (!prmisDefault(_salesNote))
  {
    this.setField(fieldNum(SalesLine, ERPSalesNote), _salesNote);
  }
  return salesLine.ERPSalesNote; 
} 
protected void setERPSalesNote() 
{ 
  if (this.isMethodExecuted(funcname(), fieldnum(SalesLine, ERPSalesNote))) 
  { 
  return; 
  } 
  this.setAxSalesTableFields(); 
  if (this.isAxSalesTableFieldsSet() || 
      this.axSalesTable().isFieldModified(fieldnum(SalesTable, ERPSalesNote))) 
  { 
  this.parmERPSalesNote(this.axSalesTable().parmERPSalesNote()); 
  }
} 
protected void setTableFields() 
{ 
  next setTableFields(); 
  this.setERPSalesNote(); 
}
}

Test your implementation

Make sure that the update method in the parameter is set to prompt. Open an existing sales order. Change to Header view and switch to edit mode. Change the notes in the delivery tab and save.

A dialog pops up and asks to update the lines. Click yes.

Check the sales note field in the sales line. The note field at the sales line should be updated with your text from the header.

Connect to the SQL database of a Dynamics 365 Finance Test instance

In Dynamics 365 Finance / SCM we can no longer access the SQL database of the production environment directly. However, we can access the SQL database of the Acceptance Test instance. All required information can be found in LCS. I’ve made a video where to find this information in LCS and how to connecto to the SQL database.

Dynamics 365 FO: Export Entity Store to Azure Data Lake

Since version 10 Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations supports the entity store export to Azure data lake. The main benefits are reduced costs because Azure Cloud storage is cheap and easy access for Business Intelligence tools like PowerBI.

If you are running a local development VM, the data connection tab in system parameters ist deactived by default. However, this can be actived using the SysFlighting table.

The configuration is pretty well documented by Microsoft. I’ve performed all the necessary steps and recorded a video: