If you are not attending #DynTech2015 may I say you are missing a great thing. But you knew that already. You are here to read about the sessions. So please accept this, my report from the trenches, for Day 2.
This morning we had a little fun and a few of us went to the first Starbucks (Starbucks opened its first store in 1971 in the Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle) and Pike Place Market (a beloved century-old Seattle treasure of fish, vendors, and a Ferris Wheel) to see the fish (a monkfish won our ugliest fish award). We didn’t dally, as we had to hurry off to our sessions.
Connector for Microsoft Dynamics – connecting Microsoft Dynamics AX and Microsoft Dynamics CRM: I am new to the CRM side of things, so take this report as the viewpoint of a newbie. I’ve been wanting to branch out, and thought the tech conference would be the perfect place to get my feet wet. The presenter, Chris Hetzler, did not discuss installation, configuration, setup, etc. The class assumed that it was already installed and we wanted to work with it in place. He gave an overview of the connector (“Robust integration that just works”) and its features and popularity. It does not support customizations for AX 2009, but it does support out of the box 2009. It works with CRM 2011 forward. Do you use Management Reporter? If so, you have used the connector yourself. What I enjoyed about the class is that the speaker presented several typical errors/problems, or as we sometimes say, “gotchas.” For example, the connector does not support polymorphic types, so the out of the box AxdCustomer is no good. He showed us how to create a non-polymorphic (monomorphic? Hmm) version of AxdCustomer. He gave and explained several code pieces that we’d need. He explained why we should use a guid instead of a RecId (recIds are not guaranteed not to be reused). When you run the AIF Document Service wizard, check the two boxes that the wizard defaults to unchecked: Generate AxBC classes and Regenerate existing AxBC classes. Another common trip-up is that in the object provider configuration file, the field called QueryName should actually contain the service’s class name. We are encouraged to visit the blog at http://blogs.msdn.com/b/dynamicsconnector/
Environments for Microsoft Dynamics AX implementations: Best practices for managing your code and data: Kirill Val’s sessions are SRO because he is an engaging and informed speaker. This one was no different. I particularly liked his explanation of management’s view: Development plus dollars = production. J Kirill talked with good experience on the flow of both code and data: what companies do and what is recommended. He acknowledged that there are tradeoffs when customers do not want to spend the money to do the recommended, and talked to tradeoffs that can be made, and ones that shouldn’t be. He discussed many best practices in the “operational” side of things to make movement of either data or code much less error prone. His code guidelines for example, said that we should model strategy and best practices, define a branching strategy, and develop company-specific best practices. His development environments discussion talked about a private AOS vs Shared AOS topology, version control, and an automated build. By the way – automated builds are highly recommended and a sample script can be found at https://gallery.technet.microsoft.com/scriptcenter/Build-and-deploy-for-b166c6e4 . You’re welcome. Moving code required discussion, too, of course, and you heard it here first that they may or may not be working on the element ID problems for the next version. Moving data has many tools available: backup and restore, configuration manager (which is on LCS, which is still playing – and will continue to play – a prominent role in Microsoft’s going forward strategy), test data transfer tool, DIXF – data import export framework, and others. I have many, many more notes from this session, but if the paragraph gets any longer, I’ll stop reading it, and I wrote it! 😉 The talk was chock full of tips learned from experience and should be at the top of your list when it gets posted online.
Customizing help by using Task Recorder, Word, and HTML: This was a lab, with each machine set up to go. Margo Crandall was there to assist (and I was not shy about calling on her!). The benefit of taking a lab which is a repeat, is that a conscientious instructor can update the lab instructions with lessons learned from the first session, so that the second one goes more smoothly. In fact, it went much less than the time allotted, and I took a quick look at the other labs on the machine: Explore specific features of the advanced warehousing stack, and Data migration using Microsoft Dynamics import export report framework. The Customizing Help lab was written very clearly and in just a short time, I had used task recorder to save instructions for a specific thing I wanted the users to see/do in the exercise, and updated the help with these instructions. I was surprised how easy it was, and am glad I took the lab to learn that. The DIXF lab was more complicated than one would think from the title (it used ODBC data sources) and I did not try the warehousing one. I was busy trying to hunt down coffee, which seems to be in short supply at the convention center, despite the fact that we are in Seattle, probably the coffee capital of the country! (Organizers: do you think that after the session after lunch, we might need some beverages?) If, when they post the sessions, they make pdf’s available for the labs, do try them. You just might be surprised at what you can do with just a little guidance.
Cloud based integration with Microsoft Dynamics AX: I won’t pretend this was an easy one for me, but as with all of the sessions, it was enlightening. We have heard over and over this conference that Microsoft is heading its strategy to “Mobile-first, cloud-first” and this session was to help us prepare to move to the cloud (even in part). We discussed the methods that can be used for AX integration (services and AIF, .NET business connector, .NET interop), and challenges faced in the cloud (for example, latency, interoperability, scalability, mobile access). Paul Wu discussed the Service Bus Adapter and how to find more information on it (Customer Source for a video from last year’s conference). He discussed the requirements, and details on the configuration (configure windows azure, publish AX services using AIF, develop a client application). He was good at using demos to show us how it is done. Resources available to us include a white paper on developing mobile apps, the developing windows store apps which can be found on msdn, and others.
Introduction to Azure infrastructure as a service (IaaS) was my last class of the day. Nicholas Johnson talked about the importance of Azure in Microsoft’s going forward strategy – and make no mistake, it’s key. Microsoft is clearly committed to investing in the cloud and will continue to push us to use it. “Azure is Microsoft’s cloud computing platform” and they have opened 19 Azure datacenter regions. There are several ways to access Azure (MSDN, trial accounts, partner access, enterprise agreement, open, and pay as you go). Once we have it, we can create a new image, and the speaker was very thorough in going through the nuances of creating the VMs. You can also upload your own VMs (thanks to the audience member who asked that question!). How you should allocate your machine. Why you should continue to backup even when the cloud replicates your data. Why you should put your components on separate (virtual) disks. He discussed the server setups available – the A family, the D family, and the G family (you can call it by its proper name, Godzilla, if you prefer) and about upgrading and downgrading them. The gee whiz part of the presentation was “how to set up a virtual network” including one which has different components in the cloud and stored locally. All in all, a reasonably packed session which showed lots of possibilities with using AX on Azure.
That was my sessions for today. It’s too bad that there’s just one more day to learn and meet people! Please know that I was promised a few times today that the sessions WILL be going online, but I am just trying to put out same-day impressions as a heads-up until they do go online and you do get a chance to look at them.
On a personal note, I was thrilled to see our presence here – its biggest at any event other than our own company meetings, to my knowledge. I am truly enjoying interfacing with both fellow Dynamics people, and coworkers, for this all-too-brief visit to The Cloudy City.