July 22, 2020

Microsoft renames things... again

If you read one of the recent announcements (like this one Introducing Microsoft Dataflex, a new low-code data platform for Microsoft Teams) you know that CDS (Common Data Service) has been renamed to Microsoft Dataflex Pro (and a subset version for Microsoft Teams is called Microsoft Dataflex).

It's not the first time that Microsoft renames some products/services (if we keep the examples inside the Dynamics space, they just renamed Forms Pro to Customer Voice) so I am not surprised of this change, probably if I write "two years later they will change it again" I may be right.

However the main question is "why they changed the name?". Let's be honest, Microsoft Teams in the recent months gained more and more traction, becoming a popular product inside the ecosystem, I don't have exact numbers but if you probably ask around about Microsoft products, I am quite sure Teams is more known than the Power Platform or one of its services (maybe with the exclusion of Power BI, people love reporting). 

When Microsoft decided to introduce a subset of Dynamics CRM CDS to Teams it's right to show these new functionalities to the audience and probably the CDS name wasn't a good fit. CDS carried always a bit of confusion (CDS, CDM, CDS-A, ...) and when CDS appeared practically the only product using it was Dynamics 365, a true separation of the platform (that in my opinion is still in progress but just for minor things) arrived years later. It's easy now to say Dataflex Pro = CDS, wasn't the same with the previous names.

I may or may not agree with the new name or part of it (for example leaving Pro as CDS, or the fact that is Dataflex and not DataFlex or Data Flex) but I really hope Microsoft pushes these products (with a new one just for Teams) in the right way and not only keeping these name changes as a generic announcement.

This post is not a list of the differences between the two versions (Dataflex vs Dataflex Pro) because I am sure that when I discover "functionality X" is available only on CDS Dataflex Pro I will be a bit disappointed, but in the same way I will be very happy when "functionality Y" is available in Dataflex.

They may be based on the same technology, but they are two different products with different targets in mind, we should not forget that. I usually don't talk about licensing, mostly because it's not part of what I do everyday, but if after a product pitch the first question is "how much does it cost?" probably the pitch wasn't that good, if you are proposing Dataflex/Dataflex Pro to improve the capabilities of a process and people don't start to ask "so means that I can do this right?" or "do you think it's possible to do X?" and they focus on just the cost then maybe it's not a good fit, we should not change a product for another, we should focus on doing things better. Said that, licensing is too complex and too aleatory (and for some things too pricey, I am looking at you Power Apps Portals) so my hope is also to have a clear picture of the costs involved if I decide to use the Power Platform or just a part of it.

Welcome Dataflex/Dataflex Pro! You may increase functionalities or change name, but for me you will always be the same when I write Entity newAccount = new Entity("account");, in the end I am a bit sentimental when I write some code.

May 20, 2020

PCF Gallery: 1 year after

1 year ago I opened PCF Gallery, time really does fly. The site went beyond my expectations, listing more than 200 controls and having more than 90 authors. My goal was simple: to have a space where open source controls can be listed so developers can see what others are doing, publish their work (in addition to the repository) and show what PCF controls can actually do to help end users.

The site really needs some improvements (mainly regarding the search) but thanks to the suggestions of the community I was able to introduce small features that I implemented as indicators: if a control is for Canvas Apps, if the control has a license and if a managed solution is available.

License information is really important for some end users and also for the authors, it may be a secondary thing, but having a license really step up the control and how it should be used or expanded by others.

The managed solution indicator is something that I needed for myself in a first place. The process to compile a PCF control isn't so straightforward for end users and can be annoying for developers, if the author spends extra time to publish also a managed solution for the control, the minimum that I can do is to make that information available to others.

I am aware that the community created several tools to assist users in the creation or deployment of PCF controls, and also if they are not shown inside the gallery, I try to create awareness using the Twitter account (there is also a LinkedIn Page by the way).

I am not good to write this kind of posts, but this morning I received this message:
"Dear Guido, thank you for all the effort behind the PCF Gallery and possibility for me and all other Power Apps enthusiasts to use all those tools. I think this is an incredible way to bring the community together."

I don't care about the views or the stats behind the site, I just try to make something available for others (as simple as it can be to list other people controls) and I am happy when someone finds the site useful.

 Thanks everybody and especially the authors listed inside PCF Gallery.

February 29, 2020

Exam MB-400: My Experience

This morning I finally got the result from an exam I did a while ago: the MB-400: Microsoft Power Apps + Dynamics 365 Developer.
I passed it (result here) but I learned two important lessons:
  • I will never do again a Beta exam
  • I need to prepare better the exams
The reasons I took this exam in Beta were essentially two: I got an early discount code (here a mention of it for the first 300 people) and it was the first technical exam about Dynamics 365 released in a long time.

The previous technical exam was MB2-701 Extending Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 (that I passed too by the way) and I was eager to prove myself that I still got it. My main skills regarding Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform are technical, so I felt that I needed to do this exam, as additional proof I didn't do yet the MB-200: Microsoft Power Platform + Dynamics 365 Core that is considered by many one of the exams that you need to take if you want to start this path.

If you use the discount code you have also a time limit (in my case was 12 December 2019) but due to previous commitments I scheduled the exam for 14 November, only two weeks after the announcement.
In that two weeks I tried to prepare the exam the best as I could, but remember to follow the official exam skills in addition to the suggested learning path because (for example) the Learning path suggests Extend Dynamics 365 portals but Portals is not an argument included in the exam skills, and the exam skills contain PCF (Power Apps Component Framework) and a learning path is not available yet.

When I booked the exam I thought: "if I don't pass the exam it's the same, I can do it again" but after I did the exam I instantly regret the decision, because the exam was hard for the preparation I had and you don't get the result right away when you do a Beta exam. Waiting for over 3 months and be in a limbo where you don't know if you passed or not an exam is something I don't want to experience again.

So my suggestion is to always go prepared for the exams, and if you plan to take the MB-400 I suggest also to read the posts by Joe Griffin in his website.

December 5, 2019

Unified Interface transition: Powered by Power Apps Portals

The latest news is that Microsoft is scheduling the transition to Unified Interface way before October 2020. If you are interested in this topic check this blog post by Magnetism: Scheduling Dynamics 365 Unified Interface Upgrade in the Transition Portal and this twitter thread by Jukka Niiranen.

After I heard the news I quickly checked one of the tenants I have access and with my surprise (beside the early date Microsoft scheduled) I noticed that the site https://runone.powerappsportals.com is built with Power Apps Portal.

Yes, the domain was an obvious clue, but as soon I saw the Profile Page I recognized it:

I work with Power Apps Portals (since it was called ADX Studio Portals) and I am happy to see Microsoft using it also for this kind of websites. If you believe in a product you should be the first to use it, right?

If you want to know more about Power Apps Portals, you can check the official site: https://powerapps.microsoft.com/en-us/portals/ and the blogs of three MVPs: Nick Doelman, Colin Vermander and Nicholas Hayduk.

What are you waiting for? Go to check the scheduled dates for your instances!

October 31, 2019

"Custom plug-ins should not catch exceptions"... that's new.

The title refers to an error message I got today in one of my plugins, the complete text is the following:

ISV code reduced the open transaction count. Custom plug-ins should not catch exceptions from OrganizationService calls and continue processing.

I googled the message and I found the explanation inside the following page: Troubleshoot plug-ins.
The reason is simple: inside my code I wrapped an IOrganizationService.Update inside a try catch block:
    Entity updateRecord = new Entity(recordRef.LogicalName, recordRef.Id);
    updateRecord[fieldName] = fieldValue;
catch (Exception ex) {
    // ...
Why I did that? In my case the specific update may or may not fail (due to the status of the entity and the field that I need to update) but I needed to make sure the plugin containing the above code should never fail.
I don't have a specific workaround to resolve this situation because it really depends on the logic you have inside the plugin (in my case one of the options is to create an additional async plugin just to perform this update so it will not affect the main plugin).
The page mentions that this error has been added recently, so if in your existing plugins you have an IOrganizationService call wrapped inside a try catch block, the plugin is probably failing right now.

UPDATE: looks like that wrapping an IOrganizationService call was never possible, but the platform before returned a non meaningful error message (like "no active transaction found"), at least now we are notified with the exact reason. Thanks Tanguy Touzard and Jonas Rapp for the correction!

October 18, 2019

PCF Gallery - 5 months after

Today (18 October 2019) I added the 100th to PCF Gallery.

All the controls listed inside PCF Gallery can be downloaded, and the source code is available inside their GitHub repository or in the blog post linked inside the page. The majority of the controls is for Model-driven apps, some of them can be added also to Canvas apps and there are also a couple created specifically just for Canvas apps.

There is no doubt the PowerApps Component Framework is one of the most interesting capabilities landed recently inside the Power Platform world, at least for developers!

When I wrote the post announcing the launch of PCF Gallery, I optimistically wished that soon it would list dozen of controls. After few months, thanks to the contributions from more than 40 authors, PCF Gallery is a beautiful showcase of the possibilities offered by the PowerApps Component Framework.

A big thanks to the whole PCF Community!

July 19, 2019

New SDK released with support for new regions (France, US Gov DoD, China)

A week ago thanks to a question on Dynamics Community Forums (link) and to Daniel Cai that spotted the crm12 inside the url, I became aware that a new region for Dynamics 365/PowerApps (located in France) was introduced, however the SDK was not able to connect to this new region as it was not updated yet.

Yesterday the SDK Team released an update to several NuGet packages (link), from the changelog:
Added support for France and New US Geo's

Microsoft didn't update yet the official documentation page but you can check in the next days if you need the exact Discovery Url (especially for the new US region, for the France one you just need to use crm12)

Meanwhile I was testing the new Plugin Registration Tool, I noticed they also introduced a new region in China, strangely the changelog didn't mention this.

Hope it helps!