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Friday, January 25, 2013

Know thy Dynamics HashTags!

Understanding how to navigate the social landscape is a vital skill that help one stay on top of the latest news for Microsoft Dynamics, and further be a contributor to the community at large. Events like the upcoming Convergence 2013, being held in New Orleans can seem overwhelming, in trying to digest all the great news & happenings while there. Further, for those not able to attend, but wanting to learn as much as possible - navigating the social landscape is a must!

To help weed through the information, and further avoid things like "social saturation" understanding HashTag's that are used within the Microsoft Dynamics Community is a must! Enter Jon Rivers latest post on this topic.: 2013 #HASHTAG PREDICTIONS FOR MICROSOFT DYNAMICS ARE HERE!

You may recall Jon & Mark Polino's efforts in helping customers and partners entering into the social fray, with their joint authored book.: Social Media for Microsoft Dynamics Partners.

Jon continues his mastery of the social arts, with giving us a heads up for this years HashTag index. It's ever so important to understand the value of such HashTag's as #Conv13, #AXUGSummit and many more. Doing so, as I mentioned above, will give one the ability to stay on top of the information most important to you. Further, if your going to contribute to the ever growing community at large, then having the right HashTag's used associated with your efforts if vital.

I will say, sometimes there is a battle for HashTag dominance. Where competing events, or community actually land on using the same tag. I bring to mind the great battle when Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 was launched, and the same time the Anime Expo 2012 conference was being targeted. I believe the Dynamics Community won out right the use of #AX2012. However, this battle is far from over as we approach the year 2015. I predict, once again the Dynamics Community will face off against the Anime Expo crowd, when #AX2015 is the focus for the year 2015 and the release of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2015.

Going back more to the serious side of this social skill set, Jon's efforts within the community are always helpful. With his post, we all have a quick reference to the HashTag's that should be targeted and used. Further, Jon will avoid *ME* direct messaging him, asking "Jon, what is the HashTag for [Insert event here]."

Many thanks Jon for all the efforts you do for the Dynamics Community at large. There should be an MVP Award from Microsoft that allows Jon to be awarded for his efforts across all the Dynamics Products, including his focus on mastering the social landscape.

That's all for this post, I hope that each and everyone of you have a great weekend, and find yourself being productive in our Dynamics World. Check back soon as more Dynamics & BI coverage to come. Further, as we approach Microsoft Dynamics Convergence 2013, keep an eye here for total coverage, interviews and more! Till Next Time!
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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

AX 2012, SQL Server 2012 & NLB Reporting Services

Today I wanted to take the time, and give light to a specific topic, Network Load Balancing Reporting Services with AX 2012 & SQL Server 2012. As I have done in the past, to help shed light on this most important topic, I invited Matt Tortorice AX System Engineer for McWane, Inc. to give us some insights on this topic.

Matt, along with McWane, is currently implementing Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 for some of their divisions. Recently, I worked with Matt on the topic of clustering for reporting services, and he is here to help give valuable, customer based insight into the process.

Matt Tortorice LinkedIn Profile | @mtortorice

After following the “Configure a Report Server on a Network Load Balancing Cluster” article on TechNet, and generating my machine key from aspnetresources/machineKey I was able to apply the new Machine Key value to both of our load balanced Report Servers web.config file. In doing this, we ended up with a configuration that looks similar to what is pictured below.:

When first launching into the instance of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, that had three AOSes, users had no issues executing report. Users, that is, that where connected to the first AOS that has an Reporting Services configuration associated with it that is.

Those Users trying to run an SSRS Report when connected to the any other AOS instances (ax102, ax103) would get the following error message.: “The default Report Server Configuration ID could not be found in the SRSServers table.” This error message was presented in an infolog, similar to the one pictured below.:

To solve this problem, the answer was to create a Reporting Server Configuration for each AOS in the cluster by setting the Application Object Server Name to each AOS instance. In other words, 3 identical Server configurations except for the AOS Server name. Configuration ID 1 points to AX101, ID 2 points to AX102 and ID3 points to AX103 as seen below:

Once there was a Report Configuration for each AOS instance all of the reports SSRS Reports would generate when a client was connected to any AOS. All reports where able to execute, no matter what AOS a user was logged into. Further each of the report server configurations where pointing to the NLB, or Network Load Balancing server name.

Having done this, we where able to take full advantage of SQL Server 2012, with a scaled out, load balanced reporting servers that better meets are reporting needs. This will further enable, as needed, future scale as our users demand more, and more reports from our Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 instance.

I would like to thank Matt for taking the time to share with us, about this topic. Giving us insight into the trenches of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 and how the stack is helping him realize real value for his company needs.

Further, the following is more information about Matt and his blog, where he plans to continue his journey, and helping all of us along the way.:

With a Background in .Net Development, SQL Server Management and Microsoft Server Administration I began my unexpected adventure in Dynamics AX in late 2012 when I was tasked with setting up 3 Dynamics AX 2012 CU3 Single Server Environments using SQL Server 2012, and a 9 Server Production installation of Dynamics AX with 3 AOS Servers, 2 SharePoint EP Servers, 1 SharePoint Search Server, 2 SQL Server 2012 Servers in a High Availability Group and 1 Help/FileServer. I will continue to blog about my experiences and answer any questions I get at http://blog.thedeprecated.com

That's all for this post, check back soon as I will continue the focus of valued added content. We will dive further into the Dynamics based world, with more coverage of BI, Reporting, Services and more! Till Next Time!
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Friday, January 18, 2013

My Review of "Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 Services"

I hope everyone has had a great and productive Dynamics week thus far! I know it's a busy time of year for projects, and changes that a new year brings with it. I wanted to take the time and focus this week on a book I was asked to review. What I'm talking about, is the "Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 Services" book that was recently released.

This was a book I was ready to see released, and one that I wanted to put to the test. It's a topic that needs understanding by anyone implementing Dynamics AX 2012. What is learned when truly diving into services with Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 is a foundation for the future.

To help frame the importance of this topic, lets look at an Interview from the past. Doing so will help give meaning to the mention of how services are the foundation for the future of Microsoft Dynamics. Here, you will find my interview with Lachlan Cash from Microsoft.: Microsoft's strategy and vision for Dynamics AX and SOA.

This interview took place in March of 2009, nearly four years ago. However what is laid out in this vision interview is what we see today with Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 & R2. The vision has become reality, and now it's time to embrace the changes that this foundation of services represents.

From the interview.:
"SOA has been about connecting systems together, we think that it has more a place with-in the application as a fundamental shift in the way business logic is written and designed. This is a long term strategy to make it easier for our customers and partners to adapt the business application to their needs and integrate with other line of business applications." - Lachlan Cash, Microsoft

With this understanding, and a blast from the past, lets look at the amazing job authors Klaas Deforche & Kenny Saelen did with this book. From start to finish it is well thought out, easy to find specific information about topics, and can take a newbie on a journey of services enlightenment.

Starting off, the concepts are covered very well, including basic concepts like "What are services and SOA?". Klass & Kenny advance the reader through a what's new section, and how this section is so important to grasp for those that have been working with Dynamics AX for many years.

All possible service types are covered very well, including the needed understanding for working with Collections, via the infamous AifCollectionTypeAttribute. The reader is throw into great examples that enforce basic concepts, while introducing the 'to-become' services jedi master!

As further proof of Klass & Kenny's understanding what services are in AX 2012, they devoted the entire Chapter 5 to the explain & explore the SysOperation Framework. The following is an excerpt from the that chapter.:
"The SysOperation framework is new in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, and is the preferred way of creating batch jobs. It replaces the RunBaseBatch framework, which remains available for backwards compatibility. When Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 was released, the SysOperation framework was known as the Business Operation Framework or BOF."

Image from book comparing RunBase vs. SysOperation.

The authors also cover well the system services, uses of the system services, and giving full, tested examples throughout the book.

Like any book review, there is always something that can be added. A book, like a house, as any author or architect well knows, is never really finished. It's just a static version, or a version release for consumption and use. With that, there are a few area's that I would like to have seen including in this.

First one, which is near and dear to my heart, is the ODataQueryService. You can find out more about OData and Dynamics AX at the following.: AX-OData Queries.

This, is a very useful system service, that saw much improvements with the release of Dynamics AX 2012 R2. Further this service will continue to become more and more important to fully help complete the vision that was laid out by Lachlan Cash, in the above referenced interview.

Finally, the other area that is the biggest hole in this book is Debugging Services in AX 2012. The referenced link there, covers just the steps needed for getting started, but honestly this is a topic that needs some deep dives, to cover it well and understand the nuances of debugging services for AX 2012.

With this, I give the book a 4.25/5 possible score. Overall this is a really great book, and I would recommend anyone implementing Dynamics AX 2012 to have this as their go to services book.

Well that's it for this week. I plan to get back into the serious side of business insights next week! Check back soon, as more to come. Till Next Time!

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Friday, January 11, 2013

The Coming Wave of Monetizing A Company's Data

It's been a while since I sat down and wrote an article, specifically on a topic that was not directly related to Microsoft Dynamics AX. I always find a way to connect such topics to AX however, and this article is no exception.

What I'm talking about is the coming wave, and movement we will see with new software & service offerings for helping companies easily package, maintain and sale their data. The holy grail for BigData promises. The 4th Paradigm of Data will finally find itself home in the reality we call our lives.

Alright, enough with the dramatic entrance to this topic, which is all about the current state of Data Markets, and what I think the future holds. With that, lets look at current state.

Current State

As-is, the data market, or services and sites that allow you to package and sale data you own and control, is actually at a decent saturation rate. A quick search on bing yields the following results.: Bing Results for 'Monetize Data'

A specific leader in the category of monetizing data, is the company called InfoChimps.com

InfoChimps is a very interesting company, and the array of services they offer continue to grow and morph. You can see the relative youth in this specific area of BigData. Have no doubts however, Monetizing Data will be a long leader in perceived value, for outcomes of BigData projects.

With this in mind, lets look at another service, closer to the heart of the Dynamics Ecosystem. That being of the Azure Datamarket, located at.: DataMarket.Azure.com.

The Azure DataMarket has a very specific focus, with a lot of big names already taking advantage of what this can bring. Here enter's the first area of how this crosses into Microsoft Dynamics AX. Business Intelligence projects, when correctly executed, will bring as part of the end result, insight into a companies data assets. These will become super valuable for companies that embrace the oncoming wave of data science.

The Future

For me, I see the future of Dynamics as this: A singular UX, that is both adaptable to smaller touch gestures, as well as larger projected, or surface displays. Applications can easily load into the desired mode.

Microsoft Dynamics ERP will be a place that helps easily package data assets for companies, has a place with the Azure DataMarket for publishing and the sale of such data assets. Further, the social integration for ease of marketing across multiple channels.

That is the current intersection for this topic with Microsoft Dynamics AX, at this point. A future, that is not that far away actually, but still there are steps and things that need to take place before this really could become a firm reality. That is going to be the fun part! Check back soon as we look further into BigData, with the goal of creating real value. Further more on Dynamics AX news, Services, BI and more! Till Next Time!
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Thursday, January 10, 2013

ODataQueryService Paging Setting for AX 2012

Today I wanted to spend a little time, in the trenches if you will, with the Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 ODataQueryService. I've talked a good bit about this, and it's value over the past 12 months for enabling Personal BI conepts through the use of PowerPivot.

Today I wanted to spend time, talking through an issue that you might encounter when actively using OData feeds from AX 2012. Lets first look at the desired need for reporting, specifically targeting the InventTable or Item Master within Dynamics AX.

What you see in the above image, is a query that joins several tables, in order to get a full result for Item data, as an OData Feed. As you can see, we have Invent, Purch & Sales Setup data, Item Group, Model group and the InventTable itself. When trying to execute such a query as an OData feed within Dynamics AX 2012 with default paging settings for the ODataQueryService, you might see your TempDB database grow in an uncontrolled fashion. This was seen with an Dynamics AX 2012 FP CU3 instance, with SQL Server 2012 database.

In looking at this further, it seemed to take place anytime the InventTable was involved within a Query. EcoResProduct data works fine, as well as tables with a lot more records. The behavior that was seen, specifically related to PowerPivot not being able to complete the request for data, and the TempDB taking as much space and it could on the drive that hosted it's .MDF file.

If however, we change the paging file setting in the AOS(es) AX32Serv.exe.config files, key of ODataQueryPageSize, value from 1000 to 5000, then you will see such a problem go away.

       <add key="ODataQueryPageSize" value="1000" />

change to:

       <add key="ODataQueryPageSize" value="5000" />


Even with this in mind, when need to keep the goal of what PowerPivot is meant to deliver front and center. Meaning it's better to design queries, that would represent one or two tables for a dataset. These separate queries, then become valid targets for fact tables and dimension tables within the PowerPivot design space. The front & center concept here, is the fact that we are building a cube when working with PowerPivot. So though you can increase the paging size for the ODataQueryService, but keep in mind that the best route might be to break up a larger query with multiple tables, into multiple queries, with less tables per each query.

This setting change was first reported by Microsoft, with the following post.: OData Query Service. Further keep in mind, that you can join the Open Source project I have going, focusing around OData Queries and Utilities for Microsoft Dynamics AX.: AX-OData Queries on CodePlex

That is all for this post, but check back soon as a lot more to come. Till Next time!
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Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Microsoft Dynamics AX Diagnostic Framework (Beta)

I hope everyone is having a great and productive Dynamics week thus far! I wanted to write about something brand new Microsoft just released on InformatioSource.

What I'm talking about is the recently released Diagnostic Framework for Microsoft Dynamics AX. This new framework, targets Dynamics AX 2009 & Dynamics AX 2012. You can find more about this framework, from the following resource.: Diagnostic Framework for Microsoft Dynamics AX User Guide [AX 2012].

From the User's guide.:
"The Diagnostic Framework for Microsoft Dynamics AX, beta version, helps administrators diagnose the health of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 and Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009. The framework assesses the health of Microsoft Dynamics AX and its components, such as Application Object Server (AOS), Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS), Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services, and Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services."

I'm actually in the process of looking into this today, and getting use from it already for a client. Keep in mind, this is a pre-release, so expect some issues. However Microsoft talked this framework up a good bit for the past few months, and I expect it to be a great tool. After working with it, I will review the process for setting this up, and talk to it's use cases.

I really think this shows that Microsoft is serious about its commitment to the Dynamics Ecosystem. Providing needed tool sets for customers & partners alike. For this framework, beyond the referenced user guide, there is a nice video that walks through the setup and use of this tool on InformationSource.

Well that's all for today's post, check back soon as more to come! Till Next Time!
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