Dynamics 365 for Operations Integration

Microsoft has invested a lot of time and effort to evolve the integration and Data Entity Framework. This has developed quite a bit from the previous version(s) of AX. The table below provides insight of some information that we may be aware of and used till now, and provides a glimpse of the  new features that are expected in the spring release. A great amount of focus was given to integration in the Microsoft Dynamics 365O tech conference.

Service endpoint  Dynamics AX 2012 Dynamics 365 for Operations (D365O)
Document Services (AXDs) Yes No – Replaced by data entities 
SOAP-based Metadata Service Yes No – Replaced by REST metadata 
SOAP-based Query Service  Yes No – Replaced by OData
OData Query Service  Yes No – Replaced by OData
SOAP-based Custom Service  Yes Yes
JSON-based Custom Service  No Yes (new)
OData Service  No Yes (new)
REST Metadata Service  No Yes (new)

Authentication

Authentication is worth mentioning as this has changed. With the move to the Cloud, the authentication identity manager is now Azure AD. This authentication is used for any integrations, be it OData services, JSON-based Services or REST Metadata Services. All are supported by the Client ID and the secret key which is the standard OAuth authentication.

Data Entities form the foundation of any integration, and this single data management framework serves multiple uses. For integrations, OData services leverages the data entities to exchange data directly with the target tables, thus bypassing the staging tables of the data management platform.

Real time and Asynchronous integrations:

There are two main types of integrations:

  1. Real-time integrations – information required in real time
  2. Asynchronous integrations – information is queued for the target application. This serves to pick up the information on a periodic basis

As we know, this will be based on the requirements, such as, price requests on a mobile app, or customer accounts synchronised at a set interval.

Type of integration will depend on:

  • Business requirement
  • Frequency of synchronising
  • Volume of data

It is worth mentioning the Azure Service bus for queuing and sequencing of messages. This can be in conjunction with Azure Blob storage, if file based integrations are available. The advantage with Azure Service bus is the de-coupled communication where the messages are queued If a target application is not available, the messages will still be queued and the synchronisation will continue once the application is available. In addition, the load balancing feature adds to the benefit of using the Azure Service Bus. 

Microsoft’s Enterprise integration vision

Microsoft has shared its vision of enterprise applications integration across cloud and hybrid solutions, where BizTalk and Logic apps are at the heart of the enterprise integration thereby customers are able to connect on premise and cloud-based applications more seamlessly. With the Logic Apps released, these integrations are now, more than ever before, easily achieved.

In addition to Logic Apps, Microsoft has also released the SaaS based offering, Microsoft Flow, Flow offers the code-less method of integration to resolve end user capability of solving the integration between applications, while Logic Apps is more geared towards specialists and developers to solve more complex integrations scenarios. It is worth mentioning that Microsoft Flow leverages the Logic Apps Framework under the hood.

The image above shows Microsoft Enterprise Integration Vision with some of the managed connectors on the left. This number is growing with Microsoft investments in its vision.

The right-hand side shows the Azure services available via Logic Apps. And Of course, as above-mentioned, Logic Apps and BizTalk form the heart of the integration. Also, worth mentioning at this point, is that, there is a BizTalk adapter available for Logic Apps.

In summary, comparison of Microsoft Flow Vs. Logic Apps:

  Flow Logic Apps
Audience Business Users  Developers/IT Pros 
Scenarios Self-Service  Mission Critical
Tool Browser  Browser/Visual Studio
Dev Ops Ad-hoc Source control, testing, support, and automation
and manageability with Azure Resource Management
Manage  https://flow.microsoft.com https://portal.azure.com
Security  Standard practices; data sovereignty,
encryption at rest for sensitive data, etc.
Security assurance of Azure: Azure Security,
Security Centre, audit logs, and more

Microsoft Flow and Logic apps seems to be the future of integrations with D365O. The question: when is a Logic App fit for purpose over Microsoft Flow? This is something that will be based on case-by-case basis. Microsoft Flow should be considered as a tool for business (power users) to build business applications. Logic Apps should be used to create more mission critical applications used by developer and IT professionals.

Advantages of using Enterprise integrations:

  • Store all artefacts in one place, under one integration account
  • Integrate third party applications, on premise applications and custom apps with Azure Logic Apps
  • Create custom code for your Logic apps using Azure Functions

To conclude

Hope this blog helps explain the different technologies and provide the starting point of how they can be built and used. In general, the use case should be the decisive factor when selecting the best solution. Going forward, many more Connectors will be made available to aid and help integration to be easier to implement.