How to Build Power Portal connected with Business Central

Introduction

When I think about new Dynamics 365 Business Central (in the future, I’ll use only ‘Business Central’ or just ‘BC’) features, the first things in my mind are openness and integrations. Then one of the most common limits in Business Central (and in Dynamics NAV before) was lack of portal connected with the database. Of course, you could develop portal from the scratch or use one of existing solutions and develop integration… But what is common in both of these cases? You need to pay in the first case for development (not so cheap) and in the other case for IP or license (again not so cheap).

But with Power Platform we got something more. Now we have Power Portal and as you have Power Platform included in your user’s subscriptions, you don’t need to pay something more (minimum, not such a big amount of money). Only what you need to pay is using portal, but this is really not so costly (100USD per month for 100,000 page views for unauthenticated users or 200USD per month for 100 daily login sessions for authenticated users. More details here: https://powerapps.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/). And yes… we have an issue here… Power Portal is based on Dataflex Pro (formerly known as Common Data Service). But this is an opportunity, not a limitation. And this is the topic of this whitepaper.

Start with building entities in Power Platform

First as I already mentioned, this is necessary to build solution in Dataflex Pro and that means you need to create entity(ies) you want to connect with Business Central. That means you need to run Power Apps: https://powerapps.microsoft.com/. After that, I’ll continue with task. In this example, I’ll use Employee entity as we already have Employee table in BC.

To do this, you need to start from Entities (Data > Entities in the left navigation pane) or you can start with Solutions and create new entity from there. In the new entity, enter Display name and enter primary name.

Click Done when you enter that. After that, you need to add new fields using Add fields command. When you finish with all fields, click Save Entity to save all changes.

When you finish with all details in creation of entity you can start with building connection with Business Central. But keep in the mind that you need to make something more here and we will come back later. Right now, only one thing you can add is Key just to avoid having duplicates and my recommendation is to copy keys from BC table.

Connecting Business Central with portal

OK, connection with the Business Central can be done on a few different ways and I’ll try to explain all of them here.

Business Central customizing an integration with Common Data Service

From the Wave 1 2020, Business Central supports an integration by default with a set of entities in the Dataflex Pro default database, but you can make customization through extension and add more. For developing extensions that integrate Business Central with Dataflex Pro, system uses extensibility capabilities where proxies to Dataflex Pro tables can be created in Business Central, and these will be made extensible. This allows for custom attributes to be synchronized and for additional tables to be added to the default synchronization process.

When you create this extension, only what you need to do is mapping tables with entities as well as mapping fields in Business Central and Dataflex Pro.

I don’t want to write in details how you can do it as Microsoft already published completely documentation how to build this kind of extension and how to configure it. For more details, open this page: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics365/business-central/dev-itpro/administration/administration-custom-cds-integration.

When you finish with developing an extension, you can find here how to map tables and fields: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics365/business-central/admin-how-to-modify-table-mappings-for-synchronization.

When you connect entities in Dataflex Pro and Business Central, you can continue with building Power Portal.

Integration using webservices and Power Automate

Previous way of integration is native, but it requires some development knowledge. But what if you are not developer and still want to build portal based on Business Central? Do you think it is possible? Yes… this is an answer.

From the Entity page in Power Apps, just click Get Data and in the Power Query window choose OData tile. Go next and then you need to stop yourself there. You should move to the Business Central. Open Web services page and add page you want to use in synchronization. In our case, this is page 5200… just click New, as Object type choose Page and add this page number; enter Service name you want to use and click on Publish field. Copy OData V4 URL value.

Move back to the Power Apps and in the Connection setting paste this value to the URL field. Choose Organizational account as an Authentication kind. Confirm your credentials and go to the next page. Click Next until you open the following page.

Now you need to choose Load to existing entity option and in the Destination entity choose entity you created (in my example BCEmployees).

In the Field mapping part of window (right side), you need to map fields from web service in Business Central as a Source column with Destination fields (fields in our entity). When you finish it, just click Next and you will find a page where you can configure refresh settings. That means you need to choose how often system will synchronize data from Business Central web service to the entity. Click Create and you have been finished with integration.

But something will miss here. As you are using just refresh model, that means you will get records from Business Central, but you cannot insert there. Actually, you can insert to entity, but system will not insert them to BC. To solve this, you can create very simply flow in Power Automate. Actually… you will need as many flows as you want actions.

You can see on previous picture that I chose When a record is created and it will be OK if you want to have only Insert from portal. But if you want more action, you need to use the following triggers:

  • For ModifyWhen a record is updated,
  • For DeleteWhen a record is deleted.

In this example you will see flow for inserting, but I think you can easily understand how to create two additional flows based on well-known parameters.

Keep in the mind that you need to use the following parameters in the trigger:

  • Environment – choose an environment you used for building solution in Power Apps
  • Entity name – entity you created
  • ScopeOrganization

Now when you save it, your solution is finished. I would just like o mention that instead of web service integration you could choose API integration as well:

Configuration in both of cases is very similar and there is not a reason to repeat completely process.

Building a portal

Power Portal

Now when we made an integration using one of the models, we can continue with building our portal.

To finish with this process, we need to open Power Apps again and to start with creation new Power App. You can start from Home or from Create and you need to choose Portal from blank option.

Enter the name of your portal and carefully choose Address for your portal. This is place where you can also choose a language.

When you select Create, you need to be ready to wait some time until system create portal. It usually takes a few minutes, sometimes more, sometimes less… but be a patient. When an app is created, open it in the edit mode. You will see we have prebuilt portal, but we want to add new page with our data. To do this, select New page and choose Blank.

System will create new blank page and we need to add necessary components. Select Components icon in the left-side menu and locate List. This is logical if you want to start with a list view.

Now you need to configure some details. As we will create new component, choose Create new display and as Entity choose your entity (BC Employee in my example). The next important step is to choose a view as each entity has more views. I think that Active {items} are logical choice here.

OK, this is how we can create a list. But if you want to have possibilities to create new entry or to edit or delete it from here, you have an opportunity to do it immediately here. In the right-sided pane you will see a few options appear.

You can choose if you want to add the following features here: creating, viewing, editing and deleting. If you switch-on any of these options, you will get an opportunity to choose which form will be run to make this action. This is very easy for configuration, but what is important is that you need to have these forms already built.

OK, now you need to select Sync Configuration command to see result. But you can see that you have only two columns here in your list and this is not what you want. This is because, when system creates entity, views are created automatically but only with the main field plus Created On. But this is not problem as you just need to customize your view.

View customization

To customize view, you should go back to Power Apps and entity you previously created. There you need to select View tab and from the list of all view to select one you want to customize. In our case it is Active BC Employees.

When you open this view in edit mode, you need to add fields you want to see on your view. I’ll add Name, Surname, Address and City and resize it as I would like to see on the screen.

When you finish with adding and/or moving fields, you need to click first Save and after that Publish commands. Keep in mind that if you didn’t publish it you cannot use it.

Test

Now we can say we finished with everything. Go back to the Power Apps and choose Apps on the left-side pane. You will see completely list of your apps. Just choose app (portal) you just created. When you run it, choose the page we created and that’s it. You can see the window in portal with our data from Business Central.

Business Central API’s and Available Methods

If you use API’s in Business Central, probably you found some limitations in methods, depending on API to API. Sometimes you can do more, sometime less. For example, with Accounts you can use only GET method (I still don’t understand why?), and so on…

You can find details about all of them here, but I prefer to have everything on one place as it will be easier to decide if I would use standard API or eventually I need to create the custom one. Because of that, I’ve made this matrix with all standard API’s and methods you can use with them:

Except these limitations, it would be nice to know that you have some other limits as well and they are important if you want to use API’s in some solutions. Even if those limits are high, they are still limits. For example, you can have maximum 600 requests per minute in production environment and 300 in sandbox. Complete list of limits is here.

And what is also important? If you are using those API’s through Power Platform (or Logic Apps) connectors, you should understand their actions and parameters. All details can be found here, but there is a table for better understanding:

It is important to mention that all that information are subject of change.

All sessions from NAV TechDays 2017

NAV TechDays 2017 has just finished a few days ago and I already wrote about my expressions. Now, all sessions are already published and I want to have all of them on the one place. There are all of them:

Opening Keynote

Deep dive into the new development tools by Stanislaw Stempin, Jesper Schulz-Wedde and Esben Nyhuus Kristoffersen (all from Microsoft Development Center Copenhagen)

Desktop & Mobile Client Enhancements by Horina Serbanescu, Andrea Tino and Tomas Grubliauskas (all from Microsoft Development Center Copenhagen)

Application SaaSification by Henrik Frovst Madsen and Tommaso Pimpo (all from Microsoft Development Center Copenhagen)

Azure Functions Deep Dive by Vjeko Babic (Cloud Ready Software)

C/AL, Coding for Performance by Jasminka Thunes (NxM Business Solutions) and Jörg Stryk (STRYK System Improvement)

Creating great API’s by Anders Larsen and Nikola Kukrika (all from Microsoft Development Center Copenhagen)

Rock ‘n Roll with VSCode by Waldo (iFacto & Cloud Ready Software)

PowerApps, Common Data Services and Common Data Model by Michael Nielsen (ForNAV) and Mark Brummel (NAV Skills)

Easier and DevOps-friendly Dynamics NAV environments using Docker / Windows Containers by Tobias Fenster (Axians Infoma), Jakub Vaňák (Marques Olivia) and Freddy Kristiansen (MDCC)

Best practices to get automated tests running on your solution by Luc van Vugt (fluxxus.nl) and James Crowter (Technology Management)

Office 365 business apps powered by Dynamics 365 “Tenerife” platform by Ievgenii Korovin, Andreas Moth and Monica Ahuja (all from Microsoft Development Center Copenhagen)

Source Code Management with Visual Studio Code Made Easy by Soren Klemmensen (360 Visibility) and Jonas Andersen (Elbek & Vejrup)

Enjoy and see you there the next year…

Image Analyzer in NAV as Cognitive Service

It really sounds amazing. But if you were been at Microsoft Ignite and attended NAV/D365FOBE sessions, you already seen this service as something what we will have in the future. When I say future, I think on the future NAV version, but if we speak about D365 for Financials, you can test in now.

Now, just small introduction how it works. I’ll show this feature on Items and you will see it works fine. When you run Item Card page, you will see Analyze Picture on a Actions tab as on the following picture.

ml1

When you start this action for the first time, you will get similar notifications as on the following screen and you just need to enable it (of course) if you want to use:

ml2

Then, system will lead through enabling wizard. First you will see a small description about how system uses the Computer Vision API from Microsoft Cognitive Service, where you can find links with more information bout API and services… You just need to click on Next, then confirm that you understand terms of conditions and on the end – Finish (if you want to analyze this current picture, you need to check one field).

ml345.PNG

And if you check this checkmark field, system will start with analyzing this picture. This is how it works for the first time. But you can click this Analyze Picture on each Item Card where you already have a picture.

But what if you don’t have picture? As soon as you finish with inserting picture, system will by default run this feature, and system will automatically analyze new picture. When system finish with analyzing of this picture, you will find what system recognize with confidence better then 80%.

ml6.PNG

But you can find all detected attributes if you click on a View All Attributes. All attributes with not so good confidence will be painted in red.

ml7

From this point, you can do a few things. First, you will see that system sometimes offer some specific option in Action to Perform. By default, system will mostly offer Ignore as option, but sometimes it is “Use as category” or “Use as attribute”. I think I don’t need to describe what it means :). Of course, you can change this option as you wish and it probably depends of what system recognized. You can also use “Add to the Item Description” for each of attributes and to create specific Item Description based on discovered attributes.

When you finish with everything you can confirm and than you need to finish with attributes. System will add as attributes and as category all attributes you decided.

ml9.1

Now, I’ve showed how you can start with this feature and how to test it. But I wanted to test it little bit more. OK, it worked mostly nice with images we have in Cronus database (not with all, because you need to have clear enough pictures).

But what we will get in some production environment? I made a few tests taking the pictures for the same items from catalogue (ideal pictures) and made from my own (natural pictures). You can find 5 tests in the following charts:

chart1

chart2

Now, you can compare these results. First, I didn’t expect good results from realistic photos, but I was really surprised. Sometimes, ideal pictures got better percentage on the most important attributes (but not so big difference), but system very often recognized better attributes on realistic photos and that means system can understand context of photos. And I got more attributes from natural photos, but of course I got a more noses in attributes list, and this is something I could expect because in real picture you don’t have only one thing on the photo.

But I can conclude that this feature is really powerful. Of course this is just first edition of this feature and this is not unmistakable tool, but it can be very helpful in the future.

New Dynamics NAV API’s

As I promised a few days ago in my post about news in Dynamics NAV, now I’ll add some additional news. In this post I’ll show new API’s.

Currently we have these 42 completed API’s:

APIs01

And we will have these API’s soon:

APIs02

Sorry because of quality of pictures (photos taken on Microsoft Inspire). I’ll make them better in the few following days. Today, I just wanted to share these info.

VMs in New Azure Portal

I’ve already wrote about new Microsoft Azure Portal code named Ibiza. When you look this new portal, one of the first news in that now we have two menus for virtual machines:

  • Virtual Machines
  • Virtual Machines (classic)

AzureVMandVMclassic.png

You will see that all virtual machines you already created using old Azure Portal are placed in Virtual Machines (classic). I want to give you a small descriptions about difference between these two options.

The new Azure Resource Manager with a new API doesn’t uses resources as the old API. Because of that, the classic API stack is still operational, but you’ll see those resources showed up as (classic). You have not a reason to convert classic VM to the new VM. You just need to know that you cannot include classic VM in a virtual network deployed with Resource Manager and they don’t have to be included in a virtual network (unless new VMs must be included).

But if you want to migrate classic VM to the newer model, first you have to be sure you can afford a downtime for your VM. If you can afford it, than you can do it using ASM2ARM PowerShell script. You can find all details here.

I hope, I helped you. I have some more information about it and I’ll prepare a real interesting example soon.