Entitlements are not throttling

Entitlements are not throttling

Should a five user organization be entitled to the same amount of compute as a 5 000 user organization?

Entitlements are the limitations that Microsoft have set on the platform that are based on which type of license each user has. This is not the same as the API Service limits which are much more liberal. The entitlements have not yet been fully enforced as the reporting capabilities of the platform have not been rolled out fully yet. But they will. With this blog post I attempt to give my perspective on entitlements on the Power Platform and Dynamics 365 (CRM part).

My previous post was about API Service limits which are commonly referred to as the throttling limits of the platform. The entitlements limits (and here) have another part in the Microsoft docs that go into these a bit deeper. I’d first like to go into why there are two different “protections” or limitations.

The API Service limits are there to protect the platform from noisy neighbours. Some of us, that have been around since the earlier days of Dynamics 365/CRM online remember that the performance used to be rather shaky. This could often be due to the fact that some other instance on the same hardware your instance was hosted on, was being slammed with massive amounts of requests, like during a migration. To make sure that this “noisy neighbour” problem doesn’t occur, the API-limits have been put in place and since they have, things have been a lot better so they do seem to work.

The Entitlements are there for another reason. Let’s say you buy two (2) Dynamics 365 Sales users and then use integrations with a custom built front end for B2C purposes with one of those users (or an app user), and, still within the limits of the API Service limits, hammer the API:s from day to night with an amazing amount of requests. The B2C aspect would be covered from a licensing perspective in what was previously called “external connector” license and is nowdays included in the normal license. However, the amount of compute that the instance is utilizing is way above what you are paying for. This is the reason why Microsoft have created the entitlements, as far as I know anyway. And I think it only makes sense that there is some kind of reasonable proportionality to that.

To quote the Microsoft docs page: “These limits represent the number of requests users are entitled to make each day. The allocated limit depends on the type of license assigned to each user.

What is a request?
The first question is then, what is a request? Previously we were told, that a batch request (ExecuteMultiple) was one (1) request but that has since changed and is now considered to all the subparts. I would even think that a batch request has the extra overhead of the batch itself. Hence, a batch request with 10 creates, will actually be counted as 11 requests; 1 for the batch, and 10 for the creates. The exact definitions are not disclosed but we get a rather good description from the docs with this paragraph, where I have highlighted some interesting parts:

“For Dataverse, API requests include all data operations that interact with table rows where rows are created, retrieved, updated, or deleted (CRUD). Special operations such as share and assign are included because they are considered updates. These requests can be from any client or application and using any endpoint. These include, but are not limited to, operations performed by plug-ins, async workflows, custom controls, and $batch (ExecuteMultiple) operations. There are a small set of system internal operations that are excluded, like login, sign out, and system metadata operations.”

The important takeaway here is hence that you cannot create a workaround by using a plugin and using the internal context pseudo-api to do the calls, as these are counted as well. Difference might be that they are done in the context of a specific user and that user has a rather large entitlement, which might hence “flatten the curve” so to speak. An interesting aspect, though is the exception to this rule:

“Power Platform API request allocations include use of Power Automate, AI Builder, and Connector APIs. All requests through a connector that result in a Dataverse request will represent 1 Power Platform request.”

This strongly indicates that Microsoft wants us to use the Power Platform tools and that these should not at least have additional costs. There are, however, still some inconsistencies in this area that I really hope that they fix, such as:

  • Microsoft supplied integrations in ADF
  • Integrations to Dynamics 365 Finance & Operations
  • Dynamics 365 Business Central
  • Exports to ADLS
  • Data Export Service

The latter two can be really heavy on the API:s if you have an enterprise system or a B2C system. I work with a customer which currently have a database of >400 GB which uses Data Export service and the amount of notifications on the Data Export Service just for Contacts for a year often exceed the hundreds of millions.

Other areas which are not mentioned but which I think are included are addon first-party apps like Customer Insight (Sales Insights) which actually uses a ADLS in the background (not that you can actually access it). I have heard stories of support tickets where Microsoft support have blamed the API Service protection for hitting the ceiling when it was Sales Insight that caused it, which would indicate that these are actually counted. I think the intention is to include all of these so that the license for these cover the API entitlements. I just wish they would fix the gaps as customers are being affected.

Entitlement telemetry might not be the same as API Service protection telemetry
That actually brings up another interesting aspect. The measurements that are used for the API Service protections are probably NOT the same as the measurements that are used for entitlements, but this is based on my personal hunch, and not any kind of facts. Mainly based on the assumption that I think that the areas that are excluded from entitlement measures above, probably are not excluded from the API Service protection.

Another definition of request!?
On this page there is another definition of what a request is that is different from the one above. I believe this is older than the one mentioned above, as it uses the term “CDS” which has been replaced by dataverse now. I am not sure though as this page last change is dated on the second of feb 2021 while the other the 5:th of March 2020. The main difference is that this does not make the exception mentioned in the article above, hence every call through a connector, every successful or failed call in Power Automate will be counted as one request. Hopefully Microsoft will clear this up soon.

Entitlements per user
At this link you can find the specific entitlements per license. They are all measured on a 24 h period and range from 20 000 for the full enterprise versions of Dynamics 365 to Power Apps per app plan which get 1000 requests.

Entitlements for non-licensed users, which mainly will be application registrations/application users are fixed per tennant based on the highest licensed purchased on the tennant. This means the following pooled included non-licensed entitlements.

  • 1 Sales Enterprise -> 100 000
  • 1 Sales Professional -> 50 000
  • 1 Power Apps license -> 25 000
  • 1 Sales Enterprise, 1000 Power Apps -> 100 000
  • 10 000 Sales Enterprise, 10 000 Power Apps -> 100 000

The important note here is that this does not scale at all, but is fixed. And if you plan to do some integrations with a Power Apps only tennant, you’d be wise to buy at least one Dynamics 365 Enterprise, just to get the non-licensed user entitlements, as the Sales Enterprise is around $95 and each additional 10 000 is $50, which means that the saving to get to a 100 000 calls / 24h is:

50*(100 000 – 20 000)/10 000-95= 400 – 95 = $305/month

Buying extra capacity
It is also possible to buy extra API capacity. You can read more about this in the Licensing Guide for the Power Platform. I am not able to find a current price for this at this time, but the list price was previously set at $50 (per 10 000 for 24h). These are then to be allocated to the users as you wish.

Overshooting
Users will not be blocked from using apps for occasional and reasonable overages at this point of time.
What will happen when or if you overshoot? A very important question. Most organizations will at some time do this, most probably during migration of data from the old systems. The statement from Microsoft above, especially the highlighted “at this point of time.” is rather omnious. It does indicate that at some time the hammer will come down. But at this time it won’t, admins will be harassed with emails about overshooting and just as with overshooting data capacity, they might start with blocking some features when you are overshooting. It is mentioned in one of the articles in the FAQ that after the transition period they will start blocking. So that will be a real fact unless they change their mind on that.

My very strong advice, is hence that all organizations that are not compliant need to start looking at this as soon as possible. I have some tips on what you can do further down in this article. Please refer to these and feel free to leave a comment if you have questions on the subject not answered here.

ISV Bundling
There are many ISV:s which export rather large amounts of data. The first ones that come to mind are the Marketing Automation products like Adobe Marketing, Click Dimensions, Dot Digital and more. These all synchronize contacts, marketinglists and marketinglistmembers, at least, which for larger installations can be quite large datasets. I do think it would be advantageous if these ISV:s could include the API Entitlements that are required, or if they are billed by Microsoft to the ISV which in turn bills the customer with a surcharge. At the very least Microsoft have to take ISV:s into the equation here as they are an essential part of the ecosystem, especially from the customer perspective.

Tips on how to handle future entitlement enforcement

  1. Start by using the PPAC to get an overview of how your situation looks even though you might not get an exact picture.
  2. Consider the overhead of batching. There can be performance advantages to batching as mentioned in my previous article. But there needs to be
  3. Consider “outsourcing large datasets” to ADLS – although the ADLS export also uses API-calls.
  4. Maybe not a problem if short term – for now
  5. Consider using official connectors or Power Automate instead (although that might cause costs in itself)
  6. If building Power App licens based solutions and you have heavy integrations, buy one Dynamics 365 Enterprise license.
  7. If possible impersonate the data load over all the users. This can be done with plugins and synchronous workflows for instance. Patterns that can be used in this case can be staging tables in dataverse where the owner is set and then a plugin is triggered that slices the row into many pieces as the owner of the import record. I am not sure if impersonation using the API will have any effect on this. That needs to be investigated. If it can be used to spread the load, that would be a good pattern to use.
  8. Refactor inefficient code. Depending on implementation maybe increase use of caching or other techniques to reduce the amount of requests. Make sure you have skilled Power Platform/Dynamics 365 developers working with development as knowing how to do this very particular to this platform.

Microsoft representatives, locally in Sweden anyway, are saying to our customers and potential customers that they need not worry about this. I find that message a bit mixed with what I read here. On the other hand I think this will be a very rough change for many organizations. If your organization will be very negativly affected by this and you feel that you are still paying “fairly” for your part, then I suggest you contact Microsoft and describe your business scenario in detail. If you need help with who to contact you can always start with the people who have written the articles who you can ask to forward the articles to the right people, use your local user group or ask some local MVP for help as they often have contacts directly with the product group (and many other experts do too).

Good luck and do leave a comment or share this if you like it!

Thoughts on throttling updates

Thoughts on throttling updates

Microsoft recently (in February) published some updates to their documentation regarding Service protection API limits or as they are sometimes referred to, throttling. Some of these, like the new recommendations on how to handle batching are rather interesting and I thought I’d give my 2 cents about this. They are also eluding a bit regarding how the network infrastructure is set up for the deployment and how to optimize when handling larger workloads using the affinity cookie setting. I did find this rather interesting too.

So, first of all, a quick recap for those who arn’t into the throttling and API service limits. There are three different limits set up for Power Platform. You can read the details here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/powerapps/developer/data-platform/api-limits#how-service-protection-api-limits-are-enforced

In short, within a 5 minute sliding window, you cannot exceed the following for one specific user.

  1. Not more than 6 000 requests.
  2. Not more than 1 200 (20 minutes) execution time – equal to 4 parallell processes if running at full capacity
  3. Not more than 52 request at the same time (concurrently).

Generally, if you do not use batching, you would typically run into the first (1) or the third if running unlimited threading. If using a connection pooling with 52 connections, then you probably run into the 1:st, and if you use complex request that cause cascading behaviours or batching, then you typically run into the second (2). There are exceptions that match these. Do refer to the official docs above for details about that.

Now to the interesting part.
There is a new section that is attempting to tells us how to maximize throughput. First of all, I think this is great. We really need this and we need Microsoft to tell us how to not only use the platform, but how to efficiently use their platform.

“Let the server tell you how much it can handle”
This section is interesting as it recommends a rather complex approach to how to work with performance. As they further down recommend using threading, they essentially recommend building logic that dynamically increases and decreases the number of threads as the platform informs you that it has capacity. This brings me back to university math, and trying to figure out the derivative of an unknown function by sampling and finding the local max. I do however, think this is a rather tall order to recommend to your average developer. But it would be a great community tool, so feel free to build it. Consider the challenge set. Best would be if Microsoft included this in the SDK of course.

Use multiple threads
In this part they recommend using multiple threads. This is also my experience that this is a good idea as the processing time and latency per package causes certain delay on a per-message basis. By utilizing multi-threading with multiple connections, this overhead can be reduced. As there is a limit of 52 concurrent connections, I would recommend using a maximum of that amount of connections/threads per user.

Avoid batching
Now this is really interesting. The previous recommendation was to use batching to be “nicer” to the API and get increased performance. The recommendation now is the direct opposite. This is based on the fact that the overhead in a WebAPI JSON-message is significantly smaller than that in a SOAP message and that this will reduce the difference between using batching and non-batching. They do, however, recommend using smaller batch sizes still. This is also my experience when working with Kingswaysoft. I typically (it depends on the instance and which table I am using) start with 16 threads with batches of 10 or 20. This has typically given me the best performance, with performance of +300 records/s.

There is also a comment about the fact that the using batching does not bypass the entitlement limits, ie. 20 000 API calls/24 hours for an enterprise user/100 000 API calls for all non-licensed users and so on. See more on the Entitlement limits based on which license you have here. Hence this calculation is done by after exploding the batch on the servers. This is also news to me as I previously was told that batching was exactly the way to go to limit the amount of calls.

Removing the affinity cookie – server multiplexing
The details being eluded to in this section are very interesting. If I understand it correctly, the logic is as follows:

The point being that, shutting off the affinity cookie int the HttpClient will allow for more wider use of all the servers in the node (the entire setup of all the Frontends, backends, NLB etc.)

What I do wonder, is if it would be possible to store the Affinity Cookie, and hence pool it on the client side. As each time you need to hit a new front end you will loose some time while it warms up your instance, and it would hence be advantageous to be able to more tightly control this. Maybe even this could be another community tool for someone interested?
I also think, I havn’t tested this, that you will get better results when working with removed affinity cookie if you do use batching, at least until all the frontends have been warmed up to your instance.

Do also note a very important sentence; “This increases throughput because limits are applied per server“. We do not know how many servers are used in a node frontend, but probably more than 10. Removing the affinity cookie could hence increase performance by at least one order of magnitute.

User multiplexing
As all API limits are calculated on a per-user basis, another way to increase performance is to use what I like to call user multiplexing. This means that operations are done using several different application users at the same time. There is of course some admin work that needs to be done to set these up, and there is no OOB way of doing this but with SSIS and Kingswaysoft it is rather straight forward; just create several connections, one per user, configure them per user and then use the “Balanced Data Distributor” which can be found in the productivity pack to spread the data to different destinations that are using the different connections.

My tips
My tips for getting good performance, for large scale datasets, are hence the following based on these new facts:

  1. Continue to use batching, but don’t use huge batches. Probably around 5-20 will be ok.
  2. Use multithreading. I typically use around 16, but that was before I knew about the removal of the affinity cookie. Hence I would recommend 16 per server. But I cannot tell you how many servers there are.
  3. Use the remove affinity cookie setting, and if possible, figure out some way of pooling the affinity cookies instead.
  4. Make sure your application can handle the exceptions regarding the API-limit and have some reasonable strategy for working with them. I have found that blasting the API for 5 minutes at max speed, then backing off for 5 minutes, then going full throttle again for 5 minutes, has given me better throughput overall than “being nice” and just finding the “right” speed to use to not be throttled. Not sure this strategy will work in the long run though.
  5. Use application user multiplexing.

Suggestions to ETL vendors and others
My suggestions to ETL vendors and others who build connections to Dataverse that require high performance are:

  1. Start by visualizing the affinity cookie setting so that it is possible to set this as wanted.
  2. Include multithreading, batching and application user multiplexing into the standard dataverse connections.
  3. Figure out if there are an points to pooling the affinity cookies, and if so, include this into the connection.
  4. Make the connection auto-optimize with the data it is currently sending. Ie. how many threads, size of batches, size of affinity cookie pool and number of application users to utilize.
  5. Have different strategies for utilizing application users instead of just spreading the data evenly, it could be that one is used until it receives an exception an then it is put on hold for 5 minutes and then another is being used. Or a combination of these two if there are five application users, 3 might be used for data transfer, and two on hold in case one gets an exception and needs to be put on hold.

I hope this has given you some insights and that my 2 cents got you this far. Feel free to leave a comment if you have an questions!

Can we expect a new API?

Can we expect a new API?

Dataverse, and new terms for picklists, fields and more. This has been described in detail by many others in the community like Jukka Niiranen. However Microsoft are saying that there will be no new API, that all API:s will stay the same so this article is just going to discuss this subject briefly.

First of all, they will, of course do exactly what they are saying. The current WebAPI will of course be available for many years to come as we have seen the old 2011 SOAP API still be available and used a lot, still today, often for the reason that there isn’t full functional parity between the API:s.

Some tools allow you to seamlessly choose between the API:s, like Kingswaysoft, and I have asked Daniel Cai, the owner and head developer/architect at Kingswaysoft which API I should use. I don’t know if he has changed his recommendation, but last year, he still recommended, if my memory hasn’t failed me, to use the old SOAP API due to stability and functionality issues. I will let him, on their blog describe their thoughts on this, if they want to.

However, I think this is rather telling of how Microsoft act and will act regarding an older API, that it will be maintained and kept alive for many years.

That brings us to the interesting question if there will be a new API based on these new terms, I frankly do not know, but my deduction would say a definite yes.

It think the easiest way of seeing this is falsifying this and extrapolating it. In other words, what would happen if they didn’t create a new API and we looked at the platform as a whole in 5-7 years without knowing the history? It would look totally crazy. A platform with one set of terms in the UI and another set of terms in the API:s. It would make documentation really complex as there would be need for translations between these two concepts everywhere and the bar for getting developers into the platform would be higher than necessary.

Hence the only reasonable deduction is that they will make a new API with the new terms. It will probably be release in 6 months or so, but the current WebAPI will still continue to work for many years to come.

These are my personal thoughts and are not based on any information from Microsoft, despite the fact that I am an MVP. I urge you to make your own deductions and I think you will find that this seems reasonable. Please share your thoughts disagreements or otherwise in the comment section below.

New API Limit

New API Limit

Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

Related to my last post, on working with the API quickly, Microsoft have now released official
documentation that they will, effectivly March the 19:th start limiting the number of API-calls per instance that is allowed to stop what is called “noisy neighbour” problems.

First of all, read the full article here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics365/customer-engagement/developer/api-limits 

Let’s break this down a bit, 60 000 calls per 5 minutes, translates to about 200 calls per second. If you break this, you will start getting exceptions, until the 5 minute period has ended. You are expected to back off, and essentialy handle this. That is the short version. Read the full article for more details.

Update: George Doubinski, a friend of mine and one of the brains of CRM Tip of the Day made me aware of the fact that the limit is per user. I will update the article below on what this means.

What does this mean? Is this a problem?

For most organizations, no, at least that I work with, I not even close to breaking this. If they are using some integration tools like Kingswaysoft or other tools which enable multithreaded integrations, but generally do not need that kind of data throughput then you might temporarily be shut down, but it should self heal after some time, as after each 5 minute time span, you will get another 60 000 requests. That could probably quite easily be fixed by checking the settings of the integration tool. Update: Also, if you integrate each system using a separate accont, you do not risk one system temporarily blocking many other systems from integrating to Dynamics 365. If you are using normal users, this will of course entail a certain license cost, why I generally recommend using app users for integrations, if possible. And after this, you should have one app user for each integrating system.

However, there are some organizations where I forsee issues, and these are organizations which have combinations of any of the following criteria:

  1. Third party products which, like Marketing Automation, (ClickDimensions, FreshRelevance, SalesForce Marketing Cloud) which have not had time, or got this in their scope yet, and have large amounts of data that they integrate into Dynamics 365. Update: Especially if the user they are using to integrate, the service user, is a normal user, either used by a normal user, or shared with integrations with other systems.
  2. Legacy Code that has been upgrade to new SDK but uses inefficient architecture – can for example have issues with using ExecuteMultiple which in the article above is described as the recommended best practice. Typically for the reason that the architecure of the code, would require major rewriting to allow for ExecuteMultiple. Update: In this case I strongly recommend looking at using a dedicated user for this specific integration, to isolate any limiations set on that user.
  3. Organizations with multiple heavy integrations to Dynamics 365. Will be hard to control that the sum total does not exceed 60k per second, and handle back-off in a controlled way. The only reasonable way would probably be to rewrite the integrations to use a proxy or queue instead like Azure Service Bus Queues to integrate and have a single integration interface. Probably a lot easier to write in a blog article than to do in real life. Update: This was an incorrection deduction from my part, as it is not based on the sum total, but on the sum per user, this is not a risk unless many integrations use the same user for integration which I do not recommend.
  4. Organizations with complex heavy integrations with thousands of lines of integration code that need to be redesigned, rewritten, tested and deployed before March 19:th. And there is no way to test it as there is no TAP/Beta program for this “Feature”. Update: This is still very relevant. Even such a small change as changing the integrating user for an external system should be thoroughly tested and for larger implementations that can be hard to do before March 19.

Example

I see is a typical B2C organization running Dynamics 365 with a marketing automation addon with email tracking and webtracking. They also have a very time critical integration of orders to be able to handle any incidents. Even if the order integration in itself does not reach the limits, it is not unforseeable that a mailblast, especially a good mail blast, to which many customers read the emails click the links, go their site, check their offers and start ordering, would cause a surge of traffic on the Marketing Automation integration – Dynamics 365 API. This of course depends on the settings of this, but perhaps it is critical that all events be tracked to Dynamics. With a mailblast to let’s say 1 Million recipients, quickly hitting the 60 k/5 min limit would happen. When this happens, this would also block all orders from going to Dynamics, causing an effective stop for working with any new incidents in the system.
Update: This is, of course, only relevant if both systems are integrating using the same user. Don’t. However, the marketing automation system above, would hit the limit fast anyway and if the supplier of this system didn’t have time to update their product/service then it would handle this incorrectly. I recommend checking integrating systems and try to turn down the verbosity of what they are writing to Dynamics 365. Then after March 18 when we see how this falls out in detail, you can test a more verbose setting in a test environment, and then see how that falls out.

Summary

For small and medium companies with low complexity working mainly with B2B. I don’t see that much of a problem. Larger companies with complex integrations, large databases, integrations to webtracking, email tracking which often will be B2C companies which have higher levels of automation and larger databases of customers, will probably have larger problems with this and need to start think about this right now.

We need to come back to this subject post March 19, to see how this will really work. But I think the real problem will be for the larger orgs with many and heavy integrations.

I would be really glad to hear your views on this like I got Georges’.

Gustaf Westerlund
MVP, Founder and Principal Consultant at CRM-konsulterna AB
www.crmkonsulterna.se

Resco javascript development – be careful of variable names

We are all new to stuff sometimes and I am currently quite new to Resco.NET and the JavaScript API it has. There is quite a lot of information and examples on Resco’s site regarding this but you know how it is when you get going, you’re always looking for something that just isn’t there. Today I thought I was missing some vital part of how to parse the data, turned out I was addressing the fields incorrectly, so I thought I’d share it with you in case you ever got into the same spot.

Well, my current Customer likes the Resco mobile client a lot. They like the ability it has for configuration and the fact that it is so configurable and even has API:s allowing us to make custom webpages for them that they can take offline, as Resco does support full offline.

Back to my problem, I was trying to show some data from the account entity on the html-page and as I had previously tried this, I had no problems with the name field. However, when I tried retrieving a field that we had created, let’s call it “Type” I looked in the list of fields in Woodford as I thought this was their view of the fields and hence how I was to address it. The name it showed was the weird REST-endpoint name with Camel-case “crmk_Type“, but I didn’t Think to much about this and used it in my code. The result was that I just got “undefined” as the returned value from the Resco JavaScript Bridge. It took me quite some time and a very helpful support guy at Resco before I opened the form editor in Resco and noticed that the field name set there was the normal name, used in the database/soap webservice, “crmk_type“. Upon noticing this, I tried the lowercase version and it worked like a charm.

My conclusion is hence that the field names that are to be used in the Resco JavaScript bridge are the lowercase field names, not the Camel case versions, despite the fact that these are the once that you see in the Field list in Woodford. Also, make sure the field that you are addressing has been included in the the field list. This might be changed in the future. If so, I hope to be able to write an update on the subject.

Here is a link to the Support page at Resco.NET where you can download the bridge file and also at the far bottom, go to the reference pages for the Bridge. http://www.resco.net/mobilecrm/support.aspx

Gustaf Westerlund
MVP, CEO and owner at CRM-konsulterna AB
www.crmkonsulterna.se