TCP Chimney

TCP Chimney

Today I was working with a customer and we have had some weird SSIS intermittent errors where the Native OLE DB / SQL Client was giving me some trouble with really weird errors.

Errors like these:

CRM service call returned an error: CRM service call returned an error: The request channel timed out while waiting for a reply after 00:01:59.9990005. Increase the timeout value passed to the call to Request or increase the SendTimeout value on the Binding. The time allotted to this operation may have been a portion of a longer timeout. (Error Type / Reason: Timeout)

[OLE DB Destination [611]] Error: SSIS Error Code DTS_E_OLEDBERROR. An OLE DB error has occurred. Error code: 0x80004005.
An OLE DB record is available. Source: “Microsoft SQL Server Native Client 11.0” Hresult: 0x80004005 Description: “Communication link failure”.
An OLE DB record is available. Source: “Microsoft SQL Server Native Client 11.0” Hresult: 0x80004005 Description: “TCP Provider: An existing connection was forcibly closed by the remote host.

After some searching and troubleshooting, I found the following blog which finally seemed to address the error at hand. When I tried removing the “TCP Chimney” , it the error went away. Please read more about it here:

TCP Chimney Setting and SQL Server Error: TCP Provider: An existing connection was forcibly closed by the remote host

SSIS and Kingswaysoft are great tools but sometimes the errors are really tricky and you have to be rather persistant to fint the root cause. In this case it seems to be related to the NIC.

 

Embedded PowerApp in Dynamics 365 CE

Embedded PowerApp in Dynamics 365 CE

PowerApps or as the new name for it is, Canvas driven Apps, is a very fast low/no-code way of creating applications that can fill in the blanks where Dynamics 365 CE sometimes fit. Can for instance be when there is a mapping entity, a complex calendar functionality or even integrations with a camera or other applications directly. These things can be done, some are even supported within the new UI/UCI if you are running it through the tablet/mobile client. However, there is currently no easy way that I have found to just add a PowerApp/Canvas Drive App (I will just call it PowerApp below to make things easier) to Dynamics. But after a chat with my friend, ex MVP and now Microsoft Global Black Belt Carsten Groth (isn’t that a cool name for a team by the way?) he told me that it is possible to embed PowerApps. So I googled a bit a found that no one seemed to have blogged about this (if you have, please tell me in the comments) except for other it concerning other applications like SharePoint. I tried it out and found that it wasn’t that hard at all to embedd a PowerApp into Dynamics 365.

The first thing we have to start with is to create our PowerApp. You can get to this place by browsing to https://web.powerapps.com or clicking the waffle in Office365 and then selecting PowerApps. In my case, I used the Dynamics 365 template and pointed to the Case Entity and did more or less pressed Next-next-finnish. I did replace the field that was shown in the first screen from the Guid of the case to the field “title” as that makes a little bit more sense looking at.

So what I was looking for when creating the PowerApp was the AppId, in this case:
904e3ac1-1e26-4b4b-a384-971485f6709c

What we then need is the embedding syntax for PowerApps which is:
<iframe src=”https://web.powerapps.com/webplayer/iframeapp?source=iframe&screenColor=rgba(104,101,171,1)&appId=/providers/Microsoft.PowerApps/apps/[AppId]” />

You need to replace the [AppId] with your AppId. Also, if you do not specify it, the iframe it will typically render rather small so I would recommend either setting the size of it directly with width and height attributes or using css, the latter being more kosher.
I tried setting an Iframe directly with this in Dynamics 365, but that didn’t seem to work. All I got was a spinner like this:
Spinner which never stops when tried to add PowerApp directly
Not sure why this is.
So, I circumvented it and created a very small html-page like this:
<html>
<body>
<iframe width=”1024px” height=”768px” src=”https://web.powerapps.com/webplayer/iframeapp?source=iframe&screenColor=rgba(104,101,171,1)&appId=/providers/Microsoft.PowerApps/apps/904e3ac1-1e26-4b4b-a384-971485f6709c” />
</body>
</html>
This time, when trying the TestPowerApp.html-page from my local drive, the spinner was quickly replaced by this and then by the App
Then I uploaded this file as a webresource to Dynamics.
Create a webresource with the simple html-page pointing to the PowerApp
After uploading it, in the WebResource screen, you can test the page by clicking on the URL. It should show a webpage with the PowerApp.
The PowerApp running as a webresource in Dynamicws 365
Now you can use this web resource wherever you want. Like directly in a sitemap:
Added PowerApp webresource to the Marketing Area as a Subarea called “Power App Cases”
It should be possible to send parameters to the PowerApp as well making them context aware so that we can create PowerApps that for instance show up within a case and show specific data on that case after you have selected it in Dynamics 365. However, if you look at the iframe syntax you will see that the AppId and stuff is already a parameter and I need to research this a bit more to be able to figure it out. I think that the html web resource probably has to shuffle the query string parameters from Dynamics to PowerApps. I will leave this hanging and hope that someone else in the community catches this ball! Otherwise I will try to figure it out later.
As CDS (common data service) and Modular Driven Apps are the same thing as Dynamics 365, just with less sugar on top, this technique can be used there as well. 
If you find anything unclear or have any questions, please leave a comment (moderated).

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

Setting up Data Export Service without PowerShell Script

Setting up Data Export Service without PowerShell Script

Setting up Dynamics 365 Data Export Service requires a Azure KeyVault to be set up which is typically done using a PowerShell script which can be found in the Data Export Service setup wizard. However, if you run into issues setting this up, it might be easier to do this directly in Azure by minimizing the steps of the scripts. This was a tip that my friend and Business Solution MVP Scott Durow recommended. He mentions this in his very instructive video, but doesn’t actually show how, so I thought I’d just detail how I made it work.

First some background. The reason why I even started investigating how to do this manually was that when I tried running the PowerShell script supplied by Microsoft in the wizard.

Press the “i” icon to get a window containing the PowerShell Script that Microsoft recommends for setting up the Key Vault.

When running the PowerShell script both as myself (not a global admin) and asking a global admin to do it, it failed in the latter parts. The key vault was created by some of the access policies seemed to be missing and it just didn’t work. My users rights in Azure was Contributor in the Resource Group, and it was a bit interesting cause the global admin and I got different error messages, but when I finally managed to create the key vault manually, I could do it all with my user, so it didn’t seem I was missing any rights to do it.

First step is to make sure you have all your data straight. The power shell script is good for this. Check out Scott clip if you want to know how to find the different strings. He shows it very clearly.

 Just copied from the PS-Script:

$subscriptionId = '<subscription ID>'
$keyvaultName = '
MyVault'
$secretName =
'MySecretName'
$location = '
North Europe'
$connectionString = 'Server=tcp:
<db-name>,
1433;
Initial Catalog=<catalog>;
Persist Security Info=False;
User ID={your_username};
Password={your_password};
MultipleActiveResultSets=False;
Encrypt=True;TrustServerCertificate=False;Connection Timeout=30;'
$organizationIdList = '<DYN365GUID>

$tenantId = ‘<AZURE TENANT ID> 

The highlighted parts have to be replaced by your settings. I will use these variables to have something to reference to further in this article.

Search for Key Vault and add the “Key vault”, the top one in this picture

Then we have to set it up. Not so tricky if you have worked with Azure before. Consider if you want to work in an existing Resourcegroup or if you want to create a new one. Typically you need to have Azure SQL services running as well so it might be good to keep them all together to be able to see the costs and control who has access why a resource group might be a good idea. But that should hence already exist. If not, you can create it. I would recommend keeping Azure SQL and Key vault in the same, not sure if it actually works in different resource groups, probably does, but I haven’t tested.

Creating the key vault – in this case I am creating a new resource group, normally it would already exist

Azure will add you as the default principal with access to the key vault. We will add Data Export Service to this later. For now, just create it.

Now we need to open the Key vault and select the “Secrets” section in the menu on the left hand side and press the button:

“+ Generate/Import” 

Then you have to enter you Secret name ($secretName) and the connection string ($connectionString) into the value.

Creating a secret – $secretname in Name and $connectionstring in Value

Press “Create”.

You should now return to the previous screen and see a row for your secret.
Select it.

It should open the settings panel for the Secret, press the “Tags” part which is located in the middle and add a tag which has $OrgIdList ($organizationIdList) as the key and Tennant ($tenantId) as value. I have blurred them out below as they are rather private.

Adding a tag with OrgIdList and tenantId to a Secret

You then need to go back to the Key Vault and click on the “Access Policies” menu item, you should then see yourself as the principal as this was set when we created the key vault. We now need to add Data Export Service as a valid Principal with read access rights.

So click “Add”, click “Select Principal” and search for “b861dbcc-a7ef-4219-a005-0e4de4ea7dcf” which is the ID for Data Export Service. It should show up like this:

It needs to have “Secret Management Operations – GET” permissions and nothing else.

Now, go back to the Secret and copy the URI to the Secret.

Getting the URI for the Key Vault Secret

Paste it into the Data Export Service Wizard field for Key Vault.

Fill in the other information and press validate. Hopefully it will work out well!

Some issues

Being too cheap with the Azure SQL level
If you don’t go for a Azure SQL P1 and choose a lower tier, you might get this warning:

We tried an S0 for our Dev environment and tried to sync a couple of million records and that just didn’t work, we got tons of errors. We upgraded the ASQL to S2 and then at least we didn’t get any errors. We are planning for P1s in UAT and production.

Might have to set activation date on secret
Seems that you might have to set an activation date on the secret. Not sure why this is, the PS-script doesn’t seem to do this. But not very hard.

Added activation date on the Secret from June 4.th

Using Database schema that is not created
The default database schema is “dbo” in the Data Export Service Wizard. If you change this to something else like “crm” and you haven’t created this in the database, you will get an error. It is simple to fix, you just have to go into the database and create the schema. To create the schema “crm” open a query and run:
CREATE SCHEMA crm

For more information on how to create schemas, check this site: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/sql/t-sql/statements/create-schema-transact-sql?view=sql-server-2017

Once the schema has been created, there should be no problem using it, as long as the user has permissions using it.

I hope this works for you. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment.

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

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

Dynamics 365 and the hopes for the Common Data Model

As many of you probably have heard Dynamics CRM will as of Nov 1 2016 be part of Dynamics 365 in a commendable push from Microsoft to bring the Dynamics products closer together. This is partly a branding thing as the products themselves, as Dynamics CRM, will still be the same product from a technical perspective, at least in the Enterprise Edition, (little is known of the Business Edition) and partly a technical concept as they are introducing something called the Common Data Model which is canonical data model (unified data model) to which all “Apps” are integrated to automatically. This is what I wanted to discuss some.

This all sounds great, and I will admit that I havn’t had time to fiddle with it yet, but I have had the pleasure of working with quite a few integration projects between CRM and ERP. And that is not easy, even if you do have a ready made point-to-point integration. So I would just like to make a few points that I hope you do consider before switching it on and hoping it will solve all your issues.

1. Addresses in ERP and CRM are typically not the same. In ERP the addresses that are needed can typically be invoicing address and delivery address, while in CRM the most important addresses are visiting address and postal address. If you naivly presume these to be the same the effects can be dramatic and sometime even catastrophic. I friend of mine, Peter Björkmarker, told me a story of a company integrated just like this, and as CRM was set as the customer data master, it overwrote all invoice addresses in the ERP system with visiting addresses. Next month, all invoices which were sent out were automatically, without anyone noticing sent out to the wrong address, hence nobody paid them. The company got into an accute cashflow problem and almost filed for bankcrupcy. So this is no joke.

2. Ready built integration are usually on a technical level, but you expect it to work on a business level. Integration technology is usually about moving data, but just having the data in the other system doesn’t always DO anything. An example is if you have a boolean field on the customer in the ERP where the financial people can block the customer from further business if they havn’t payed their invoices. So you integrate this field to CRM and can now see it on the account form. But without any additional logic in CRM it will still be possible to create opportunities, quotes and orders. Maybe not what you would like.

3. Data structures are different. My colleague Rickard Norström, whose blog you can find in the list to the right, was part of a CRM project which integrated to Dyn AX. One of their issues was the AX address data structure. An address record in AX can be used by both an account and a contact, And I think even several accounts. When this address is changed, of course this is seen in all affected places. As this is very different from the customeraddress built in logic in CRM they had to create their own new address entity to solve this. Other typical areas where there are large differences are in the logic of setting prices on opps/quotes/order. As you can expect, a system like AX with MPC and many other deep links into costs can of course use that as a base for pricing, something that is very hard for CRM. It also has more complex or just different ways of handling pricelists. I was working with an iScala integration and iScala for instance can have a current price in a pricelist and a comming price with a specified date on which the new price will be enforced. However, no event in the system will trigger at that time. Customer specific pricelists are also something that occur, not advisable but existing especially for larger customer accounts.

4. Centralized integration architecture. The Common Data Model sounds great but it only handles two of the components in the Business system infrastructure. If you for instance are a Telco the amount of business systems will be a lot more, billing systems, provisioning system, logistic systems, product configurators, etc. Banks are also complex worlds. Many of these have tried to consolidate their integrations to integration hub technologies like WebSphere or BizTalk and if done properly they will of course have their company defined canonical data model. It would be interesting to see the story of how the Common Data Model works together with this. It probably can by shuffeling data using Logic Apps to and from the CDM, but in essence you will have two hubs to orcestrate. Another option is of course to use the CDM as the central hub for all information, as long as that is extendable and doable. So, from this perspective, the main issue is probably, if we have 8 systems connected to our existing integration hub, is it plausible to use the CDM or do we manually integrate anyway directly to each application?

To conclude, I think the CDM will be a good tool but I will keep my expectation to a reasonable level and I recommend you do this too. Do not think it will make your highly customized CRM and AX automatically integrate all data and make it work from a business perspective, that would simply be too increadible. If they manage that, I will buy the entire team building CDM a beer (or similar).

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