API per user limits – The good, the bad and the ugly

API per user limits – The good, the bad and the ugly

(Updated) Microsoft recently released some throttling that have been causing some stir in the community, especially since the latest throttle, the concurrency throttling, was not very openly announced, some partners and customers were hit rather hard by it as it affected their abilities to manage large dataloads in the system.

Now Microsoft have announce another API based limitation which is based on the users and the type of licenses the have. You can read some about it here if you like. This article will discuss what this means and my personal view of the good, the bad and the ugly of it.

First of all we need to understand what it is. It is a API limit that will be set per user and based on the type of license that the user is allocated. The highest is if you have a Dynamics 365 App user license, like Sales, Customer Service or similar, which will give you 20 000 requests per 24 hours. The lowest is a Power App – Per App license which will give you 1 000 requests per 24 hours. Note that these are connected to the user and not summed/aggregated to the instance level (allthough I would think that would be a good idea). Well, really, the lowest of them all are Application, Non-interactive or admin-users that don’t use a license as these will be allocated 0.

I have not seen any UI for this yet, so I don’t know how this will look, but what the page is saying is that API-calls can be reallocated from normal users to application users/non-interactive users. (UPDATE – See update at the bottom regarding this, thank you observant readers!) Not sure if it will also be possible to reallocate API-calls between normal user and another normal user.

There will also be an additional SKU for buying 10 000 additional API calls per day that can be allocated to a user.

 

The Good

What is good about this then you might ask? Well, I think it is fair. Large customers pay a lot of money for their instances and usually use it a lot with a lot of integrations. It is only fair that they are allowed to use the API:s more than a small customer who has created some super duper application that blasts Dynamics with massive amounts of calls. The small customer can still do this, but they just have to pay a bit extra for those API-calls if they arn’t covering that with their users.
I also hope that this might enable Microsoft to relax the currently rather tight throttling on the API:s a bit.

According the the licensing documentation in general, existing customers will not be hit by this until October 2020, in other words, more than a year from now. This will hence probably only now affect new customers.

The bad

This implementation certainly has some bad parts. The most obvious is the too stringent connection to users which makes it weird. I don’t know how this will be managed in the UI but let’s say we have an instance with 500 users mixed Sales Enterprise, Customer Service Professional and Team Member. We also have 10 application users that are used for Portals, Forms Pro and custom integrations to many other systems. Each integration using a separate integration user to reduce the attack area in the unlikely event of a hacker attack. So what we will need to do is to first figure out how much API-usage we are using for all the normal users (for instance via PCF:s, Flows, Plugins, Workflows etc) and all the integration application users. Currently the https://admin.powerplatform.microsoft.com does not give us this granularity. There are indications but in this case one would need deep granualar data, preferably with trend analysis.

Another part of this that could be done better is the “buying addional API-calls”. Why not just adapt the method used in Azure? In other words, you pay as you go. With this current method, you have to know beforehand how much a particular user will use and if you overshoot the user will be shut down causing unnecessary support costs for customers, partners and Microsoft.

I also wonder how this practically is going to be handled? Are admins going to go into each of the 500 user records, reduce the API-calls allocated and move to Application users? If the admin moves all calls, which effectivly will stop plugins, workflows, javascripts with server calls etc how will the error handling of that look?

The Ugly

What is really the difference between something bad and something ugly? I would say that something bad is a design decision that we might dislike or might be disadvantage to the customers, it requires some sort of conscious perspective. Ugly on the other hand is the parts where where, in this case, Microsoft just have forgotten to think about something or neglected perspectives which causes issues for partners or customers. Based on this, I would say that the following are the bad aspects of this;

Timing

Again Microsoft are rolling out a change with a rather short timeframe. They probably feel that a month or two of notice by publishing the article above is notice enough, but they have to realize that many customers cannot act that fast. If you are a small customer with extensive use of Dynamics, for instance if you are using Dynamics 365 in a B2C aspect with a Marketing Automation integration and you are targeting millions of customers with sendouts and hits on your webpage being mirrored to your Dynamics all the time, this will cause some hefty API traffic. And your org might not be very big if you are totally e-commerce oriented.

Maybe only new customers, for now

Lastly I really hope that it is true that the API limitation will not affect current customers, it is not very clear and hence we are left in the dark again. If there is a problem with application users etc not being able to log in, I hope Microsoft support will be ready for the storm that will hit them.

On the other hand, new customers might have tested the system, evaluated the costs and are now faced with this. Not sure that will be optimal either, there is risk of loosing a customer or two there.

Communication

As this is a rather drastic change and may be viewed as a “breaking change” if not the one year grace period mentioned in the licensing in general applies to this. No matter, this should have been communicated very clearly months ahead to remove any kind of doubt from partners and customers. Both via blogs, emails to admins of organizations using Application users/non-interactive users as this should be easy to figure out via telemetry. Currently no one knows exactly when this will hit them/their customers or how they are to manage it.

 

This is generally very unclear. I shouldn’t have to write an article like this, speculating about what is or isn’t going to happen. If I have problems figuring this out, being an MVP, customers are probably very much in the dark, both existing and new.

 

Conclusion

In conclusion I think this is a good idea that got rushed. It should have been passed through a couple of more hoops before being launched to get the right feedback. The main things that I think Microsoft should change before rolling this out that, from my perspective, still give the same effect, are:

  1. Aggregate all API-Calls that are counted to a per instance level. It will make it easier to manage, stop the breaking change and make it easier to understand.
  2. Enable admins to add a per-use, after the fact, payment option, (like Azure) for any additional API-calls.

     

    If this is going to be useful or not also is very dependent on the fact that we can reallocate a lot of the API-calls from users to the integration users. For instance, I have a B2C customer with 1M+ API calls per 24/h and if it will not be possible to take the sum of hundreds of users and allocate those to the application users we are using, then this will be a very hurtful change.

    In the meantime, I do recommend that you keep a close eye to what is going on within this area as it will most likely affect you if you are running any application accounts, which you probably are, like Dynamics Portal, Forms Pro, Voice of the Customer and many more. If you go into the list of users and change view to “Application users” (or whatever it might be called in your language) you will see the list. I think Micrsoft will make some changes, or some announcements to this before October 1. Let’s see what.

Update 2019-09-04

There has been some chatter going around regarding this and do note the comments below which include interesting links and good thoughts. There are some additional points that need to be pointed out. Instead of changing the original article I will continue to add updates like these.

Normal UI usage will count

Initially I did not think that normal UI usage would count towards the API request calls. With “normal” in this case, as an old Dynamics 365/CRM geek, I of course mean a model driven App, but the same also goes for canvas Apps or actually any use of the CDS, what so ever. What this will mean when a user runs out of API requests, will be interesting to see. How many requests are used when the application is used, of course depends a lot on what you do. If you switch on F12 in Chrome you can check the network traffic and see for yourself.

Batching will be your friend

Using batching will from now on not only be a general best practice but also make you save money. If you use tools like Kingswaysoft this is easy to configure, to make sure that you have large batches when for instance doing CUD calls. When writing code directly, you will need to understand how to do this directly. Note that sometimes this will require entire rewrites of the code. I have seen programs off the shore of Orion that you wouldn’t believe with tons of single queries instead of one single call. Most often written by devs who have no or very little experience of writing code towards Dynamics 365/CDS.

Unclear if possible to move API-calls

As several people here and on Twitter have commented, it is probably incorrect to interpret that API:s can be moved from normal users to application users and non-interactive users. This will cause major headaches for some customers which will be struck with lots of additonal costs. Costs that are not very welcome as the per GB cost recently increased 800% hurting especially the larger customers with massive integrations and extensive use of the system. I do, for instance, have a customer that exceeds 1M requests per day 365 days a year. This would require them to buy over 100 addon 10k API requests SKU:s, despite the fact that their 500 users gives them a total of over 5M requests per day, something they will not be using through the UI unless someone is drinking very large amounts of coffee. – NEW Update: This was an incorrect interpretation. You cannot reallocate API calls from normal users. 

The price is here

The price for the 10k/24h SKU will be $50/month. This means that for a customer like mine having major integrations causing around 1M API-calls per day, this would cost an additional per month $5 000 or yearly $60 000. I sincerely hope they will relax the throttling to make it worth it. If/when they do, I will read my Macciavelli again.

 

Update 2019-09-05

First of all I will write a new blog article on this, when the dust settles and we know what is going on. Currently there are quite a lot of unknowns and I wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft announced a thing or two soon. I have been told that the FAQ will be updated in a couple of days.

Batching – again

There were some discussions on if batching actually were going to be useful in this case or not. I have now gotten confirmed that a batched request will be considered as one (1) call. This is both for batched Creates/Updates/Deletes and Queries of multiple records (that would be very strange if it wasn’t one record, but I had to ask).

Data Export Service etc.

Data Export Service and other services that run under the system account will not count towards the API request. This is good news as this opens up for many users to be able to use this method to offload the API:s for reads.

What is the competition up to

I checked to see how SFDC are handling this and as far as I can see they have a similar setup as can be read here:

https://developer.salesforce.com/docs/atlas.en-us.salesforce_app_limits_cheatsheet.meta/salesforce_app_limits_cheatsheet/salesforce_app_limits_platform_api.htm

and here

https://support.geckoboard.com/hc/en-us/articles/216804218-I-ve-hit-my-Salesforce-API-request-limit

I am no expert on their licensing model, but I think it is good to know that this isn’t just a PowerPlatform thing. However, there are some distinct differences:

  1. The API calls are not counted for normal browser/client usage. Only “real” API calls.
  2. They have real enforcement blocking an entire instance/org if they overshoot
  3. All API:s per user license are summed up to the org level

Microsoft Addon apps will include request

If you buy Dynamics Portals, this will include some additional licenses. The same goes for Forms Pro. Hence there should be some default API request assignment to those application users that are installed. I do wonder if it would be financially beneficial to piggyback on those application users? There is also no current method for ISV:s to bundle API-requests into their product if they install an application user upon installation.

CSP / Distributor silence

We have still heard nothing of the 10k addon SKU from any distrubutor, EA or CSP. It will be interesting to see if it will reach the entire distribution chain by October 1 when customers will start being notified that they are in violation (new customers). 

Fast data management in a limited CDS world

Fast data management in a limited CDS world

In May 2019 Dynamics 365 CE/CDS enacted some new throttling mechanisms that have caused some headaches for anyone wanting to manage a lot of data in CDS (I will refer to Dynamics 365/CDS as just CDS below). There are several different throttles but the one that has cause me most trouble is the concurrency throttle. Kingswaysoft will release support for handling this in the next release and you can also request a special version from them if you ask nicely. In the meanwhile this post can give you some help on how to work as fast as possible using application user mulitplexing and a loop with a 5 min wait to make sure that the throttles are reset.

The new throttling on the main CDS API, as described here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics365/customer-engagement/developer/api-limits needs to be carefully considered when doing heavy data manipulations in the CDS. One of my customers has a large system with numerous integrations of which the most data heavy are the Marketing Automation systems and the booking systems. And yes, this is Business to consumer.

With the new per GB pricing, keeping the database as small as possible has become an essential task and using the bulk delete just doesn’t work for large data loads, at the time of writing this article. I do hope that Microsoft increase the speed of it so that it does become more useful but currently its speed is somewhere around 1-2 records per second.

The bulk delete also has limitations on that it can only base it selections on a query, i.e. a FetchXML. Often this is not enough, for instance when you want to remove “All emails except those that have any connection to either a case or a contact which has a case”.

For these reasons I almost always opt for using SSIS with Kingswaysoft connectors to CDS when working with complex data management. This article will be on how to get some performance now that there is tougher throttling to take into consideration.

User multiplexing

As the throttling is measured on a “per user”, one trick is of course to use multiple users and spread the load over all these users. You can, of course use normal users, but that will cost you licenses so the smart person will of course use application users instead. If you don’t know how to create application users in Dynamics 365, check it out here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics365/customer-engagement/admin/create-users-assign-online-security-roles#create-an-application-user . In the example below, I will be using four different application users, one as the source account and three as destinations. The reason for this is that it is typically easier to read several thousand rows per request, but seldom efficient to do batch creates/writes/deletes of more than 10-20.

To do this with SSIS/Kingswaysoft you should start by setting up the connections. In this case, the four CDS/CRM connections and use the OAuth auth-type like below. 

As you might want to have several packages in the same project and have them share the connections, it may be a good idea to use project connections. I also use an Azure SQL db for logging any errors. Previously I used to use CDS but now with the throttling, that is not such a good idea as the error itself might be throttling and hence the error can cause an error. Writing to some target that you know will not fail is hence a good idea for logging errors. When you are done with the connections, it should look something like this:

Now it is time to build the actual flow. If you’d normally have a Source and a Target, it will now look something like the image below, which I will explain.

First of all, the Premium Derived Column creates a new column which simply contains the row number. It will look something like this: 

I like to use the components that are available in the Productivity pack from Kingswaysoft, and this Premium Derived Column is one of these. In this case I think it is actually equal if you use IncrementalValue() or RowIndex(). I think you can create this logic with a normal Derived Column too, it just has less features.

Next we need to create a Conditional split that divides the rows evenly between the three destination components. This is done using the mathematical operator modulus which is written using the “%”-sign. For those that didn’t study this in school, it simple means “the rest” in a division. For instance 5%3=2, if you divide 5 by 3 you will get 1 and a rest of 2. What we will do, is assign RowNr%3 == 0 to Case 1, RowNr%3 == 1 to Case 2 and the rest to Case 3. That should divide them evenly. It looks like this: 

You then create the three destination components. I typically create one first, copy it and change it, as that is faster. Make sure that you set the Connection Manager to the three different Target Connections.

I also recommend that you fiddle a bit with the batch size and the number of threads and test out which gives the best results for you and the entity and action you are working on. There is no one answer here. I would typically start at Batch 10, Threads 16.

Tuning DataFlow property settings

If you back out to the Control Flow view and right click on the Data Flow you have created, there are some other interesting setting you can twirk.

DefaultBufferMaxRows – 10 000

DefaultBufferSize – 10 485 760 (10MB)

EngineThreads – 10

These can also be tuned to allow for the Data Flow to handle more rows, more memory and use more parallell threads which of course will make it faster (if that is the bottle neck, typically not when working with Dynamics)

What I have found is changing the maxrows to 100k, the buffer size to 100 MB and engine threads to 32 will not hurt but you can find several other blog articles specializing in SSIS that discuss this.

Crude throttle handler

What I have noticed is that many of my Dataflows simple seem to grind to a halt after 400-600k rows read from Dynamics. Not sure if it the read or write part that is causing this but what I figured is that probably the most pragmatic way of solving this would be to create a loop that runs a data flow that is limited in the number of records, typically 400k, wait 5 minutes then iterate. Smartest version is of course to have a control variable which checks to see when when there are no more rows and then breaks the loop, simpler version is to just loop n number of times to cover the amount of data you are trying to move, ie. number of rows per iteration x number of iterations. It would look something like the picture to the left.

If you would like to refine the loop a bit to make it more automatic, create a variable of type Int, for instance RowCount, set the initial value to be 10 or something different from 0. Then set the EvalExpression to “@RowCount > 0”. After this add a RowCounter control to the Data Flow and connect this to the variable RowCount. When the Data Flow runs and returns 0 rows, it will run to the end, the EvalExpression will evaluate to “False” which will cause it to break.

Using this technique, I am able to remove several million records in just a few hours. With one of these jobs I managed to remove 20 GB of structured data in less than two days (no attachments or similar, just records). By adding more application accounts and of course both to the source and particulary to the destination side, you can increase the speeds you are getting.

I do also advise you to be on the lookout for Kingswaysofts new version which I think will come soon, and do as I, make sure to always download both the Dynamics and Productivity Pack. I have read that there are great things coming to the productivity pack!

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