Friday, November 23, 2012
The long awaited Dynamics AX 2012 solution is bundled with exciting and challenging features to learn. In this article I will highlight only the most important ones for AX developers from partner companies.
The first thing you see when opening AX 2012 is new looks with up-to-date controls and form design. Fast tabs, action panes and other numerous form parts improve user experience and meet most of the common user UI expectations like being able to see everything "in one screen". In addition to the totally new look, the user gets some small but useful features, i.e. replacement of surrogate key with data fields - which means there is no need to write display methods or join unnecessary tables for user convenience anymore. Date-effective tables comprise a new framework that facilitates creation of tables with records that have limited validity periods and do not allow overlapping. Office add-ins allow not only exporting data to Excel but editing AX data from there. Export to Excel for Remote Desktop Services is also improved.
One of the evident trends in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 is modeling: developers and consultants can do more business process modeling than coding. The vision is that somewhere in the future every business process can be modeled and implemented in Workflow. What you can do right now in AX 2012 is to use the Organization model feature to reflect your organization structure; use role-based security to follow real user roles and access rights distribution in your organization; use Workflow to model and design well-defined business process.
AX and Microsoft technology stack
Another trend is further integration into Microsoft product and platform stack: Windows Server, Microsoft SQL Server, SSRS, SharePoint 2010, Visual Studio 2010, BizTalk, Microsoft Office, Windows Workflow Foundation, Windows communication foundation. AX is surrounded by Microsoft products' ecosystem, it allows you to take advantage of all specialized products and benefit from this synergy. Clients and partners will probably notice that Oracle is not supported anymore, which means this is a good time to think about migrating to Microsoft's native database engine.
X++ and development
The good news for AX developers is that X++ is still alive in AX2012 and will probably live as long as AX does. However this is just the right moment to start investing your time in learning C# and .NET. With AX 2012 you can write code in .NET languages using AX classes and tables with strong typing and even see the AOT in Visual Studio. At the same time Visual studio projects can be seen in AX. Platform convergence is going further and further. X++ has received eventing mechanism and attributes, copied from similar features in C#. Server-side code from X++ is now compiled into CIL and executes much faster.
All reporting development is done in Visual Studio and SSRS, which many developers are familiar to from version 2009. For developer's convenience, several things were improved like display methods support, use of labels, multi-language reports, etc.
Code and labels now reside in the database, which is a new approach developer needs to get used to.
The security model has also been redesigned completely. Now it's based on hierarchy Role - Duty - Privilege - Permissions - Policies. Active directory authentication is not mandatory anymore.
Changes to standard frameworks
Probably the biggest inner changes are in the standard AX framework like Inventory Items and transactions, Ledger and dimension, FormLetter class hierarchy and others. Just some facts: there are no LedgerTable and LedgerTrans tables anymore; there is no InventTable form anymore; InventTrans has been "normalized" into several (around 20) different tables; InventTable is now only one among many tables presenting the product framework that replaced old good Item management.
This all means that if you have a lot of changes with standard AX frameworks, redesign of code is inevitable.
The upgrade process is facilitated in AX 2012 by using a pre-initialization check-list that is run on an old production system (AX 2009 or AX 4.0 are only supported). It allows keeping downtime during upgrade as low as possible and helps in resolving issues beforehand. But considering the amount and depth of changes, the upgrade process still requires time and preparation.
There are many more changes that will keep developers, consultants and users busy. All of these changes show us the new generation of ERP - Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012.
Author of the post: our former Senior AX Developer Oleksandr Katrusha.