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I onboarded the AX7 technical conference this week with the impression that AX7 was ‘just’ a new UI exposing AX2012R3CU9 code on a new platform with some adjustments to ‘make it work’ on the new Azure platform. But already after the first keynote I felt embarrassed about my initial thoughts which quickly made place for respect and amaze for this enormous leap in technology.
I can only compare the way Dynamics AX has developed in the last 10 years with a boxing game: initially, the boxers tease and challenge each other by some quick targeted moves. But the game really takes off when one of them finds his ‘punch’ (say with the release of AX2012) The opponent is driven towards the corner of the boxing arena and receives punch after punch, each punch having bigger impact. I think AX7 is at the core of this ‘momentum’. In this blog I’ll share the main ‘punches’ and my personal interpretation of what’s going on. If you want to dig deeper then visit the publicly available AX7 wiki.
1. AX7 is a true Saas/Paas platform leveraging the Azure platform natively
In the literal words of Mike Ehrenberg, AX7 is not a ‘lift-and-shift’ of AX2012R3CU9: simply shifting the on premise platform to the cloud, as many competitors have done. Instead, Microsoft managed to separate the AX7 application layer and platform layer which allows AX7 to run on native Azure technology. So the many future enhancements ahead will directly impact AX7 positively. With SQL Server, this was an exciting journey as only from CTP6 Microsoft was able to run SQL Server natively on an Azure VM.
2. AX7 is Microsoft-wide achievement
When Steve Jobs and Bill Gates ignited Silicon Valley with their innovations, they could achieve a lot with a very small team of people. Now with AX7, the AX7 ‘pyramid’ is constructed from many already giant pyramids, ranging from SQL Server technology to Azure to BI technology. Each ‘pyramid’ has its own big team of experts. It’s amazing how Microsoft has managed to blend all these broad specialisms into the AX7 product.
3. With the AX7 release is not incorporating new technology but driving new technology
With AX7 being a cloud-first platform fully in line with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s focus for service orientation, The new Dynamics is now fully in the spotlights within Microsoft. Beyond that, AX7 is on a path where it drives the other Microsoft teams to enhance, instead of ‘just’ incorporating existing technologies in new releases. A good example is real time analytics. With the market demand for real-time analytics, AX had to move away from non-real time data warehousing and SSAS technologies in favor of the new read-only secondary database (replicated in seconds) and AX entity database (replicated in minutes). Instead, AX required new technology to allow true real-time analytics. This technology was found in new SQL Server 2016 in-memory technology, leveraging indexing on columns instead of the conventional row-based indexing.
4. Enriching AX functionality exactly according to market demand
AX7 has been developed with more customer, partner and ISV involvement than ever. But that’s something that could have been done 10 years ago. The new thing here is that, by collected telemetry data from actual AX7 usage. Based on already available data, Microsoft has been able to identify exactly which areas of AX are used most and which areas have been customized most. This enables targeting all available development capacity spot on. Can you imagine what will happen if AX7 is enrolled to thousands of customers worldwide?
5. The visible part of the iceberg is getting smaller
With the release of AX7, the production environment will no longer be accessible by customers or partners. Microsoft ‘frees’ the customers and partners from the responsibility to maintain this environment, to apply patches and – again in the words of Mike Ehrenberg – to allow the partners and customers to focus more on unleashing the potential of the software for their respective business instead of being bothered by ‘low-value’ activities. I prefer to use the metaphor of an iceberg in the water to express what is going on: the part of the iceberg which is really visible and tangible (the part above the water) gets smaller and smaller and the part under water bigger and bigger. In other words: less effort and ‘hassle’ against maximum value and service.
6. AX7 resolves many implementation pain points
With AX7 Microsoft truly expresses an ongoing focus for shortening the AX implementation cycle. Many pain points are now solved by Microsoft:
7. Life Cycle Services (LCS) is no longer a recommendation but a requirement
In many ways adoption of life cycle services can no longer be avoided. Some scenarios to highlight this:
8. Support 2.0
AX7 re-defines the way you can support your users. Having your users record the issue they face through the task recorder is one thing. Being able to create a ticket from AX7 which is directly converted into a Visual Studio work item for the support engineer is another thing. But the earth shaking thing here is the available telemetry for the support engineer: as AX7 continuously logs system performance and system activity along the way, the work item is automatically enriched with a ‘snapshot’ of the state of the system at the time the issue occurred: what browser did the user utilize, what batch jobs were running, what was the user doing exactly etc.
9. Business process orientation
Although I think the business process repository on LCS could be organized and incorporated in a better way, the AX7 UI offers a brilliant new way its application functionality is exposed to the business users: workspaces. Conceptually the workspaces have many similarities with the good old role centers: tiles are the new cues, tabbed lists are the old enterprise portal enabled listpages (although the new ‘tab’ structure is very handy) and charts and links can be embedded as role center offered (although far more sophisticated now). However, a user can now be offered a numerous number of workspaces, all supporting a specific set of tasks related to a process the user is affiliated with. The set of workspaces together forms the user’s dashboard.
10. New features
OK, they might have become a bit less prominent because of the other hot topics mentioned, but AX7 still offers some great new features – a glimpse of the less prominent features:
11. The cloud: a new way of thinking
With the actual AX7 cloud release you have to be aware that basic on-premise functions have suddenly become a challenge. Here’s a shortlist of challenges and the way Microsoft managed to tackle those:
12. Relatively low threshold for adopting AX7
It’s a challenge to develop and release a new product which involves so many paradigm shifts. But it’s pretty handsome if you manage to make the adoption of the new product still relatively easy – very important when it comes to minimizing costs for existing partners to make the shift and minimizing costs for customers to upgrade. Why I do consider the AX7 adoption to be relatively easy:
I hope this post inspired you to embrace the new AX7 features without any fear to make the jump.
Happy renewed DAX’ing.
Het bericht AX7 – My top 12 highlights verscheen eerst op Patrick Mouwen.
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