Parse XML and JSON easily in MSDyn365FO

Some time ago I had to create an interface between MSDyn365FO and a web service that returned data as XML. I decided to use X++’s XML classes (XmlDocument,  XmlNodeList, XmlElement, etc…) to parse the XML and get the data. These classes are terrible. You get the job done but in an ugly way. There’s a better method to quickly parse XML or JSON in MSDyn365FO.

.NET to the rescue

There’s a feature in Visual Studio that will help us with this but it’s not available in Unified Operations projects. Open Visual Studio and create a new .NET project. Now you just need to copy a sample of the XML text you want to parse, go to the Edit menu, Paste Special, Paste XML As Classes:

And we’ll have a data contract with the needed elements to access all the element nodes using classes and dot notation to access data! For example, for this sample XML file we will get the following:

namespace AASXMLHelper
{

    // NOTE: Generated code may require at least .NET Framework 4.5 or .NET Core/Standard 2.0.
    /// <remarks/>
    [System.SerializableAttribute()]
    [System.ComponentModel.DesignerCategoryAttribute("code")]
    [System.Xml.Serialization.XmlTypeAttribute(AnonymousType = true)]
    [System.Xml.Serialization.XmlRootAttribute(Namespace = "", IsNullable = false)]
    public partial class catalog
    {

        private catalogBook[] bookField;

        /// <remarks/>
        [System.Xml.Serialization.XmlElementAttribute("book")]
        public catalogBook[] book
        {
            get
            {
                return this.bookField;
            }
            set
            {
                this.bookField = value;
            }
        }
    }

    /// <remarks/>
    [System.SerializableAttribute()]
    [System.ComponentModel.DesignerCategoryAttribute("code")]
    [System.Xml.Serialization.XmlTypeAttribute(AnonymousType = true)]
    public partial class catalogBook
    {

        private string authorField;

        private string titleField;

        private string genreField;

        private decimal priceField;

        private System.DateTime publish_dateField;

        private string descriptionField;

        private string idField;

        /// <remarks/>
        public string author
        {
            get
            {
                return this.authorField;
            }
            set
            {
                this.authorField = value;
            }
        }

        /// <remarks/>
        public string title
        {
            get
            {
                return this.titleField;
            }
            set
            {
                this.titleField = value;
            }
        }

        /// <remarks/>
        public string genre
        {
            get
            {
                return this.genreField;
            }
            set
            {
                this.genreField = value;
            }
        }

        /// <remarks/>
        public decimal price
        {
            get
            {
                return this.priceField;
            }
            set
            {
                this.priceField = value;
            }
        }

        /// <remarks/>
        [System.Xml.Serialization.XmlElementAttribute(DataType = "date")]
        public System.DateTime publish_date
        {
            get
            {
                return this.publish_dateField;
            }
            set
            {
                this.publish_dateField = value;
            }
        }

        /// <remarks/>
        public string description
        {
            get
            {
                return this.descriptionField;
            }
            set
            {
                this.descriptionField = value;
            }
        }

        /// <remarks/>
        [System.Xml.Serialization.XmlAttributeAttribute()]
        public string id
        {
            get
            {
                return this.idField;
            }
            set
            {
                this.idField = value;
            }
        }
    }


}

You can create this in a .NET Class library and consume it from Finance and Operations. This is the fastest way to use all the classes and members of the classes. Maybe all this can be implemented as Dynamics 365 FnO classes, but you’d have to create as many classes as different types of nodes exist in the XML. And the original purpose of this was being able to parse an XML file faster. I’d just stick with the .NET library.

All these steps are also valid for a JSON file, copy the sample JSON text, paste special and you’ll get all the classes needed to access the data.

Use it in MSDyn365FO

Once you have your library or you’ve created all the classes in FnO (c’mon don’t do this) add the reference to your project and (following the example above) you just need to do the following:

catalog			catalog		= new catalog();
XmlSerializer	        serializer	= new XmlSerializer(catalog.GetType());
TextReader		sr	        = new StringReader(xmlSample);
        
catalog = serializer.Deserialize(sr);

catalogBook[]   books   = catalog.book;
catalogBook     book    = books.GetValue(0);

Declare a variable of the same type as the main node in the XML file, catalog in the example. Then we will create a new XmlSerializer using our type and create a TextReader from the XML as a string. Finally we need to deserialize the XML and assign the result to the catalog and…

As you can see the data is accessible using dot notation and the classes that were created using the paste special feature.

With the help of tools that are not specific from X++ programming experience we can achieve this, and it is definitely faster than having to parse the XML file using the Xml* classes from Dynamics.

Feature management: create a custom feature

Feature management has been around in Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations for some time now. Before that features were enabled through flighting running a SQL query on dev and UAT boxes (and the DSE team would do it on production).

Now we have a nice workspace showing all the available features and flighting is still around too. The main difference between flighting and features is that flighting is enabled to a selected group of customers, like a preview of a feature.

In each new PU there’s new functionalities added to MsDyn365FO, and in PU30, released recently under the PEAP (Preview Early Access Program), we got new enhancements to the Feature management, this time adding a new property to Menu items and Menus called “Feature class“:

This is not enabled yet, and if you try adding a class to a menu item you’ll get a warning and no functionality.

If you read the docs you’ll see that creating new features is not enabled yet, but if you search in the metadata for feature classes…

Creating a custom feature

We’ll take the TaxSetupValidationFeature class as an example. This class implements the interface IFeatureMetadata, and all feature classes use a Singleton pattern to get the feature instance! (It’s exciting because is the first time I see it being used in MSDyn365FO).

The methods to be implemented include the feature’s name and description, the model and some setup. Just copy all the methods and the member of the class and paste it into one you create.

using Composition = System.ComponentModel.Composition;

[Composition.ExportAttribute(identifierstr(Dynamics.AX.Application.IFeatureMetadataV0))]
public final class AASTestFeature implements IFeatureMetadataV0
{
    private static AASTestFeature instance;


    private void new()
    {
    }

    private static void TypeNew()
    {
        instance = new AASTestFeature();
    }

    [Hookable(false)]
    public FeatureModuleV0 module()
    {
        return FeatureModuleV0::AccountsReceivable;
    }

    /// <summary>
    /// Obtains the singleton object instance.
    /// </summary>
    /// <returns>The <c>AASTestFeature</c> instance.</returns>
    [Hookable(false)]
    public static AASTestFeature instance()
    {
        return AASTestFeature::instance;
    }

    [Hookable(false)]
    public LabelId label()
    {
        return literalStr("Enable Test Feature");
    }

    [Hookable(false)]
    public LabelId summary()
    {
        return literalStr("Enables 'Say hello' button");
    }

    [Hookable(false)]
    public WebSiteURL learnMoreUrl()
    {
        return "";
    }

    [Hookable(false)]
    public boolean isEnabledByDefault()
    {
        return false;
    }

    [Hookable(false)]
    public boolean canDisable()
    {
        return true;
    }

    public static boolean isEnable()
    {
        return FeatureStateProviderV0::isFeatureEnabled(AASTestFeature::instance());
    }

}

Now build your solution and go to the feature management workspace, click the check for updates button and your feature should appear in the list:

Let’s use the feature (in quite a stupid way). Create an extension of a form and on its init method check if the feature is enabled, if it is display a message:

[ExtensionOf(formStr(CustTable))]
final class CustTableAASFeatureDemo_Extension
{
  void init()
    {
        next init();

        if (FeatureStateProviderV0::isFeatureEnabled(AASTestFeature::instance()))
        {
            info('Hello! The feature is enabled!');
        }
    }

}

Before enabling the feature go to the form to check there’s no message is being displayed:

No message there, OK.

Go back to feature management and enable your feature.

Go back to the form (CustTable in my example) and…

There’s the message!

Custom features are working as of PU30, at least on dev boxes, and maybe Tier 2+ sandbox environments too. Don’t try it on a production environment until it’s officially released (but that’s not possible as it’s a PEAP release).

This is just a small test of the classes that are available now, we’ll see new features in PU31 when the Feature Class property will work and, as I read on Twitter:

Application Checker: enforcing better coding practices?

Unless you’ve been working for an ISV there’s a high percentage of probabilities that you’ve never cared about Dynamics Best Practices (BP), or maybe you have. I haven’t worked for an ISV myself but back when I started working with AX I was handed the development BP document and I’ve tried to follow most of them when writing code.

But BPs could be ignored and not implemented without any issue. This is why Microsoft will publish…

Application Checker

Application Checker is a tool that will change that. It will force some rules that our code will have to meet, otherwise the code won’t compile (and maybe won’t even deploy to the environments).

We got an advance of it during last MBAS session “X++ programming with quality” by Dave Froslie and Peter Villadsen. Unfortunately the session wasn’t recorded.

App checker is built on BaseX, an XML analysis tool, and powers Socratex which Microsoft uses to track code quality. I don’t know if Socratex will be publicly released and I don’t remember if this was clarified during the session.

The set of rules can be found in Application Checker’s GitHub project and it’s still WIP. I think there’s loooots of things to decide before this goes GA, and I’m a bit worried and afraid of some of the rules 😛

Rule types

There’s different types of rules, some will become errors and other warnings. For example:

ExtensionsWithoutPrefix.xq: this rule will throw an error avoiding your code to compile. It checks if the extension class has a name ending with _Extension and an attribute ExtensionOf. If it has it must have a prefix. E.g.: if we extend the class CustPostInvoice it can’t be named CustPostInvoice_Extension, it needs a prefix like CustPostInvoiceAAS_Extension.

SelectForUpdateAbsent.xq: this rule will throw a warning. When there’s a forUpdate clause in a select statement and no doUpdate, update, delete, doDelete or write is called later it will let us know.

As of today, there’s 21 rules in the GitHub project. You can contribute to the project, and you could enforce your own rules without sending them to the project on your dev boxes, just add them to the local rules folder. I’d create a rule that makes the space after an if/while/for/switch mandatory and throws an error otherwise, but that’s only a bit of my OCD when writing/reading code.

Try it on your code

We can already use Application Checker on our development environments since PU26, I think. We just need to install JRE and BaseX in the dev box and select the check when doing a full build.

Some examples

ComplexityIndentationCombined.xq

This query checks the (wait for it…) cyclomatic complexity of the methods. I’ll try to explain it… Cyclomatic complexity is a metric for software quality, and is the number of independent paths in the code. Depending on the number of ifs, whiles, sitches, etc… the code can have different outcomes through different paths, that’s what complexity calculates.

Taking this as an example, a dumb one but ignore it, just look at the amount of different paths that could happen:

class AASAppCheckerDemo
{            
    public void complexMethod()
    {
        int a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i;

        if (a)
        {
            if (d)
            {				
                if (d)
                {
                }
                else if (e)
                {
                }
                else if(f)
                {
                }                
            }
            else if (e)
            {
                if (d)
                {
                }
                else if (e)
                {
                }
                else if(f)
                {
                }                
            }
            else if(f)
            {                
                if (d)
                {
                }
                else if (e)
                {
                }
                else if(f)
                {
                }
            }
        }
        else if (b)
        {
            if (d)
            {
                if (d)
                {
                }
                else if (e)
                {
                }
                else if(f)
                {
                }
            }
            else if (e)
            {
                if (d)
                {
                }
                else if (e)
                {
                }
                else if(f)
                {
                }                
            }
            else if(f)
            {               
                if (d)
                {
                }
                else if (e)
                {
                }
                else if(f)
                {
                }                
            }
        }
        else if(c)
        {
            if (d)
            {                
                if (d)
                {
                }
                else if (e)
                {
                }
                else if(f)
                {
                }                
            }
            else if (e)
            {                
                if (d)
                {
                }
                else if (e)
                {
                }
                else if(f)
                {
                }                
            }
            else if(f)
            {
                if (d)
                {
                }
                else if (e)
                {
                }
                else if(f)
                {
                }
            }
        }        
    }

}

In App checker the error appears when the complexity is over 30. I’ve used Lizard code complexity analyzer to calculate the complexity of the method below and I’m getting a 49.

The rule also checks for the indentation depth, failing if it’s greater than 2. In the end the purpose of both rules is to try to cut up long/large methods, which will also help in enabling more extension points in different places of our logic, like Microsoft did with Data Provider classes for reports.

BalancedTtsStatement.xq

This one gives me mixed feelings. The rule checks that the ttsbegin and the ttscommit of a method are in the same scope. So the following is not possible:

public void ttsCheck()
{
    StagingTable stagingTable;

    try
    {
        while select forupdate stagingTable
            where !stagingTable.Processed
        {
            ttsbegin;                
            boolean ret = this.doThings();

            if (ret)
            {
                stagingTable.Processed = true;
                stagingTable.update();
                ttscommit;
            }
            else
            {
                ttsabort;

                ttsbegin;
                stagingTable.Processed	= false;
                stagingTable.ErrorMsg	= 'An error ocurred, see log.';
                stagingTable.update();
                ttscommit;
            }
        }
    }
    catch (Exception::Error)
    {
        ttsabort;

        ttsbegin;
        stagingTable.Processed = false;
        stagingTable.update();
        ttscommit;
    }
    catch
    {
        ttsabort;

        ttsbegin;
        stagingTable.Processed = false;
        stagingTable.update();
        ttscommit;
    }
}

private boolean doThings()
{
    return true;
}

Imagine you’ve developed an integration with an external application that writes data to an intermediate table in MSDyn365FO and you process all pending data sequentially. You don’t want to throw an error if something goes wrong because you need the process to continue with the following record, so you ttsabort the wrong line, store the error and continue. If this is not possible… how should we do this? Create a batch that creates a task for each line to process?

Plus, the standard models have plenty of ttscommit inside if statements.

RecursiveMethods.xq

This rule will block the use of recursion on static methods. I don’t get why. Application checker should be a way to better coding practices, not forbidding some patterns. If somebody gets a recursive method to prod and the exit condition isn’t met… hello testing?

Some final thoughts

Will this force developers to code better? I don’t think so, but that’s probably not Application checker’s purpose. For centuries humans have found ways to bypass rules, laws and all kinds of restrictions and this won’t be an exception.

Will it help? Hell yes! But the best way to ensure code quality is promoting the best practices in your team, through internal trainings or code reviews. And even then if someone doesn’t care about clean code will keep on writing terrible code, which might work but won’t be beautiful at all.

Finally, I’m not sure about some rules, like avoiding recursion on static methods or the tts thing. We’ll just have to wait and see which rules make it to the final release and how will Application checker be finally implemented in the MSDyn365FO application lifecycle by blocking (or not) the deployments of code which doesn’t pass all the checks or if it will be included into the build process.

Slow set-based operations?

In Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations we can execute the CRUD operations from code in two different ways, record-per-record or set-based.

Microsoft’s recommendation is to always use set-based operations, if possible, as you can check on the Implementation Best Practices for Dynamics 365: Performance best practices for a successful Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations implementation session from last June’s Business Applications Summit.

Why?

Set-based Vs. Record-per-record

When we run a query in MSDyn365FO we’re using its data access layer which will later be translated into real SQL. We can see the differences using xRecord’s getSQLStatement with generateonly on the query (and forceliterals to show the parameter’s values) to get the SQL query. For example if we run the following code:

We’ll get this SQL statement:

SELECT TOP 1 T1.PAYMTERMID,T1.LINEDISC,T1.TAXWITHHOLDGROUP_TH,T1.PARTYCOUNTRY,T1.ACCOUNTNUM,T1.ACCOUNTSTATEMENT,T1.AFFILIATED_RU,T1.AGENCYLOCATIONCODE,T1.BANKACCOUNT,T1.BANKCENTRALBANKPURPOSECODE,T1.BANKCENTRALBANKPURPOSETEXT,T1.BANKCUSTPAYMIDTABLE,T1.BIRTHCOUNTYCODE_IT,T1.BIRTHPLACE_IT,T1.BLOCKED,T1.CASHDISC,T1.CASHDISCBASEDAYS,T1.CCMNUM_BR,T1.CLEARINGPERIOD,T1.CNAE_BR,T1.CNPJCPFNUM_BR,T1.COMMERCIALREGISTER,T1.COMMERCIALREGISTERINSETNUMBER,T1.COMMERCIALREGISTERSECTION,T1.COMMISSIONGROUP,T1.COMPANYCHAINID,T1.COMPANYIDSIRET,T1.COMPANYNAFCODE,T1.COMPANYTYPE_MX,T1.CONSDAY_JP,T1.CONTACTPERSONID,T1.CREDITCARDADDRESSVERIFICATION,T1.CREDITCARDADDRESSVERIFICATIONLEVEL,T1.CREDITCARDADDRESSVERIFICATIONVOID,T1.CREDITCARDCVC,T1.CREDITMAX,T1.CREDITRATING,T1.CURP_MX,T1.CURRENCY,T1.CUSTCLASSIFICATIONID,T1.CUSTEXCLUDECOLLECTIONFEE,T1.CUSTEXCLUDEINTERESTCHARGES,T1.CUSTFINALUSER_BR,T1.CUSTGROUP,T1.CUSTITEMGROUPID,T1.CUSTTRADINGPARTNERCODE,T1.CUSTWHTCONTRIBUTIONTYPE_BR,T1.DEFAULTDIMENSION,T1.DEFAULTDIRECTDEBITMANDATE,T1.DEFAULTINVENTSTATUSID,T1.DESTINATIONCODEID,T1.DLVMODE,T1.DLVREASON,T1.DLVTERM,T1.EINVOICE,T1.EINVOICEATTACHMENT,T1.EINVOICEEANNUM,T1.ENDDISC,T1.ENTRYCERTIFICATEREQUIRED_W,T1.EXPORTSALES_PL,T1.EXPRESSBILLOFLADING,T1.FACTORINGACCOUNT,T1.FEDERALCOMMENTS,T1.FEDNONFEDINDICATOR,T1.FINECODE_BR,T1.FISCALCODE,T1.FISCALDOCTYPE_PL,T1.FORECASTDMPINCLUDE,T1.FOREIGNRESIDENT_RU,T1.FREIGHTZONE,T1.GENERATEINCOMINGFISCALDOCUMENT_BR,T1.GIROTYPE,T1.GIROTYPEACCOUNTSTATEMENT,T1.GIROTYPECOLLECTIONLETTER,T1.GIROTYPEFREETEXTINVOICE,T1.GIROTYPEINTERESTNOTE,T1.GIROTYPEPROJINVOICE,T1.ICMSCONTRIBUTOR_BR,T1.IDENTIFICATIONNUMBER,T1.IENUM_BR,T1.INCLTAX,T1.INSSCEI_BR,T1.INTBANK_LV,T1.INTERCOMPANYALLOWINDIRECTCREATION,T1.INTERCOMPANYAUTOCREATEORDERS,T1.INTERCOMPANYDIRECTDELIVERY,T1.INTERESTCODE_BR,T1.INVENTLOCATION,T1.INVENTPROFILEID_RU,T1.INVENTPROFILETYPE_RU,T1.INVENTSITEID,T1.INVOICEACCOUNT,T1.INVOICEADDRESS,T1.INVOICEPOSTINGTYPE_RU,T1.IRS1099CINDICATOR,T1.ISRESIDENT_LV,T1.ISSUEOWNENTRYCERTIFICATE_W,T1.ISSUERCOUNTRY_HU,T1.LINEOFBUSINESSID,T1.LVPAYMTRANSCODES,T1.MAINCONTACTWORKER,T1.MANDATORYCREDITLIMIT,T1.MANDATORYVATDATE_PL,T1.MARKUPGROUP,T1.MCRMERGEDPARENT,T1.MCRMERGEDROOT,T1.MULTILINEDISC,T1.NIT_BR,T1.NUMBERSEQUENCEGROUP,T1.ONETIMECUSTOMER,T1.ORDERENTRYDEADLINEGROUPID,T1.ORGID,T1.OURACCOUNTNUM,T1.PACKAGEDEPOSITEXCEMPT_PL,T1.PACKMATERIALFEELICENSENUM,T1.PARTY,T1.PARTYSTATE,T1.PASSPORTNO_HU,T1.PAYMDAYID,T1.PAYMENTREFERENCE_EE,T1.PAYMIDTYPE,T1.PAYMMODE,T1.PAYMSCHED,T1.PAYMSPEC,T1.PDSCUSTREBATEGROUPID,T1.PDSFREIGHTACCRUED,T1.PDSREBATETMAGROUP,T1.PRICEGROUP,T1.RESIDENCEFOREIGNCOUNTRYREGIONID_IT,T1.RFC_MX,T1.SALESCALENDARID,T1.SALESDISTRICTID,T1.SALESGROUP,T1.SALESPOOLID,T1.SEGMENTID,T1.SERVICECODEONDLVADDRESS_BR,T1.STATEINSCRIPTION_MX,T1.STATISTICSGROUP,T1.SUBSEGMENTID,T1.SUFRAMA_BR,T1.SUFRAMANUMBER_BR,T1.SUFRAMAPISCOFINS_BR,T1.SUPPITEMGROUPID,T1.TAXGROUP,T1.TAXLICENSENUM,T1.TAXPERIODPAYMENTCODE_PL,T1.TAXWITHHOLDCALCULATE_IN,T1.TAXWITHHOLDCALCULATE_TH,T1.UNITEDVATINVOICE_LT,T1.USECASHDISC,T1.USEPURCHREQUEST,T1.VATNUM,T1.VENDACCOUNT,T1.WEBSALESORDERDISPLAY,T1.AUTHORITYOFFICE_IT,T1.EINVOICEREGISTER_IT,T1.FOREIGNERID_BR,T1.PRESENCETYPE_BR,T1.TAXGSTRELIEFGROUPHEADING_MY,T1.FOREIGNTAXREGISTRATION_MX,T1.CUSTWRITEOFFREFRECID,T1.ISEXTERNALLYMAINTAINED,T1.SATPAYMMETHOD_MX,T1.SATPURPOSE_MX,T1.CFDIENABLED_MX,T1.FOREIGNTRADE_MX,T1.WORKFLOWSTATE,T1.USEORIGINALDOCUMENTASFACTURE_RU,T1.COLLECTIONLETTERCODE,T1.BLOCKFLOORLIMITUSEINCHANNEL,T1.AXZMODEL182LEGALNATURE,T1.AXZCRMGUID,T1.MODIFIEDDATETIME,T1.MODIFIEDBY,T1.CREATEDDATETIME,T1.RECVERSION,T1.PARTITION,T1.RECID,T1.MEMO 

FROM CUSTTABLE T1 

WHERE (((PARTITION=5637144576) AND (DATAAREAID=N'usmf')) AND (ACCOUNTNUM=N'0001'))

We can see all the fields are being selected, and the where clause contains the account number we selected (plus DataAreaId and Partition).

When a while select is run on MSDyn365FO a select SQL statement is executed on SQL Server for each loop of the while. The same happens if an update or delete is executed inside the loop. This is know as record-per-record operation.

Imagine you need to update all the customers with the customer group 10 to update their note. We could do this with a while select, like this:

This would make as many calls as customers from the group 10 existed to SQL Server, one for each loop. Or we could use set-based operations:

This will execute a single SQL statement on SQL Server that will update all the customers with the customer group 10 instead of a query for each customer:

UPDATE CUSTTABLE
SET MEMO = 'Special customer'
WHERE (((PARTITION=5637144576) 
    AND (DATAAREAID=N'usmf')) 
    AND (CUSTGROUP=N'10'))

There’s three set-based operations in MSDyn365FO, update_recordset to update records, insert_recordset to create records and delete_from to delete the records. Plus we can make massive inserts using RecordSortedList and RecordInsertList.

Running this methods instead of while selects should obviously be faster as it’s only executing a single SQL query. But…

Why could my set-based operations be running slow?

There’s some well-documented scenarios in which set-based operations fall back to record-per-record operations as we can see in the following table:

DELETE_FROMUPDATE_RECORDSETINSERT_RECORDSETARRAY_INSERTUse … to override
Non-SQL tablesYesYesYesYesNot applicable
Delete actionsYesNoNoNoskipDeleteActions
Database log enabledYesYesYesNoskipDatabaseLog
Overridden methodYesYesYesYesskipDataMethods
Alerts set up for tableYesYesYesNoskipEvents
ValidTimeStateFieldType property not equal to None on a tableYesYesYesYesNot applicable

In the example, if the update method of the CustTable is overriden (which it is) the operation from the update_recordset piece will be run like a while select that updates each record.

In the case of the update_recordset this can be solved calling the skipDataMethods method before running the update:

This will avoid calling the update method (or insert in case of the insert_recordset), more or less like calling doUpdate in a loop. The rest of the methods can be overriden with the corresponding method on the last column.

So, for bulk updates I’d always use set-based operations and enable this on data entities too with the EnableSetBasedSqlOperations property.

And now another but is coming.

Should I always use set-based operations when updating large sets of data?

Well it depends on which data you’re working with. There’s a wonderful blog post from Denis Trunin called “Blocking in D365FO(and why you shouldn’t always follow MS recommendations)” that shows a perfect example where set-based operations would be counterproductive.

As always, developing an ERP is quite sensitive, and similar scenarios can have different solutions. Analyze the requirements and decide which one to use.

Consume a SOAP web service in Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations using ChannelFactory

If you ever need to consume a SOAP web service from Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations, the first step you should take is asking the people responsible for that web service to create a REST version. If that’s not possible this post is for you.

I’ll use this SOAP web service I found online at http://www.dneonline.com/calculator.asmx for the example, it’s a simple service-calculator with four methods to add, substract, multiply or divide two integers.

Consuming a SOAP service in .NET

Let’s start with the basics. How do we consume a SOAP web service in Visual Studio? Easy peasy. Just add a service reference to your project:

And point it to the web service of your choice:

This will add the reference to the project:

With that done we can create an instance of the web service’s client and call one of it’s methods:

3 + 6 = 9, it looks like it’s working.

Consuming a SOAP service in Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations

To consume the web service on FnO create a new project in Visual Studio, right click on References and add the service reference:

Hmmm… nope, it can’t be done, no service reference option.

Consuming a SOAP service in Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations (I hope…)

The problem is that we cannot add a service reference in Visual Studio on 365 dev boxes.

What do the docs say about this? Well, like in AX2012 we need to create a .NET class library that will consume that web service, then add the reference to our DLL on 365 and call the service methods from a client object. All right!

There it is. A reference to our class library and a runnable class that will do the job:

Let’s run it!

What?

An exception of type ‘System.InvalidOperationException’ occurred in System.ServiceModel.dll but was not handled in user code

Additional information: Could not find default endpoint element that references contract ‘AASSOAPCalculatorService.CalculatorSoap’ in the ServiceModel client configuration section. This might be because no configuration file was found for your application, or because no endpoint element matching this contract could be found in the client element.

Contract? What contract? I know nothing about a contract. Nobody told me about any contract! What does the Wikipedia say about SOAP?

Soap is the term for a salt of a fatty acid or for a variety of cleansing and lubricating products produced from such a substance.

Oops wrong soap…

SOAP provides the Messaging Protocol layer of a web services protocol stack for web services. It is an XML-based protocol consisting of three parts:

  • an envelope, which defines the message structure and how to process it

  • a set of encoding rules for expressing instances of application-defined datatypes

  • a convention for representing procedure calls and responses

The envelope is the contract. A data contract is an agreement between a service and a client that abstractly describes the data to be exchanged. That contract.

Consuming a SOAP service in Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations (I promise this is the good one)

If we check the class library there’s a file called app.config:

In this file we can see the endpoint the DLL is using. This is fixed (hardcoded) and in case there’s a test endpoint and a production endpoint we should change the address accordingly and have two different DLLs, one for each endpoint. We can also see the data contract being used by the service, the one called AASSOAPCalculatorService.CalculatorSoap. Because #MSDyn365FO is a web-based ERP we could solve this by adding the system.serviceModel node in the web.config file of the server, right? (app.config for desktop apps, web.config for web apps). Yes, but this would be useless as we have no access to the production environment to do this, and it will be impossible to do in the sandbox Tier-2+ environments when the self-service environments start to roll out.

So, what do we do? Easy, ChannelFactory<T> to the rescue! The ChannelFactory<T> allows us to create an instance of the factory for our service contract and then creates a channel between the client and the service. The client being our class in D365and the service the endpoint (obviously).

Then we do the following:

The BasicHttpBinding object can be a BasicHttpsBinding if the web service is running on HTTPS. The endpoint is the URL of the web service. Then we instantiate a service contract from our class with the binding and enpoint and create the channel. Now we can call the web service methods and…

It’s working! And it’s even better, if there’s different endpoints for a test and prod web service we just have to parametrize them!

But really, don’t use SOAP services, go with the REST.

Generate number sequence values from REST services and OData

One of the options to integrate MSDyn365FO with external systems is using the data entities with REST services and OData. To use OData the entity must have its IsPublic property set to Yes:

Entidad Clientes V3

Otherwise, if it´s an standard entity, we´ll need to duplicate it because it´s not possible to change the property value in an extension.

If we´re doing an integration with an external system using OData to create new records in the ERP, we can have an issue when the record has a mandatory ID, as we can see in the Customers V3 entity. If we check the Mandatory property of the CustomerAccount field it´s set to Auto, getting the value from the CustTable where it´s set to Yes.

In this case, if we try to create a customer without an account number the service will fail as it can be seen in the Postman capture below:

Postman fail :(

Crystal clear error, the customer account field cannot be empty.

This isn´t happening with the Vendors entity. “Hey! But the vendor account is mandatory in the VendTable!” someone may think. Correct, it is, but not in the entity where it´s been overriden:

Vendors V2

To see how the standard solves this we need to check the entity initValue method:

The skipNumberSequenceCheck is one of the data methods from the Common class, and it´s a relative of skipDataMethods, skipDataSourceValidateWrite, skipAosValidation, etc… It will always return false unless we tell it not to do so by passing true earlier in the code through the parameter.

The NumberSeqRecordFieldHandler class enableNumberSequenceControlForField will initialize the value of the field we pass in the parameters with the next value from the sequence we select. In this case it´s filling the vendor account field with the sequence set in the vendor parameters (obviously)

So, doing the same as the standard does, we’re going to extend the entity and the initValue method:

Extensión de código de la entity Customers V3

Having done this we’ll try again in Postman, this time deleting the CustomerAccount parameter from the body, and…

Cliente creado por servicio REST y OData

Success! We’ve got a new customer! Created from an external system and using the number sequence from Dynamics 365.

This is no mistery, it just mimicks what the standard does. As MSDyn365FO developers we must try to do that, always. Always… as long as we can, of course 🙂 Because even though partners always try to apply the standard as much as possible, we all know that in the end, there´ll be some customization done (hopefully, we´re developers!).

The mystery of the non-filtering query

There’s no mystery here but a misperception.

Recently, a colleague found a little issue when using an AOT query to feed a view with a range dynamically filtered using a SysQueryRangeUtil method.

Recreating the issue

The query is pretty simple, only showing ledger transaction data from the GeneralJournalEntry and GeneralJournalAccountEntry tables. A range in the Ledger field from the current company was added as you can see in the pic below:

Query en Visual Studio

We created a new range method by extending the SysQueryRangeUtil class. Using the Ledger::current() to filter the active company.

Extensión en visual studio

The we used the query to feed data to the view and added two fields just for testing purposes:

Vista en Visual Studio

Everything quite straightforward. Let’s check the view in the table browser…

Explorador de tablas

No data! And I can tell there’s data in here:

Registros en SSMS

What’s going on in here? If we use the query in a job (yeah, I know, Runnable Class…) the range is filtering the data as expected.

Psyduck is confused
Me in a tribute to “Psyduck is confused” by cazapelusas.com

So… let’s see the view design in SSMS:

Diseño de la vista en SSMS

Well, it definitely looks like something’s being filtered in here. The range is working! Is it? Sure? Which company does that Ledger table RecId corresponds to?

Registro de DAT

Qué haces besando a la lisiada!?
Why are you quering the damned DAT? (Sorry this was funnier in Spanish)

What’s going on?

There’s an easy and clear explanation but one doesn’t think of it until he faces this specific issue. While the view* is a Data Dictionary object, and when the project is synchronized the view is created in SQL Server, the query* is a X++ object and only exists within the application. The view is created in SQL and we can see and query it in SSMS. The AOT query doesn’t. It feeds the view and provides a data back end, but all X++ added functionality stays in 365, including the SysQueryRangeUtil filters.

The solution is an easy one. Removing the range in the query and adding it in the form data source will do the trick (if this can be considered a trick…).

(*) Note: the links to the docs point to AX 2012 docs but should be valid.