Tuesday 20 March 2012

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 - Form Sub-Grids

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 has many new features which made it easier to customize and enhance the product. I reckon this new version, Dynamics CRM 2011, catapulted the product into another league. I am sure Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 will steal the limelight from all its competitors to prove itself as number one.

One of the new features in Dynamics CRM 2011 is sub-grids. The sub-grids can be inserted in entity forms to display the related data. For example, I can have a sub-grid in "Account" entity form to display all the related "Opportunities". In the same way in "Account" form I can have sub-grids to display related "Orders" or related "Quotes" or related "Invoices". The uses of sub-grids make it so easy to attach related entity records.

In Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 the same functionality is achieved by displaying the related entity records within IFrames. In Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 we have out of the box sub-grids feature which is simple to configure and use.

In this blog I will show how to insert a sub-grid and display related records.

1) Below is the list of custom entities in my CRM 2011. I will use two of them in my blog to demo this sub-grid feature. These entities are "Genres" and "Sub Genres".

I have an entity called "Movies". This entity contains the records of movies. These movies are categorised by genre and sub genre. Every movie falls under a genre and a sub genre.

Every sub genre has a parent genre. There is a 1:N relationship between genre and sub genre. In my demo genre record will display related sub genres in a sub-grid.

Genres and Sub Genres

2) Below is the list of all active genre records.

Genre Records

3) Below is the list of all active sub genre records. As seen and marked below, each sub genre has a related genre. In other words every genre has multiple related sub genres.

Sub Genre Records

4) I will customize the "Genre" entity form to add a sub-grid. To do this I will go to genres and click on "Customize Entity" button.

Customize the "Genre" Entity Form

5) This will open the genre form in edit or design mode. Highlight the section where you want to add the sub-grid. As I want the sub grid in "General" tab and after "Genre" section, so I will select the "General" tab. I will click on "Sub-Grid" button on the "Insert" ribbon. This will open a "List or Chart Properties" window.

Add a Sub-Grid to "Genre" Entity Form

6) I will fill in the required details in the "List or Chart Properties" window. This will set the properties for the sub-grid.

I will give it a unique name of "SubGenre". I will give it a label of "Sub Genres".

The important section which configures the sub-grid's display can be set in "Data Source". Select "Only Related Records" for Records. This will only show related records for the genre record. In the "Entity" field select the option "Sub Genres (Movie Genre)". This is what gets displayed in the sub-grid. Since we have selected the option of "Sub Genres (Movie Genre)", which means sub-grid will only display sub genres for the genre record.

Sub-Grid Properties

7) Below are the final settings for "Data Source" section in "List or Chart Properties" window. Click "OK" button.

Sub-Grid's Data Source Settings

8) The sub-grid is inserted in my genre form. It is inserted in the "General" tab. Now I save my changes and test the output.

Sub-Grid Added to "Genre" Entity Form

9) I will save and publish my changes so that I can view the sub-grid on the genre form. 

Save and Publish the "Genre" Entity Form

10) I will test this sub-grid feature. I will go to the genres and open the first genre "Family". As seen below the sub-grid in "Family" genre form shows all the sub genres. These sub genres are the ones which are related to the genre "Family".

Genre "Family" and its Sub-Grid showing related Sub Genres

I will close the "Family" genre record and open the "Non Mainstream" genre record. As seen below the sub-grid in "Non Mainstream" genre form will display only sub genres related to it.

Genre "Non Mainstream" and its Sub-Grid showing related Sub Genres

As seen in my blog, I have added the sub-grid functionality without doing major work. In CRM 2011 this feature is out of the box. The same functionality was achieved through IFrames and JavaScript in CRM 4.0.  

I hope this blog about 'Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 - Form Sub-Grids' was informative. Please feel free to leave your comments.

Sunday 18 March 2012

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 – Limitations of Dynamics CRM Online Vs On Premises

Why Companies Prefer Dynamics CRM 2011 Online

There might be many reasons why companies prefer Dynamics CRM 2011 online. Among these the prominent are:
  • To avoid investing in the hardware and software required for on-premises version. Also on-premises need a dedicated team of managers, business analysts and developers to maintain the whole CRM framework.
  • If an enterprise is small to medium scale, it makes sense for it to go for Cloud version and pay only for the actual use.
  • Companies feel more secure on Cloud. Having their Dynamics CRM database on Cloud might be safer because it is constantly backed up without fail. Microsoft Azure has many back-up and fail-safe mechanisms working round the clock. It is seen that most threat to the data comes from internal employees and this is not the problem, any more, on the Cloud.
  • Another reason favouring Dynamics CRM Online is that it can be accessed 24*7 and anywhere around the world. The company employees only need an active internet connection and Internet Explorer.

Why Companies Don’t Prefer Dynamics CRM 2011 Online

There are reasons why enterprises never want to have the Cloud version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011. Some of the times the companies move back from Cloud to on-premises Dynamics CRM. Some of the prominent reasons are:
  • Slow internet connection in the countries where the companies operate could be a major problem. One of the requirements is to have an active internet connection. A fast connection always helps.
  • There are some technical limitations to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 online as compared to on-premises version. Companies would like to have full control over the technical development around Dynamics CRM 2011.
  • Companies and their management are still are not comfortable putting their sensitive business and client data on the Cloud.
  • Medium to large organisations don't mind investing in hardware and software. These enterprises have cash to employ people and set up an internal software department. Many companies still like to stick to the old model of having everything in-house.
  • If companies don't have their own in-house IT department they prefer a local consultancy firm to handle their CRM infrastructure. Companies still prefer to see someone present physically as compared to having a virtual presence in the cloud.

Limitations of Dynamics CRM Online Vs On Premises

There are few limitations of Dynamics CRM 2011 Online. Many of them are due to the nature of being on Cloud. In my opinion the advantages of being on Cloud far outweigh the small number of limitations it possesses. These limitations are:
  • There is a limitation to maximum number of custom entities that can be created. Looking at the brighter side, this limitation is practically very high. Rarely can any of the enterprise level CRM 2011 projects max out this limit of custom entities.
  • You have to pay for every GB of database usage.  If your CRM 2011 has significant file attachment requirements then the database size could go in terabytes. To minimise these costs, companies can use a document storage solution such as SharePoint 2010 along with Online Dynamics CRM 2011.
  • Dynamics CRM online doesn't support custom workflow activity assemblies. The business rules and the functionality which you intend to run should be put inside a plugin.
  • Fully trusted plugins are not supported. Whenever you create plugins for Dynamics CRM online always test your plugins in sandbox mode. Dynamics CRM online only support plugins to run in sandbox mode.
  • Custom ASPX pages are not supported for customising Dynamics CRM online.
  • Custom SSRS reports which are based on "TSQL and filtered views" data sets are not supported. Dynamics CRM 2011 online only supports Fetch XML based custom reports. TSQL gives you much more flexibility as compared to Fetch XML.


I would like to emphasise that the limitations of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 online are very few as compared to the many benefits it provides. These benefits span from technical to financials.
  • You can have your own dedicated Dynamics CRM 2011 on Microsoft Cloud in less than 5 minutes. You will be paying only for what you need.
  • You don't have to worry about backups any more. Microsoft hardware and software setups will take care of backups.
  • You don't have to employ a team of CRM administrators. Microsoft team will take care of all your needs.
  • On top of these benefits your whole Dynamics CRM 2011 infrastructure sits on the solid foundation of Azure framework.

I hope this blog about 'Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 – Limitations of Dynamics CRM Online Vs On Premises' was informative. Please feel free to leave your comments.

Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step 2012 and Sure Step Online

Dynamics Sure Step Methodology

History and Future Directions

The original version of Sure Step was launched in March 2007. Since then, the Microsoft vision for the Sure Step program has been:

  • To deliver an ever-evolving, world-class methodology to partners for Microsoft Dynamics customer engagements.
  • To help partners take advantage of the latest best practices, new tools developed by Microsoft Dynamics product teams, and changes in Microsoft Dynamics software.
  • To help partners achieve high customer satisfaction, increase channel productivity, and improve profits.

What Is Sure Step?

The Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step Methodology is a comprehensive customer engagement methodology describing the processes and disciplines necessary to implement Microsoft Dynamics products.

  • The methodology covers the following products:
  1. Microsoft Dynamics CRM
  2. Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online
  3. Microsoft Dynamics AX
  4. Microsoft Dynamics GP
  5. Microsoft Dynamics NAV
  6. Microsoft Dynamics SL
  • Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step is a full customer lifecycle methodology for all Microsoft Dynamics solutions, providing the Microsoft ecosystem with comprehensive sales through delivery guidance, project management discipline alignment and field-driven best practices. Sure Step is designed to enable the solution provider to better serve customers by helping reduce their Microsoft Dynamics total cost of ownership. Sure Step content covers the Microsoft Dynamics ERP and CRM suite of solutions, including Microsoft Dynamics AX, Microsoft Dynamics GP, Microsoft Dynamics NAV, Microsoft Dynamics SL, and Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
  • The guidance, tools, templates and best practices provided in the methodology can help increase the consistency, timeframes, quality and success of Microsoft Dynamics engagements.
  • Because implementations have many similarities across these products, Sure Step has been structured as a general methodology with a product-specific layer for each product. The general content consists primarily of prescriptive phase-by-phase and activity-by-activity descriptions for completing an implementation, and also includes information on the Project Management discipline. The product-specific content is represented by tools and templates as well as hyperlinks to materials that can be found outside of the tool.

 Overall benefits of Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step

  • A consistent methodology, project management tools and advice, and field-tested best practices - all within user-friendly tools - that enable partners to more efficiently deploy, migrate to, configure, and upgrade Microsoft Dynamics solutions.
  • Drives partner productivity by providing a consistent approach and a standard set of tools and templates that help ensure customer projects are completed efficiently, adding immediate business value, which promotes high customer satisfaction.
  • Helps partners to work more easily with other partners - as well as with Microsoft Consultants, when appropriate - on large, multi-site, or multi-region implementations. It also helps partners work more efficiently with independent software vendors (ISVs) who provide third-party solutions or expertise.
  • Assurance that you are using the same approach as others involved in the project to drive toward a successful customer implementation.

The Sure Step Methodology Resources

The Sure Step methodology includes the following resources:
  • Methodology content. A flow of implementation activities that lead from the initial business diagnosis through implementation and handoff to operations.
  • Tools and templates. Sample documents and document structures to help guide the project activity and system configuration.
  • The Sure Step application. A presentation interface for the Sure Step methodology that helps you to navigate and apply the methodology and adapt it to your unique requirements.
  • Community resources. Links to other resources available in the Microsoft Dynamics community.

 Sure Step 2012 and Sure Step Online

  • Sure Step 2012 and Sure Step Online provide options for agile project types, industry, organizational change management, extended CRM development projects and ISV templates. Sure Step projects can be created in both SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2007.
  • Partners can get Sure Step content by downloading the application to their personal computer, or access it in its online format via Sure Step Online.
  • Sure Step Online Overview: View the latest guidance and content available online without downloading and installing the client. This is a great way to access and share content quickly from anywhere in multiple languages.

NEW! Sure Step 2012

Sure Step 2012 is now available with updated content and services, primarily focusing on the AX 2012 release. Updated content includes:

  • Accelerated Proof of Concept with CRM Online service – Provides scripts, demos, Delivery Guide, and related content for building a quick proof of concept or demo for a customer using the CRM Online 30-day trial. This supports rapid requirements definition and solution decision-making. Find this in the Decision Accelerator offering.
  • Upgrade to Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 – tools and templates to support the Upgrade project type, reflecting an Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009 to Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 upgrade scenario.
  • Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 Implementation tools and templates are updated to reflect an Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 implementation scenario, including Fit/Gap analysis worksheet, estimator tool, requirements questionnaire, security configuration requirements template, and other valuable templates.
  • Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Updates – new CRM artifacts including Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Upgrade Assessment, Database Sizing Tool, and Design Best Practices.
  • Sure Step Optimization Offering – These services have been repackaged across all products to represent either discrete stand-alone services such as Developer Workshop or bundled services available to customers, such as Architecture Review, Project Governance and Delivery Review, and Upgrade Review.

Differences between Sure Step 2012 and Sure Step Online?

  • The content is the same: The online format of Sure Step contains all of the same great content that is found in the downloadable version of Sure Step 2012.
  • Project Location: While personalized projects can be created using either format, you can only save Sure Step Online projects to your own SharePoint site. The downloadable Sure Step 2012 still allows you to create projects to a hard drive that can be read inside a local Sure Step installation as well as to a SharePoint site.
  • Content Updates: With Sure Step Online, Microsoft is able to keep content up to date without a regular release cycle. The Online version of Sure Step will ensure that partners and customers have the most up to date content available.

I hope this blog about 'Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step 2012 and Sure Step Online' was informative. Please feel free to leave your comments.

Thursday 15 March 2012

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 - Filtered Option Sets or Filtered Lookups

A new out of the box feature in Microsoft Dynamics 2011 is filtered option sets also called as filtered lookups. This is a positive step forward as compared to days of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0.

A filtered lookup or filtered option set is a lookup whose values are depended on an earlier selection.  This earlier selection can be in any other field on the form.

In Dynamics CRM 4.0 if I need a filtered lookup, the only way is to write some code in JavaScript. If my project had around hundred custom entities and say only 50% of them had filtered lookups, that's a lot of JavaScript. I can write a common JavaScript wrapper function and call it every time, but still, there is nothing out of the box.

Dynamics CRM 2011 has changed the way we create filtered lookups. Instead of JavaScript, I can simply change few settings for a lookup and have it configured as a filtered lookup. In this blog, I will configure a filtered lookup.

Below are the steps to create a filtered lookup in an entity whose values are based on a selection in another field.

1) I will use few entities to show filtered lookup configuration. I will use Movies, Genres and Sub Genres. Movies have N:1 relationship with genres and sub genres.


2) Below is the genre records created in my CRM 2011.

Movie Genre Records

3) Below are the sub genre records. As marked, each of these sub genre belongs to a genre.

Sub genre has a N:1 relationship with genre.

Movie Sub Genre Records Sorted by Genre Name
4) Below are the records for the Movies entity.

Movies Records

5) I have opened the movie record GoldenEye. This is one of my favourite James Bond movies. Movie has a genre and sub genre field on the form, as marked below.

Every movie falls under a genre and a sub genre. The genre selected is "Thriller".

Fields for Filtered Lookups

6) Every Sub genre falls under a genre. On the movie form whenever I open the Sub Genre lookup I can see all the items. The Sub Genres are not filtered based on the selected Genre "Thriller".

Sub Genre Lookup Without Filtering

7) I will configure a sub genre lookup field so that it filters based on the selected genre. Click "Customize Entity" under "Customize" tab to customise Movies. This will open the Movies form in design mode.

Customise Movies Entity

8) On the form below shown are the 2 required fields. Double click the "Movie Sub Genre" field to check its properties.

Movie Form

9) This will open the "Field Properties" window for the sub genre lookup field. Check out the marked area below which states "Related Records Filtering". This is the section where we configure a filtered lookup.

By default this section is disabled. Click on the check box to enable this section.

Field Properties for Sub Genre on the Movie Form

10) I will set the option "Only show records where:". Since I want to bind this field to Genre, I will select "Movie Genre (Movies)". This pull down selection shows all the options for Movies entity on which sub genre is dependent.

"Only show records where: " Setting

11) I will set the option "Contains". I selected "Movie Genre (Sub Genres)"

"Contains" Setting

12) Below are the settings which will configure the sub genre to a filtered lookup.

Filtered Lookup Settings

13) After these changes click "OK" on "Field Properties" window. Then click "Save".

Save the Movie Form Changes

14) I will now publish these changes.

Publish the Movie Form Changes

15) I will go back to the same Movies record "GoldenEye" and open the sub genre lookup. Now I can only see 2 sub genres as they have been filtered for the genre "Thriller". So we have a filtered sub genre lookup.

Sub Genres Filtered for the Genre Selection of "Thriller"

16) I will now select a different genre to test the filtering in sub genre lookup. I will select Genre as "Family".

Select Genre as "Family"

17) The sub genres have been filtered for the genre "Family". The values or options in sub genres are different than what we saw when the genre was "Thriller".

Sub Genres Filtered for the Genre Selection of "Family"

So we saw above how the sub genres are filtered on earlier genre selections. This filtering process was setup without writing a single line of code. It saves us from further code testing and maintenance.

One more feather in the cap of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011!

I hope this blog about 'Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 - Filtered Option Sets or Filtered Lookups' was informative. Please feel free to leave your comments.

Friday 9 March 2012

First Look at Screenshots and what's new in Windows 8 - The Social Operating System

Microsoft recently launched Windows 8 Consumer Preview. I downloaded and installed the Windows 8 Consumer Preview on a virtual machine. I am pretty impressed and satisfied with what I see. It takes an initial learning curve to get used to the Windows 8 tiles based interface or called as metro interface.

I like Windows 8. Not because I love Microsoft and every technology it offers, but Windows 8 is really easy and integrated to what we do in our everyday lives. I would like to give it the nickname 'Social Operating System'.

My favourite 4 features are:
  • The Metro Interface (it is same as what I see on my XBOX 360 or on Windows mobile smartphones) and it has a Beautiful, Fast and Fluid Design
  • Windows 8 Integration to the social sites like Facebook, Flickr and SkyDrive
  • Integration to Xbox 360
  • Windows 8 has Integrated Hyper-V feature. Now Hyper-V is not limited to only Server Operating Systems like Windows 2008.
No matter what task I want to complete, Windows 8 helps me get it done quickly. It’s fast whether I am completing a project or playing a game. Windows 8 starts quickly and uses less memory so there’s more room for apps and data. Windows 8 is cloud connected so I can access my photos, documents, and settings from wherever I am, on any Windows 8 PC.

1) Below is the Windows 8 lock screen. As expected this is a nice looking screen which is based on fluid design.

Windows 8 has a bold new style that’s sleek and modern, and it’s been beautifully designed. The shortcut to lock the windows 8 machine is 'Windows Key' + 'L'. The windows key is also known as the home key or the start key.

Windows 8 Bold New Look and Style - The Lock Screen

Below is the Login screen. If you are on the Lock screen and want to go to Login screen, slide your mouse pointer upwards on the Lock screen's bottom end.

Windows 8 Login Screen

2) When I login to Windows 8, I will see a screen like below. Windows 8 has a new Interface called as tiled or metro styled interface. Instead of the old Windows interface we now have a bright tiled look and feel. The most important applications are provided to me on the main screen. I don't have to go through many clicks to get to what I need the most.

For example, when I log into my computer, there are 3 things which I would like to do first. I like to check my emails, connect to my messenger and see what my friends are doing on Facebook. Now all of these are just a click away now on Windows 8. For emails I click on Mail tile. For Messenger I click on Messaging Tile. To connect to my friends and relatives I will click on Photos and People tile. So easy!

The New Windows 8 Start Screen

Below is the same Start Screen but with some more tiles.

The New Windows 8 Tiles Based Interface

3) I can also get to familiar looking desktop by clicking 'Windows Key'. There is no 'Start' button as everything we need is available to us through the new tiled screen. If I click again 'Windows Key', I will be taken back to the tiled screen.

Windows 8 (Familiar) Desktop

4) If I click on 'Windows Key' + 'E', windows explorer will open. Nothing much has changed in windows explorer as it was already so easy to use.

Windows Explorer

5) To find any files, I can click 'Windows Key' + 'F'. This will take me to the Search Panel. Here I can search for any keyword. For example if I want to have an On-Screen Keyboard and I don't know where to look for it in the new Windows 8. I can search for keyboard in this search panel. Then I click the button 'Apps' (which is below the search box). It will show me one result which is the on-screen keyboard. If I click on this result, the on-screen keyboard will open up.

Windows 8 Search Panel

6) Windows 8 comes with Internet Explorer 10 Consumer Preview. Through Windows 8, I can test this new upcoming version of Internet Explorer. Browsing with Internet Explorer 10 is as fast and fluid as everything else on your Windows 8 device.

Internet Explorer 10 has one underlying platform that supports HTML5 and enables the same markup to work across many other modern browsers. It has extensive support for additional standards spanning HTML5, CSS3, and EcmaScript5.

Internet Explorer 10

7) Windows 8 fully supports touch based commands. I can use a touch screen or a keyboard and mouse to operate Windows 8. On touch-enabled PCs, the things I used to do with a mouse and keyboard are now easy to do with touch.

To help with typing Windows 8 has an On-Screen Keyboard. I haven't figured yet the shortcut key to open on-screen keyboard. What you can do is, go to search panel and search for keyboard. Then click the button 'Apps' (which is below the search box). It will show one result which is the on-screen keyboard. Click on this result and the on-screen keyboard will open up.

The touch keyboard in Windows 8 helps you speed up your typing and makes it more accurate. The keyboard technology is designed to increase efficiency and reduce mistakes. If you mistype a word, Windows will suggest words as you type so you can get it right with a single tap.

Below I am using the keyboard to browse the web.

On-Screen Keyboard

8) Windows 8 can be integrated to Xbox 360. I can wireless connect my Windows 8 machine to my Xbox 360. Then click on the 'Xbox tile' in Windows 8 to interact with Xbox.

Xbox Live Games

9) With the new Windows Store, you’ll be able to browse and compare thousands of apps, all grouped in easy-to-find categories.

You can download your apps on more than one Windows 8 PC so there’s no need to buy it twice. That’s because after you install an app from the Windows Store, you can sign in to the Store on up to five other PCs and see a list of all of the apps you own. You can pick and choose the apps you want to install on other PCs without having to search for and install them individually. The Windows Store is designed to make it easy to discover apps without getting lost.

Windows 8 Store

10) This is one of my favourites. That's why I have nicknamed Windows 8 as the 'Social Operating System'. It is so easy and friendly, the way, I can browse my social sites in Windows 8. I can have access to all my pictures and Facebook account with one click.

Windows 8 "Social Operating System" - Stay Connected to your Family and Friends

Below are my picture libraries on Facebook, after I have logged in.

Stay Connected to your Family and Friends

11) Windows 8 is fully integrated with Cloud. My Microsoft account is like a portable, personal PC that appears on any Windows 8 device I am using. I’ll be ready to pick up where I left just by signing in. Here’s another reason to put all my files in the cloud. With an Internet connection, photos and other files on Microsoft SkyDrive are essentially as accessible as anything on my PC, and I can access them from any web-connected device.

Windows 8 and Cloud

12) Windows 8 has given a new look and feel to the Task Manager. It is very easy to analyse my processes and identify which are using the most CPU or memory.

Task Manager

13) Being a hard core developer at heart I couldn't resist installing upcoming versions of all the software on Windows 8. Below is the screen shot of Visual Studio 11 Beta.

My blog on New Features in Visual Studio 11 Beta will be coming soon!!!

Visual Studio 11 Beta

14) I also installed Team Foundation Server 11 Beta on Windows 8.

My blog on New Features in Team Foundation Server 11 will be coming soon!!!

Team Foundation Server 11 Beta

15) This is one of my favourite features. I had hard time using Hyper-V because it was part of only Windows Server Operating System like 'Windows 2008'. As a developer how many of us invest in having a machine installed with a server operating system. So like most of us we end up using non-Microsoft based virtualisation tools such as VMware or VirtualBox. Windows 8 will make that a history. Hyper-V is now part of Windows 8.

It is a feature which is not turned ON by default. You have to turn this feature ON by going to Control Panel and clicking 'Turn Windows features on or off'. In Hyper-V manager, you can manage a virtualisation server.


16) Windows 8 has a new version of IIS. Below is the look and feel of IIS 8 consumer preview, which is similar to IIS 7.5.

My blog on New Features in IIS 8 will be coming soon!!!

IIS Version 8

17) By default Windows 8 comes installed with .NET framework 4.5.

My blog on New Features in .NET Framework 4.5 will be coming soon!!!

.NET Framework 4.5

Behind the bold, new look of Windows 8, is the rock-solid foundation we’ve come to expect from Windows 7. With seamless connections to people and information, full-screen immersive apps, and built-in malware resistance, strong authentication, and data encryption, Windows 8 provides a great experience along with a more secure and manageable platform.

I hope this blog about 'First Look at Screenshots and what's new in Windows 8 - The Social Operating System' was informative. Please feel free to leave your comments.

Thursday 8 March 2012

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 - What's new in SQL Server 2012

Finally SQL Server 2012 RC0 is here. A release candidate is a version of a software program that is usually not in its final form. While the version is functional, it's not quite ready to offer for sale to the general public. SQL Server 2012 code named "Denali" is the next major release of Microsoft Database Server.

These are interesting times. Microsoft has a bigger bag of goodies this time, coming out with new versions of many of its products. New upcoming versions are Windows 8, IE 10, IIS 8, .NET framework 4.5, Visual Studio 11 and SQL Server 2012.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 is built on the foundation of .NET and Microsoft SQL Server, a trusted platform that continuously leads in industry-relevant TPC-E and TPC-H performance benchmarks. SQL Server 2012 "Denali" takes Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 to new levels of performance, scalability and business intelligence.

Microsoft SQL Server 2012 has many enhancements. My favourite 3 are:
  • Faster Fail-over, easier Administration with SQL Server AlwaysOn
  • The concept of Partially Contained Databases
  • In-Memory Column Store ("Apollo")
Following is a list of new features and enhancements in the SQL Server 2012 RC0 release:

  • Faster Fail-over, easier Administration with SQL Server AlwaysOn 
The new integrated high availability and disaster recovery solution provides redundancy. AlwaysOn Availability Groups is a new feature that greatly enhances the capabilities of Database Mirroring and helps ensure availability of application databases. Availability Groups provides an integrated set of options including automatic and manual fail-over of a group of databases, support for up to four secondaries, fast application fail-over and automatic page repair.

  • The concept of Contained Databases
A contained database is a concept in which a database includes all the settings and metadata required to define the database and has no configuration dependencies on the instance of the SQL Server Database Engine where the database is installed. Users connect to the database without authenticating a login at the Database Engine level. Isolating the database from the Database Engine makes it possible to easily move the database to another instance of SQL Server. Including all the database settings in the database enables database owners to manage all the configuration settings for the database.

Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Release Candidate 0 (RC 0) includes a first step toward contained databases, introducing partially contained databases (also known as Partial-CDB). Partially Contained Databases provide some isolation from the instance of SQL Server but do not yet provide full containment.

  • In-Memory Column Store ("Apollo")
"Apollo" introduces column store technology to the database engine, making SQL Server the first of the major general-purpose database systems to have a true column store. Apollo brings together the VertiPaq technology that was developed in Analysis Services (and is the crucial foundation for PowerPivot) and a new query execution paradigm called batch processing to provide truly astonishing speed up for common data warehouse queries. In test scenarios experiments have shown approximately 100x improvements in star join and similar queries.

  • Paging feature
SQL Server 2012 has modified ORDER BY clause to implement paging through a result set. This is done using a combination of two new keywords OFFSET and FETCH.

TSQL Query with SQL Server 2012 Paging Keywords

  • Windows Server Core Support
SQL Server is supported on Windows Server Core. By running SQL Server on Windows Server Core the OS patching can be reduced significantly which greatly reduces planned downtime (50-60% fewer OS patch reboots).

  •  Full-Text Search Performance Overhaul
Full-Text Search in Denali brings magnitudes of performance and scale advances with significantly improved query execution and concurrent index update mechanisms. Full-text search now includes properties scoped searches without requiring developers to maintain file properties (such as Author Name, Title, etc.) separately in the database. Developers can now also benefit with improved NEAR operator that allows them to specify distance in-between as well as the order of words.

  • Table Partitioning up to 15,000
Support growing data warehousing with table partitioning that now scales to 15,000 partitions.

  • Schema for Windows Groups
Database schema can now be tied to Windows Group rather than individual users to increase database compliance. It eases administration of database schema, decreases the complexity of database schema management through individual Windows users, prevent errors of assigning schema to the wrong users when users changes groups, avoids unnecessary implicit schema creation, and greatly reduces the chance of query errors when wrong schema being used.

  • Contained Database Authentication
Contained Database Authentication increases compliance by allowing users to be authenticated directly into user databases without logins. User information for login (username and password) is not stored inside master database but user databases directly. It is very secure because users can only perform DML operations inside the user databases and not database instance level operations.

  • Distributed Replay
Simplify application testing and minimize errors with application changes, configuration changes, and upgrades using new Distributed Replay. This multi-threaded replay utility provides the ability to simulate production workload scenarios testing after upgrade or configuration changes ultimately leading to protected performance during changes.

  • PowerPivot Enhancements
Customers can browse through mounds of data in a familiar way at lightning-fast speeds in Excel and also leverage the new advanced analytic capabilities such as the ability to create KPIs, Rank, Perspectives, Hierarchies and sophisticated business logic.

  • BI Semantic Model
SQL Server code-named "Denali" Analysis Services introduces the BI Semantic Model, a single model for users with multiple ways of building business intelligence (BI) solutions. With the BI Sematic Model organizations can scale from small personal BI solutions to the largest organizational BI needs. BI Semantic Model is one model for all end user experiences – reporting, analytics, scorecards, dashboards, and custom applications and offers developers flexibility of modeling experiences, richness to build sophisticated business logic and scalability for your most demanding enterprise needs.

  • Data Quality Services
A completely new service to SQL Service, Data Quality Services (DQS) helps round out end to end data management for organizations. DQS provides knowledge-driven tools customers can use allow data stewards to create and maintain a Data Quality Knowledge Base which helps improve data quality and ease data management.

  • SQL Server Developer Tools Code Named "Juneau"
Juneau unifies the development experience for database development with a single powerful environment for database development across Database, BI and web and supports SQL Server and SQL Azure. Streamline application development with a single environment for developing DB, BI, and web solutions across on-premise and cloud environments. New Visual Studio based IDE comes standalone or integrated (source control, unit testing, etc.), is released with Denali, on the web, and with Visual Studio 11 and is designed for both database and BI developers.

  • PowerShell 2.0 Support
This improvement expands on the PowerShell support delivered in SQL Server 2008 by leveraging Windows PowerShell 2.0 allowing DBAs to take advantage of the latest PowerShell features and offers the flexibility to use SQLPS.exe for all SQL and related automation scenarios.

  • Greater interoperability
SQL Server Code Name "Denali" helps customers extend heterogeneous environments by connecting to SQL Server and SQL Azure applications with support for additional industry standard APIs across varied platforms.

  • SQL Server Express Local Database Runtime (LocalDB)
In Denali, SQL Server Express will feature a new version, SQL Server Express Local Database Runtime (LocalDB). LocalDB is a new lightweight version of Express that has all its programmability features, yet runs in user mode and has a fast, zero-configuration installation and short list of pre-requisites.

SQL Server Code Name "Denali" is a significant product release that will help us to build and support mission critical environments. New tools and enhancements enable breakthrough insight across all levels of the organization while cloud-ready technologies for application symmetry across server, private and public cloud help stay agile for the future.

I hope this blog about 'Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 - What's new in SQL Server 2012' was informative. Please feel free to leave your comments.