Azure Common Data Services

What do you know about Azure Common Data Services? Today I’d like to talk about this product for apps which was recently re-done by Microsoft to expand upon the product’s vision. Common Data Services is an Azure-based business application platform that enables you to easily build and extend applications with your customer’s business data.

Common Data Services helps you bring together your data from across the Dynamics 365 Suite (CRM, AX, Nav, GP) and use this common data service to more easily extract data rather than having to get into the core of those applications. It also allows you to focus on building and delivering the apps that you want and insights and process automation that will help you run more efficiently. Plus it integrates nicely with PowerApps, Power BI and Microsoft Flow.

Some other key things:

  • If you want to build Power BI reports from your Dynamics 365 CRM data, there are pre-canned entities provided by Microsoft.
  • Data within the Common Data Services (CDS) is stored within a set of entities. An entity is just a set of records that’s used to store data, similar to how a table stores data within a database.
  • CDS should be thought of as a managed database service. You don’t have to create indexes or do any kind of database tuning; you’re not managing a database server as you would with SQL Server or a data warehouse. It’s designed to be somewhat of a centralized data repository from which you can report or do further things with.
  • PowerApps is quickly becoming a good replacement for things like Microsoft Access as it comes with along with functionality and feature sets. A common use for PowerApps is extending that data rather than having to dig into the background platform.
  • This technology is easy to use, to share and to secure. You set up your user account as you would with Azure Services, giving specific permissions/access based on the user.
  • It gives you the metadata you need based on that data and you can specify what kind of field or column you’re working with within that entity.
  • It gives you the ability of logic and validation; you can create business process rules and data flows from entity to entity or vice versa or from app to entity to PowerApps.
  • You can create workflows that automate business process, such as data cleansing or record updating; these workflows can run in the background without having to manage manually.
  • Gets good connectivity with Excel which makes it user friends for people comfortable with that platform.
  • For power users, there’s an SDK available for developers, which allows you to extend the product and build some cool custom apps.

I don’t think of this as a replacement for Azure SQL DW or DB but it does give you the capability to have table-based data in the cloud that has some nice hooks into the Dynamics 365 space, as well as outputting to PowerApps and Power BI.

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