Author: By Adam Legge CTO Silverbear
What's in a name?
2020 saw Microsoft complete their latest rebranding venture of what was originally called XRM, to the much snappier Dataverse and along with this came much fanfare and marketing around what this meant for businesses and how it would change everything. I buy into this to a certain extent and I will explain why shortly but upon reflecting on this latest change and where Microsoft currently leads me to a stark realisation - we as consumers of all that resides within the Microsoft platform, have way more power (I will try to keep the power puns to a minimum) than we actually realise!
Let's take a step back first shall we
Despite its grandiose name, the concept behind the Dataverse is actually rather simple: A single database schema to store all of your data from different applications. With one data structure and one copy of the data, each application can share all of its data with another with ease; creating new applications are a breeze because the back end is already there and analysing data from different areas of your business becomes a breeze.
Teams - a tool that pretty much everyone has become familiar with in 2020 is also taking a deep dive into the Dataverse which will open up a whole new world of interoperability possibilities in 2021 and beyond.
This is made all the better when you utilise the power (sorry) of the Power Platform - a suite of tools that enables you to interact with the data in the Dataverse. Power BI lets you interpret the data; PowerApps lets you interact with the data; Power Automate lets you perform actions when the data changes; and Power Virtual Agents lets you…create a chatbot named Bob?
Heavy wears the crown
So, this is all great but all that glitters is not gold so obviously, there are catches!
With the way, Microsoft and the larger community speak about Dataverse and the Power Platform you would be forgiven to think that it is as simple as putting all of your data from across your business into the Dataverse and running all of your processes using Power Platform or flows within Dynamics365 but what is often neglected is the drawbacks of this centralised architecture: cost and performance.
Storing data in the Dataverse is not always the best option. Firstly, it isn’t cheap; there are a myriad of very good reasons for this, multiple real-time data replication and an incredibly robust set of Azure databases behind the scenes being two. Also, if you have many gigabytes of cold data - data you need to store, but don’t need to use all the time - you need to plan accordingly. Another factor is related to new API consumption pricing rules due out this year whereby any interactions you make with the Dataverse will eat into a daily allowance based on your licensing capacity. Suddenly, lengthy integration processes or simple tasks done over many records will need to be factored in. On top of this, Microsoft has a tight leash on how much concurrent work you can do inside the Dataverse with some pretty stringent throttling taking effect for moderate workloads.
Oh no, this sounds awful, I thought Microsoft was going to be the saviours of my business with all of its data silos? Fret not because Microsoft are the saviours and their ecosystem is without a doubt, the best and most exciting thing to happen to business technology in a generation - all you have to do is to think bigger than the Dataverse.
So many toys!
The Dataverse, Power Platform, Dynamics 365, and many other things all live within the Azure ecosystem. There are hundreds of interconnecting tools and utilities that you have had full access to all this time and yet so much focus has been given to such a small part of it. You have been in a car showroom and been staring at the really nice red Porsche for months and all you needed to do was to lift your head and see that you have been surrounded by blue, black, white, yellow Porsches all along; and what's more, is they were all half the price of the red one and let you choose how many cylinders you wanted in your engine. Let me give you a couple of examples:
Paying thousands to store all of your data in the Dataverse? Split your data into hot and cold and keep your working set data in the Dataverse and store historic, colds data in an Azure SQL database instead where you can control the performance and cost at all times.
Paying hundreds to run a Power Automate flow against every contact stored in a table in the Dataverse? Create a Logic app and have identical functionality for a fraction of the cost.
I could go on and on about some brilliant other tools like Functions or Web Jobs or Application Insights but part of the fun is understanding your requirements and then not tying yourself into whatever Microsoft jargon is "in vogue". Providers such as Silverbear are there to help you design the architecture that uses the right tools for the job whilst enabling you to fine-tune performance and operating costs.
Do you know what the best thing is? You can still bring together all of your data as you would if it was all inside the Dataverse. Dynamics lets you use virtual entities; Dataverse connectors let you interact with everything inside Azure (and if it doesn't you can build a connector that does) and Power BI can aggregate all information just as easily as if it was all in the same place. It truly is remarkable.
The best thing is that Azure is always expanding, its functionality is always expanding and the reasons for choosing an Azure-based platform are always expanding. Don’t think of your infrastructure as just being on the Dataverse or your view of the data being purely through Dynamics 365. Embrace Azure, embrace something bigger than the Dataverse, and embrace the limitless possibilities that this cloud platform can offer you, not at some point in the future but right now!