AIF Top 10 in Dynamics AX 2009

 

You’ve probably already heard that the release of the new version – Dynamics AX 2009 – is on the horizon. For those of you who are using AIF or are planning to use it, the next version has some great features.

 

Here is my list of the top 10 AIF features in Dynamics AX 2009.

 

  1. Services

The programming model for exchanging data has dramatically changed for the better in Dynamics AX 2009. Now, any X++ class can be exposed as a service. If your class methods follow a few simple rules, they can be exposed as service operations. A class method can be exposed as a service operation as long as the method is declared public and the method parameters are one of the primitive types or an object that implements AifXmlSerializable.

 

An AX service can be consumed internally by X++ code or you can expose that service externally through Web services. Now, you also have the ability to consume an external Web service from X++ code and access the service operations through Intellisense.

 

  1. Document Services

Document services are the way that Dynamics AX implements the service architecture to exchange data with external systems. AIF is now based on document services. A document encapsulates business functionality and logic such as sales order, customer, and so on. Instead of Ax<Document> classes being the external interface for exchanging data, now document services are the external interface.

 

When you use one of the transports such as BizTalk or the file system to exchange data, AIF uses the document services internally. You can also expose the document services externally as Web services. When exposed as Web services, the document services support WCF.

 

  1. More Documents

Now there’s even more business functionality represented in AIF. The latest version of Dynamics AX delivers about 35 new documents. AIF now supports picking lists, fixed assets, expense reports, general journal entries, customer payments, and return orders to name a few. See the what’s new documentation (available at RTM) for a full list of new documents.

 

  1. Default Endpoint

Dynamics AX now ships with a default endpoint. This means you can get data exchanges up and running without having to configure a specific endpoint. When you send a message into AX and you want to use the default endpoint, only the action is required to be specified in the message header. You no longer have to specify the MessageId, SourceEndpoint, SourceEndpointUser, or DestinationEndpoint elements in the message.

When AIF uses the default endpoint, it verifies that the user sending the message has the appropriate security. The way the user information is retrieved depends on the transport method. For example, if you use the file system, AIF considers the file owner as the submitting user. Of course, you can still set up specific endpoints when you want to specify the endpoint users, specify endpoint constraints, and implement other functionality that’s only available to specific endpoints

 

  1. Parallelism

You can now specify on a per channel basis that messages are processed in parallel. Until now, messages were always processed sequentially in the order they were received. By selecting the Parallel processing field for an inbound channel on the Channels form, you specify that the AOS process messages in parallel. This enables the ability to scale out your implementation and potentially improve performance by adding more than one AOS to process messages.

 

  1. Services Support WCF

Any Dynamics AX service exposed as a Web service is exposed as a WCF Web service. This includes the document services included with AIF. Services exposed as Web services in AX support both the basicHttpBinding and wsHttpBinding (basicHttpBinding is the default).

 

This means that all the configuration options available for WCF services are available for the document services and any service in AX. This also means that Dynamics AX services can be implemented as part of your overall SOA strategy. Look here for an illuminating discussion of the advantages of WCF services.

 

  1. Consume Web Services

Services are now an integral part of AIF and are the external interface for business logic in AX. You can also consume a Web service from X++ with full IntelliSense support. You simply add a service reference and the service is available to you in the code editor.

 

What does this mean for me, you ask? This translates into a whole new world of integration scenarios. For example, you cou ld build functionality that takes item information (quantity, weight, size, and so on) from a form, calls a Web service, and then presents various shipping methods and costs to the user. If a Web service that calculates tax amounts was available, you could embed that functionality directly into a form in AX. Powerful stuff, I say.

 

  1. Easier Batch Processing

This new feature isn’t specific to AIF, but configuring the batch jobs and tasks is such a breeze now. If you use AIF Web services, this won’t mean much. But if you use the AIF adapters to exchange data, you’ll be well pleased.

 

Setting up the batch is as easy as (1) adding the batch job, (2) adding some tasks to it (one for each of the four AIF message processing classes), and (3) changing the status to Waiting. You can modify each task so that it’s dependent on the completion of the previous task so that the tasks execute in the proper order.

 

  1. Document Object and Data Objects

In version 4.0, the Axd<Document> class was the interface to AIF and a message was passed to this class as an XML string parameter. Now, the document service is the interface to AIF and this class has service operations that take various object parameters, one of which is a document object parameter. The document object encapsulates all the data being passed to the service.

 

The data objects have a programmer-friendly interface and implement XML serialization and de-serialization. The document object is the top-level data object so technically it is also a data object. Using these data objects is much easier than coding the XML string, ensuring that it validates against the message and documents schemas, and so on.

 

For example, AIF would generate three data objects to represent the Customer document:

 

    • Customer – represents the Customer XML element
    • Customer_CustTable  – represent the CustTable XML element
    • Customer_CustAddress – represents the CustAddress XML element

 

  1. AIF Document Service Wizard

 

This wizard is the key to creating your own custom services (and documents). Technically, this is not a new feature, but this replaces the Axd Document Wizard in the previous version. First you must create the foundation query for your service. Then you run this wizard, specify the supported service operations and it creates the service class and all the other associated classes including:

·         A default project in the AOT containing all the classes and objects created by the wizard.

·         An AOT node for the service

·         An AOT node for each service operation that the service supports..

·         The service class, the document class, and the data object classes – The actual classes that encapsulate the data exchange business logic. Found in the Classes node in the AOT.

·         A macro that contains all the data types for the data objects referenced by the service class.

·         AxBC (Ax<Table>) classes that provide an object API on top of the database tables referenced in the query.

·         A job that generates the schema for the service class.