Reflections on Microsoft Dynamics AX

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Notes on the updated VM posted to Partnersource

Notes on the updated VM posted to Partnersource

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I just wanted to provide some notes about an update of the Demo VM we have recently posted to Partnersource. In January we had to apply a patch for Microsoft Word 2007 to any new downloads of the VM. Unfortunately we are restricted from distributing a version of the VM without this patch to Word 2007.

This means that the VM which is called Refresh 2 is now version 2. This means that is it different from the version we posted in June/July 2009. You can find the updated VM on the regular demo page on PartnerSource

Here are some notes :

"How does this affect me ?" If you are a partner and already have the Demo VM it doesn't affect you. You don't need to download a new version as it is not significantly changed. The only thing that is updated/changed on the VM is the patch to Word 2007.

"What should I do if I have a diff disk based on the original Refresh 2 ?" The simple thing is make sure you keep a copy of the original download files for the Refresh 2. Then you can use these with the diff disk that you have. Unfortunately we can't make these available any more.

"Should I update my diff disks ?" If you have an urgent need to share your solution with another partner then yes you should update your diff disk based on the Refresh 2 V2 or work with them to work out a temporary solution with the original download files of Refresh 2.

"Should I keep making diff disks ?" I'm am encouraging partners not to use diff disks. There are two major reasons why.

  1. The obvious one is that each time we update the base you have to update and maintain your diff disks. This means more work for you as you have to update each time and second it's more work for us as we have to try to keep a copy of previous versions. Or in the case we are in now we can't re-release the old version of the VM and so you will have to update your diff disk.
  2. Technology. Now with the change to use Hyper-V you can't use a VPC diff disk with Hyper-V so you have to merge the diff disk and upgrade the VM to Hyper-V. Before I get emails let me explain this more. You can create differencing disks with Hyper-V. Now the trick with diff disks is that the parent can’t change for the diff disk to work. When you move a VM created in VPC to Hyper-V, it will be changed because of the need to update the integration components etc. So if you create diff disks they you are likely going to have to create a VPC specific version and a Hyper-V version which is extra to manage. Most partners I've talked to have already started to use Hyper-V and so if you want to distribute your ISV solution demo to other partners that have switched to Hyper-V then it will cause them some work.

"Is there an alternative to diff disk so I don’t have this issue each time you change the base ?" Yes. If you only update the DB and Dynamics AX application then I'd recommend putting them on a new VHD disk. Then use an updated AX Server configuration and client configuration to point to the new location of the DB and application. You can follow the same model that we used for the Lean, Process and Services Industries Application Disks.

The basic steps are :

  1. Shut down the VM.
  2. Create a new VHD file. Using the Disk Wizard in VPC and the New Hard Disk process in Hyper-V.
  3. Modify the settings in VPC or in Hyper-V for the VM to attach the new VHD you just created.
  4. Start the VM and log in.
  5. The new VHD will need to be initialized as a new disk inside the VM. You can do this with the Computer Manager. Start\Administrative tools\Computer Manager.
  6. Use the Disk Management node in the console to assign a drive letter to your new disk. You will also have to format it like a new disk that you add to a normal physical machine. We are using drive letters "G" for Lean, "H" for Process, "I" for PSA, "J" in the Future for Retail and "K" eventually for Public Sector so use drive letters after K.
  7. If you are adding an ISV solution to AX then you will be modifying the DB and the application.
    1. Application. Update the existing AX application or create a new application folder.
    2. Database. Either update the existing demo database or copy the existing demo DB and make a new one for your solution.
  1. Copy the application to the new VHD that you created. You will have to make sure you create the right path. For example Application\Appl\MYISVAPP. Make sure you also have the sample folder structure under the Application\ folder. You should end up with bin, log, share etc. Under application. Copy these from the C: drive where you setup your solution.
  2. Using SQL Management Studio. Detach the database that you create and copy to the new VHD you created.
  3. Create an AOS configuration to point to the application and database that you have on your new VHD. You can use the AX2 AOS that we have setup on the Refresh 2 VM or use the existing one.
  4. Create an install folder on the new VHD. You can follow what we did on the Process Application Disk where we created a simple command line script to attach the SQL DB to save some manual for the user of you VHD.
  5. When you are finished just shut down the VM and zip on the VHD. You will also find this is a lot smaller than a diff disk to be able to move around between partners.
  6. Provide people some notes on how to use your VHD.

More detailed notes to follow in time once I get videos  back up on the blog.

"Can I use the same procedure if I also modify applications outside Dynamics AX ?" Yes. There is a lot that you can do on the VM to configure your demos beyond Dynamics AX. If you are configuring data for other applications that have databases then you can include a database for people to attach. If you are using SharePoint then you can provide a backup of SharePoint databases. Other applications that need to be installed you can include the installer on you VHD and provide people with a silent install or command line to simplify the application setup.

That is enough for now, If you have question about this ping me.



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