Over the past couple of years, Microsoft has been evolving Power BI, Microsoft Flow, PowerApps, and Common Data Service. Their scope has expanded from Dynamics 365 to Office 365 and adding new features related to AI, reporting, workflows, and Azure cloud storage. For 2019, these four systems will enter their next phase of evolution by coming together as a single entity called Power Platform.
First, let’s take do a quick review of these components to get a full understanding of each and how they function and interact with each other.
Common Data Service
Common Data Service, or CDS for short, is the underlying core for all things involving data and is a common mechanism for which the other three components can work with data. CDS is designed to be a universal entity-based system through which all applications can create or manipulate data regardless of the platform or storage system. Entities are a record such as a customer, a document, an address, a product, or custom data specific to your business. Over the past year, the updates to Dynamics and Office 365 has expanded the scope of CDS to cover all product areas and to provide the same features found in the prior platform data system known as XRM.
Power BI is a business intelligence solution for data analysis and insight. It obtains, analyzes, and transforms data from CDS and many other data sources into interactive visual dashboards and reports. The data and visual output from Power BI can be used in both PowerApps and Microsoft Flow, allowing it to become part of the applications and automation processes. Over the last four years, Power BI has grown at an incredible rate, expanding to over 43 languages and millions of users across thousands of companies. Each month approximately 10 petabytes of data are uploaded and over 10 million dashboard queries are made every hour.
PowerApps is a framework for creating custom interactive business apps on desktop and mobile without requiring coding expertise. PowerApps are created as canvas or are model-driven. Canvas-driven apps create a custom user experience using a look and feel tailored to your business. Visual elements are dragged and dropped onto a canvas and linked by actions and data. Model-driven apps are linked to data and their output shaped and controlled by the data. The resulting user interface is much like the Dynamics 365 unified interface in behavior. Model-driven apps can run standalone or inside canvas-driven apps.
Flow is an extremely powerful system by which events in one application are transformed and/or processed to trigger actions in another. The design of flows requires very little code and often no code at all. It can be used for both automation or interaction between different applications and has connectors to many other Microsoft and 3rd party platforms including email, social media or SQL server. The design system of Flow is currently integrated into various parts of Dynamics 365 such as Marking journeys.
Power Platform combines and rebrands CDS, Power BI, PowerApps, and Flow into a single system with complete integration with Dynamics 365 and Office 365. It covers a loop which Microsoft’s CVP Business Applications Group calls a “triple-A loop” of “Analyze, Act, and Automate”.
With the release of Power Platform also comes new updates and capabilities.
Azure Support – All components now support Azure cloud storage and services such as API management, Functions, Cognitive, and Kubernetes.
Rich Application Lifecycle Management – Solution support is now available for canvas apps and flows for continuous integration and deployments of PowerApps projects. The solution checker helps maintain quality control by analyzing PowerApps for issues impacting stability and performance.
Low Code Blockchains – Development of blockchains is now possible with minimal coding knowledge. Blockchains are a growing chain of records, each containing a cryptographic hash of the prior block along with a timestamp and additional transactional data. Blockchains are very resistant to outside modification and are used to transmit transactions between two parties.
AI Builder is part the recently announced Wave 2 update for preview. It adds powerful machine learning capabilities to Power Platform. AI Builder continues the aim of low-code development and, like the other Power Platform components, uses the Common Data Service (CDS) to access data. Models created using AI Builder can be used in flow as part of the automation process.
- Binary classification which predicts future yes/no outcomes through historical data patterns and outcomes.
- Text classification which tags text from historical data for natural language processing to perform tasks such as sentiment analysis and routing of customer responses.
- Object detection to count and locate objects inside images.
- Business card reading to scan and extract information from business cards.
- Form processing to extract and process information from matching forms.
To find out more about this major enhancement to Power Platform visit https://powerapps.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/introducing-ai-builder-for-powerplatform/
Open Data Initiative
Another major benefit with Power Platform is being a part of the Open Data Initiative. Open Data Initiative is a joint project between Adobe, Microsoft, and SAP to facilitate data access across the three platforms. This will manifest itself in Power Platform primarily as connectors and services available in Flow automation. To find out more about the Open Data Initiative visit https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/open-data-initiative
Available for public preview as part of the Wave 2 update, PowerApps Portals brings the capabilities of PowerApps to external audiences through portal websites. Originally only available in Dynamics 365 as an add-on, Portals will become an integrated feature utilizing Power Platform. Portals utilizes the Common Data Service (CDS) and low-code approach to development web portals. It supports user access using Azure Active Directory, personal account, and LinkedIn. PowerApps Portals will be able to bring forth a new and improved maker interface. Developers will be able to build low-code websites using pre-built templates, components, views, and dashboards all using the power and features of the Power Platform apps, BI, and flow components.
To learn more about Microsoft Power Platform please visit this page:
For more on the latest updates to Microsoft business applications release visit:
Does your team need help with Power Platform training? Or creating low-code? The option of creating custom applications specified tailored for your organization is always available. Going this route will give you more control and avoids having to try and shoehorn an existing application that “almost fits” your needs.
There’s no need for hiring or training your own software developers for this. A good Microsoft Gold Partner like KTL Solutions has the knowledge and experience to handle the legwork of development and support. KTL Solutions provides customized software solutions, Office 365 support, eCommerce customizations, and integration with Microsoft Dynamics.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your business succeed.