In Part 1 of this three-part evaluation of Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2009, I provided a generally positive assessment of the Role Tailored Interface. In this Part 2, an examination of The Service Tier and the Transformation Tool, I am somewhat less enthusiastic.
The Service Tier
Whereas the new Service Tier interface is a very visible new feature of Dynamics NAV 2009, the Service Tier's functionality is definitely not new. From an end user's or consultant's perspective, it is difficult to judge the Service Tier. From a developer's perspective, it is difficult to judge as well. The Service Tier does not make his/her life any easier, though the question should be this: Does it make his life harder?
For what we have seen, this is not the case. The Service Tier is very stable in normal conditions and seems to have good performance. The first caching seems to be a bit slow, but once the objects are in, it is fast enough for an end user to work with. Too bad sessions do not share cached objects, though. For batch processing the service tier seems to be significantly slower than the classic two-tier client. It takes up to three times longer to post a batch of invoices.
One of the downsides is that the service tier only accepts Windows authentications. This makes it mandatory to be in the domain when connecting. This makes it impossible to bring your own laptop to the end user. A good workaround is to have a remote desktop connection for the Role Tailored Client.
When working with files and automation control objects, it is slightly more confusing when working with the service tier. Extra code needs to be added to handle this at the correct place.
And what about web services? Though this has been introduced with NAV 2009, I have not yet used it in my implementations. The job queue has not been changed. We are planning to use it through allowing customers to request their order status from the internet.
From all perspectives, then, the service tier has not made our lives better. It seems to be a necessity to use the new interface, that's all.
The Transformation Tool
With the release of Dynamics NAV 2009, Microsoft has converted the entire application to being capable of running in the new Role Tailored Interface. It has developed a tool for this and made it available for partners to upgrade applications as well.
This is not just a techies' tool. The Transformation Tool needs to be ‘implemented' in order to do a good job.
The new Role Tailored Client has a lot of new features the classic interface did not have. When you just technically convert your old application to the new interface it will lack most of these features.
So how did Microsoft implement this? Here you can clearly see that it is a lot of work to do properly. The most commonly used parts of the application have a lot of new features like fact boxes and promoted fields and actions, but a good number of deeper application parts are still ‘unimplemented'.
A lot of Dynamics partners are struggling with this tool. Implementing it comes down to a single question. Do I want to support both clients with my solution?
Based on my previous year's experience, I recommend the following: Upgrade your solution first to the classic environment, and then make sure it all works exactly as it should. Get a few customers running the package. Then, just like Microsoft, create a TAP program; but with just one or two customers.
The add-on we use in the implementation we just ‘technically' converted to the new client. This means that it works the same in the new client as in the old client. Then, together with the end users, start adding the new features.
After this project, it is your decision. Import all information into the Transformation Tool or just stick with the pages.
Ask yourself this question: How long do you think Microsoft will continue forms and the classic client? Apply common sense and decide.
Of course, it is different if you develop small components that you sell to other Dynamics NAV partners. Here the number of sales are often much higher and the components are generally smaller, making it easier to fully implement the Transformation Tool.
The transformation tool is great!! Don't get me wrong. It is just not a techies tool but should be 'implemented' and maintained if you want to support two platforms.
My advise to vertical partners is to get one single version using the transformation tool and continue with pages from there.
Implement the transformation tool as simple as possible and don't tire yourself with the maintenance.
Of course, it is just an opionon based on my experiences and discussions with partners.