I hope that everyone’s upcoming holiday season will be relaxing. Here in the U.S. everyone that I have talked with is ramping up because of year-end and preparing for the W2 (taxes) processes. We've been busy; as I'm sure all of you have been as well
I wanted to start a thread that gave factual information regarding Dynamics-NAV 5.0 vs. 5.1. Everyone here has always been very gracious to me and helped out when I was posting at the beginning of my career 5 years ago, and since then, a lot has changed. If any of the information that I have conveyed in this thread is not accurate, please feel free to post!
We (Symbiant) have been involved in a couple of meetings with Microsoft personnel at both the Worldwide Partner Conference earlier this year, and at the Dynamics-NAV "Directions" event that occurred recently. The information that we have come across has helped with our company planning/vision, and it seems that some may not know of the specific direction that Microsoft is taking the Dynamics-NAV product. So...let's dive into the details.Dynamics-NAV 5.0
At Directions, Mogens Elsberg announced that the 5.x clients will be coming in two phases. The first phase will occur in H1 2007 with the release of the Dynamics-NAV 5.0 client. This client is in fact, still a two-tier design. Based upon all of the correspondence that we had encountered before the Directions event, it was stated the 5.0 would be a 3-tier environment. This is _not_ the case with the 5.0 client.
The 5.0 client will be basically a functionality upgrade. The C/AL code has been enhanced (feature add's) to help compete with the existing markets. Some of the new big features are a kitting system and a basic workflow engine for notifications (similar to a PO approval process). On top of this, the 5.0 client can now export anything that a user can see to Excel or Word. With the export functionality, VAR's can develop specific CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) to format the layout of a form to Word. One of the really neat presentations that has been made is taking a Sales Order and exporting it to Word. Since you can use all of the formatting attributes of Word, the document looks very clean and sharp, and can be modified to each of your customer’s individual tastes.
While adding anything to the product is definitely helpful to the Dynamics-NAV community, there was a sense of disappointment because of the sudden change. It was then announced that 5.1 would be the official release of the 3-tier environment, and will arrive sometime in H2 of 2007.
Dynamics-NAV 5.0 is available for beta testing if you meet some of the requirements that have been set by Microsoft. There was a 3-day training session in Copenhagen during the EMEA Convergence in which NSC's were allowed to get a hold of the Dynamics-NAV 5.0 client. We did not attend because of other commitments, but from what I have heard, it was an event that quite a bit of NSC's in the U.S. market attended. The individuals that did attend this event did not receive (to my knowledge) the new 5.1 client, as it is technically still in an architectural design phase (this is what has been conveyed to us).Dynamics-NAV 5.1
Dynamics-NAV 5.1 will be the first product that will offer the new 3-tier environment. A new client will be developed that is the presentation/gui layer, and the business logic is handled on the IIS layer. The last tier, or RDBMS, is handled by SQL Server 2005. I have had the following communicated to me by Microsoft personnel:
* There is brand new GUI environment that is visually appealing. Some of the look and feel is similar to AX (instead of tabs you have those drill-open forms), but it still retains the ease and practicality that we have loved about Dynamics-NAV in the past.
* 3 new object types will be introduced. A new form (page?), new report, and a web service object are the known objects.
* The new form works on the Dynamics-NAV 5.1 client. You must convert your forms to the 5.1 design.
* There will be conversion tools available that will convert the old-style forms to the new ones. Matrix-box forms will not be supported with the "automatic conversion".
* The report engine uses a technology _based_ on SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services. It is called the ReportViewer (http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=8a166cac-758d-45c8-b637-dd7726e61367&displaylang=en
* The new client is _not_ being touted as a thin client. The data that is transferred from the business logic to the presentation layer is basically XML. It still sends the full record set data to the client.
* The ReportViewer technology does not run on the server like SQL Server 2005 reporting services does...it is a client application. It must download all of the data and then transform it to the new format using the RDL format that is created with the new report builder.
* There will be a new form builder as well. Forms are no longer WYSIWYG...they are tree-based. This allows developers to create forms that are dynamic based upon user’s permissions (i.e. potentially field-level security).
* Since forms are not in a WYSIWYG environment, developers will not have control on where they appear to the user. They can "group" controls, but they cannot explicitly state where it will show on the form.
* Some triggers on the old C/AL forms will not be compatible with the new forms (I do not know the list).
* There will be three steps for the creation of an object. The first is to develop, the second is to compile, and the third is to deploy. The deployment uploads the object to the IIS server as a managed .NET assembly.
* The .NET assemblies on the IIS server cannot be edited by an NSC.
* The C/AL code is translated to C# for the managed assemblies.
* In order to deploy an object, you must compile the _entire_ database. There was a lot of push-back on this at the meetings I have participated in...Hopefully it will change by beta/release cycles.
* The 3-tier design does not load-balance across multiple servers. If you have two IIS servers running, you must point half of your user-base to one server, and the other half to the other IIS server.
* The 5.1 development will still occur in a C/AL client (i.e. 4.0, 5.0). There is no snap-in to Visual Studio...we will still be using the same tools that we have used in the past.
* Documentation (manuals) will be available as PDF's (hooray) for customers on the enhancement plan.
* The product is still not considered a web application. As I stated before, it is not a thin client, but it is the first step in creating an architecture that allows multiple UI's for the business logic.
* Web services will be hosted on the IIS server. Web services can drive business logic within the Dynamics-NAV 5.1 environment. We are planning on using this technology with our nTier Architecture Services (an ISV offering that improves the scalability of the Dynamics-NAV system).
As you can see, Microsoft has been very busy building the 5.x applications, and I'm sure that they will not disappoint. As with anything, they need to get the product out the door, sooner rather then later. Some of the frustrating things that we will encounter at release will eventually be addressed, but as with any new product launch, there will be bumps in the road.
I am very excited to see what the new platform has to offer (as I'm sure all of you are as well!). As the environment grows, it gives greater capabilities to users, and provides an application that will grow with a business in the future.
Please feel free to add your comments on what you have heard...I do not have all of the answers and I'd love to learn a little more about what will be occurring as 5.x comes to market. I will update this thread with new information as I receive it
Thanks again! I hope this answers some of your questions!