Wednesday, October 27, 2010

External Connector for SPLA/Hosted CRM

Many of my customers are aquiring Dynamics CRM through the Service Provider License Agreement (SPLA) which more commonly is known as Partner Hosted. We are working closely with Hermelin IT-Partner ( for this service as they are an excellent provider of IT-infrastructure.

One of the licensing issues I have been discussing with Hermelin IT-Partner and Crayon, a Swedish Microsoft Licensing specialist partner, is how the External Connector is licensed for SPLA.

The External Connector is, as many of you probably know, a special license that is required to license external users to work with data in Dynamics CRM, without working with the normal GUI (requires full license). Despite the name, it just a license form and does not contain any code at all.

Typical scenarios where the external connector is required is for customer portals, case registrations by customers etc. where the portal or other software works directly with the CRM webservice or database. I have had extensive discussions with Microsoft concerning implicit information, like data warehouses and how these are to be licensed but have as of now only got the answer that as long as there is some interaction with the data, like drill-down, a license is required. If there are many users, the Application Platform Agreement is what is recommended. The external connector cannot be used in internal scenarios as it explicitly only gives accessrights to non-employees and the similar.

For an on premise solution, the external connector is typically priced in the area of €25 000 or $30 000 which is quite hefty and a very large pricetag for a small company making it more or less impossible to buy.

So, when working with Dynamics CRM licensed in SPLA, how does the license agreement work? Crayon sent us the following sections concerning this:

For Dynamics CRM 4.0 Service Provider :
You do not need a SAL for external users who access Dynamics CRM 4.0 without using Dynamics CRM 4.0 Client for Microsoft Office Outlook and Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 Web Client software.  External users means users that are not (i) a customer’s or a customer’s affiliates’ employees, or (ii) a customer’s or a customer’s affiliates’ contractors and agents.

So, surprise, you don't need it at all! This is something I think is great since that really opens up the possibilities of really leveraging the full power of Dynamics CRM for our customers even the smallest with only a couple of users.

It also has some other implications, namely that a customer that currently licenses Dynamics CRM as on-premise via Volume Licensing or by renting the licenses and currently are using the external connector, really should start looking at moving to partner hosted since that will remove the quite hefty cost of the external connector. It typically also comes with a SA of about 1/3 the cost per year so it is an ongoing cost.

I hope that Microsoft will be harmonizing this with the rest of the "power of choice" so that it will be more reasonably priced also for on-premise solutions.

Gustaf Westerlund
CEO, Chief Architect and co-Founder at CRM-konsulterna AB

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Dublicate detection window too small...

Had an interesting error reported by a customer today. It seems that in the Swedish version of CRM 4.0 the duplicate detection window showing found duplicates is too small. You cannot see the buttons:

This is a bit trick to fix since this form is not customizable and I think the only supported way of actually fixing it is changing the amount of text at the top by exporting the tags.

There is, however, a very small unsupported change that you can do that will enable the scrollbars which will allow you to scroll down to see and press the buttons.

Open the file: CRMWeb/Tools/DuplicateDetection/ViewDuplicates/ViewDuplicates.aspx

and edit the tag to instead. It will give the following result:

Which will allow the user to scroll down and see and press the buttons.

The risks of this unsupported fix is that it might be overwritten in update rollups, but it would destroy anything and there are no risks when upgrading to 2011.

I really would like Microsoft to fix this bugg though...

If anyone has some other solution to this, that is supported, please leave a comment.

Gustaf Westerlund
CEO, Chief Architect and co-Founder at CRM-konsulterna AB

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Publishing reports for external use

Recently I have been working quite a lot with reports and I must say that the new GUI in Reportdesigner for SQL RS 2008 is really a nice facelift.

I have been working with autogenerating reports as PDF:s as I have previously blogged about. It is a bit more complex to do in SQL Server 2005 and later since you have to work with two webservices that have similar class names, which I must say is a real stroke of genius. If there is interest, I might be looking into writing some about this.

An interesting thing I noticed about this is that despite the fact that the report previously has been published for external use, each update of the report will require you to republish it in order for the changes to stick. You can otherwise get some really interesting inconsistencies.

Gustaf Westerlund
CEO, Chief Architect and co-Founder at CRM-konsulterna AB