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Integrating Dynamics Ax with TFS 2010 – Part 1 (Overview)

09/03/2011

Software development is complex, and becoming more complex every day. Consumer products such as the iPhone and iPad are driving users expectations for software to be more polished and feature rich. In the past, users were far more forgiving on software and web sites, but these days that is not the case. As software becomes more complex, so does the process involved in producing high quality software.

Software engineers are being asked to cope with more rapid change, while the expectations are constantly rising. Today, a large number of software projects fail for a number of reasons, due in part to failure to manage the development process, or using a process that does not fit the product.

Development frameworks, such as SharePoint or Dynamics Ax, are a response to this complexity. By providing a framework in which to develop an Enterprise application, the plumbing layers are abstracted away from the developers, allowing them instead focus on the problem at hand.

However, there are still issues when it comes to multi-developer development in such frameworks. Traditional software development using traditional tools such as IDE’s relied heavily on a Version Control Systems to assist developers in managing a codebase across a number of developers. These tools allowed a number of distributed developers to work concurrently on a codebase to produce a software result.

A lot of frameworks, however, are not designed with this in mind. Case in point, Dynamics Ax was not designed with Application Lifecycle Management in mind. Integrating Application Lifecycle Management tools and practices into these types of frameworks can further increase the productivity gains that come from using a framework.

This series of posts will detail one method of integrating Dynamics Ax with Team Foundation Server 2010. By integrating Dynamics Ax with TFS 2010, the Application Lifecycle Management tools and reporting that TFS 2010 gives to traditional Software Development can now be realised with Dynamics Ax.

Just to note that these posts have been written as a guide for those that, like me, have found little detailed public information on integrating Dynamics Ax 2009 with TFS 2010. Whilst a number of posts do mention that it is possible, they are short on detail and implementation guidance. I hope that these posts will be useful to someone who is looking for a realistic integration scenario.

So without further ado, lets start!

Overview of the Problem

Recently, a client approached us with an interesting problem: How to integrate TFS 2010 with Dynamics Ax. This was indeed an interesting problem for a number of reasons:

  • Dynamics Ax is a recentish Microsoft acquisition, and as such has it’s own way of doing things
  • Dynamics Ax is very much a Business server, with a different language (X++) and different way of developing
  • Was not designed with Version Control in mind, with capability provided in later releases
  • Expertise in Dynamics Ax is hard to find, as Dynamics Ax is sold more as a partner product, rather than an end-user product such as other Microsoft software.

This posed a number of challenges, one of which was the lack of public documentation. Most of the documentation (and even the service packs and patches) are only available via Partner Source or Customer Source, which are programs run by Microsoft that requires more formal registration than other Microsoft products.

So, with that in mind,we set off to investigate a method that would allow the client to use TFS 2010 to manage their current agile process.

The first problem we had to overcome was the installation of Dynamics Ax itself. Since this was the first time I had ever installed Dynamics, it was going to be an interesting process.

Installation Overview

Dynamics Ax is made up of the following components:

  • An AOS Server that provides a service that manages the Dynamics object
  • A database that holds the Dynamics Ax configuration
  • A Client that is used to develop with
  • Other development services, such as SharePoint integration and reporting services

From a high level, the following are the steps we took to integrate:

  • Install TFS as usual.
  • Install a Team ID Server
  • Install a Development machine
    • Install SQL Server 2005 + SP2
    • Install Visual Studio 2008 + SP1 + TFS 2010 Cumulative Update
    • Install Visual Studio 2010 Team Explorer
    • Install any other software that is required (e.g. Office, SQL DB 2008 R2)
    • Install an instance of Dynamics Ax
      • Install an AOS client and server instance
      • Install the developer instance and any supporting components (e.g. Biztalk integration)
    • Prepare TFS 2010 for Dynamics Ax
    • Prepare Developer machine for TFS 2010 Integration
    • Integrated Dynamics Ax with TFS 2010 and the Team ID Server
    • Modify the Dynamics Ax TFS Workspace
  • Development tips and tricks

So look out for the first of these posts over the next week!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. 04/03/2013 12:07 am

    Richard,

    Where i can find TFS 2010 Cumulative Update to download?

Trackbacks

  1. Dynamics AX development using TFS 2010 « Enhance ALM's Blog
  2. Integrating Dynamics AX 2009 and TFS 2010–6 part series | My ALM Blog

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