After walking through the overall D365 Retail API Architecture in part I and II of this series on the D365 Retail APIs, it’s now time to enable anyone to actually use the Retail APIs. To allow this, this blog post will contain all details on how to construct a request to most of the 400 out-of-box D365 Retail APIs – Beyond that, I’ve included a step-by-step instruction on how to use any of the Retail APIs from Microsoft Power Automate (Flow).
But before we can really get things rolling, we first need to apply some additional D365 setup and we need to choose the right security pattern. So that’s where I’ll start this blog post.
Note: to effectively consume the content of this blog post, please ensure to familiarise with the content of Part I and Part II.
Did you know that D365 for Retail contains more than 400 out-of-box Retail APIs (for the non-techies: interfaces) ranging from Loyalty management, Gift card management, Omni order management to Stock counting and Retail Logistics? These interfaces allow you to easily integrate with any 3rd party systems like e-commerce platforms, POS systems and Consumer Apps. It also allows you to quickly enrich your Retail Solution with handy Power Apps, for example for in-store Goods receipt, Stock counting, Labelling or Clienteling.
Unfortunately I still notice that many Customers and Partners do not consider the Retail APIs in their designs, which goes around all the ‘free’ Retail Business Logic which comes with them. Instead, Customers and Partners start a custom coding exercise (re-inventing the wheel!) which often limits rather than empowers the Omni-channel capabilities of D365.
This is all mainly caused by the lack of documentation – It’s time to change that! In this series of blog posts we’ll explore the Power of the Retail API’s so we can all benefit from them by using them to enhance the Retail experience for the Retail Businesses we serve. As we need the non-techies on this journey, I’ll try to make it understandable for all of us. Making the right Architectural decisions starts with a good understanding of the solution. So let’s dive into that first!
1 – D365 Retail API Architecture explained
D365 Retail comes with 3 major components – Below description is a little bit technical, but it’s good to keep these components in mind for a better understanding of the main picture (picture 1) below:
Let’s go through each element in the picture, step-by-step:
The Letter. An app (e.g. a POS system, e-commerce platform or Power App) can send a request to 1 of the 400+ D365 Retail end points. This request can be to Request information such as the loyalty balance of a customer or to Send information.
The public Mailbox. Metaphorically you can compare this request with a letter which is dropped into a mailbox. The mailbox in this case is the ODATA end point of Retail Server (1A). It’s a public mailbox, so any App can drop letters in there. But there are 2 prerequisites which need to be met to allow this: the App needs to be a registered ‘member’ in the Receiver’s domain and the App must have received a pre-authorisation code (token) which needs to be sent with the letter.
The Internal Mailbox. Once successfully received in the public (ODATA) Retail Server mailbox, the letter (request) is forwarded to an internal mailbox: a specific Commerce Run Time (CRT) operation (1B). This CRT operation is responsible for processing the letter. In order to get this done, the CRT operation contacts 1 or multiple Retail Services (1C).
Processing of the letter. The Retail Services work with subcontractors. There are 2 types of subcontractors: Data services which can read/write information from/to the local Retail Database or Remote Data services which can receive/send information from/to the D365 backend. The Retail Services have been instructed (programmed) to contact either of the subcontractors or both subcontractors to process a certain letter (request). For example, a letter to update the Loyalty Balance for a customer is forwarded to the D365 backend (since other Apps should work against the latest balance) whereas a new customer is created both in the local Retail Database and forwarded to the D365 Backend. In some case the Retail Service has to read specific parameter settings first to determine which subcontractor to forward the work to. These parameters have been set in D365 backend but are locally available for the Retail Services after sync to the local Retail Database. For example, a parameter which controls whether e-com orders are created into the local Retail database (and from there synched to D365 backend in bulk) or whether these orders are forwarded to the D365 backend in real time.
Another Public mailbox. Remote Data Service ‘Subcontractors’ will drop the original letter in the Public mailbox of the D365 Backend: a SOAP mailbox, often referred to as Real Time Service (2A). This mailbox has a trust relationship with the Remote Data Service ‘subcontractor’ which is confirmed by a certificate.
Another Internal mailbox. Very much similar to the way Retail Server is organized, the agent looking after the Real Time Service mailbox, forwards the letter to an internal mailbox for processing: the RetailTransactionService class in the D365 Backend (2B). From there, Retail Services in the D365 backend take care of the actual processing which ties into many standard D365 (Retail) classes packed with Business Logic (2C and 2D). For example in case of customer creation, these services will include the customer in the address book of the Retail channel, assign Retail affiliations and Customer attributes. In other words: even though not all this information was part of the original letter, the Retail Services ensure the letter is processed in line with D365 (Retail) Parameters settings and Retail Business Logic.
Response. As a sender of a letter, you’d love to get a response on your respect, right? This is organized as follows: whenever an exception occurs somewhere across the chain of ‘middlemen’ subcontractors as described above, the exception is written into a response letter which is returned to the sender (the App) following the chain in reverse order. If no exceptions occur, the original letter will reach it’s final destination. There, a response letter is written which is an in-depth response on the actual request, for example a response letter full of information on a newly created customer. Similar to what happens in case of an exception, the response letter is returned to sender following the chain in reverse order.
In below video I am trying to illustrate how powerful the Retail APIs can be. In the video, I am using Microsoft Forms (an Office 365 App) to capture information as part of an imaginary Customer Sign up process. Power Automate picks up the information and forwards it to D365 Retail Server to create the customer in the D365 backend in real time. As you will see in the video, the standard D365 Retail Business logic is fully utilized here as if the customer was captured on D365 MPOS: for example, the new customer is automatically included in the Retail channel’s address book.
3. The potential
The left Table below provides a break down of the Retail areas the 400+ Retail APIs apply to. A significant number of these APIs are built to provide real time data exchange with the D365 backend. The right table below presents the Retail areas for which real time connectivity to the D365 backend is supported.
Looking at the functional breadth of the Retail APIs and the video in this blog post, I hope you’re inspired to think about all the opportunities provided by the D365 Retail APIs. In upcoming blog posts on this topic, we’ll make deeper dives into the various aspects of these Retail APIs so we can all use this knowledge to further enrich the D365 Retail experience for our customers.
We’re so used to the speed of current evolvements around Microsoft Dynamics AX (or should I say Dynamics 365 ;-)), that most of us who are interested in integrations have familiarized themselves for long with concepts like data entities and entity stores. In this blog post, I would like to go beyond the ‘obvious’ by sharing 1 year of personal project experience in working with AX7 Data Management.
To enable you to quickly scan this blog post according to your own points of interest, I have listed my experiences in a top 10-alike pattern in random order.
Business processes and interfaces often go hand in hand: it’s often either a business event triggering an interface or a business event following up on incoming interface data. For example: automatically creating pick orders and updating the related order statuses in the E-commerce frontend. In our aim for maximum comfort for both the business user as well as the system administrator, how can we automate this type of business events and interfaces in a combined way?
In this blog post I’ll boil the necessary standard AX ingredients into a configuration which allows you to reach this goal. I’ll also show you how to leverage this configuration to completely automate the following example flows:
Flow 1: importing transactions from a (3rd party) sales channel, converting the transactions to sales orders and sending an acknowledgement to the channel that the order import was successful or unsuccessful.
Flow 2: updating the on hand stock for the different channels and sending the stock levels to the sales channels.
Flow 3: creating picking lists for the incoming orders and informing the sales channel on the ‘picking’ status.
When you have this running, it’s like simulating a factory with Lego: when your order pickers come in in the morning they’ll find the picking lists on the printer; the sales channels can work with the latest stock levels and order statuses and by leveraging role center your system administrator sits in his control room waiting for any exception to occur which requires intervention – Sounds almost like a real factory… right?
With the ongoing hunt for implementing ‘omnichannel strategies’ by Retail companies and the booming Microsoft Dynamics AX market, there must be a huge demand for integrating Microsoft Dynamics AX Retail with 3rd party POS and 3rd party E-commerce platforms. But when I google the internet for keywords like “AX 2012”, “Integration”, “3rd party”, “POS” and “E-commerce”, there are not too many hits. And if I find any hits, discussions quickly seem to head for the same solution: AIF (Application Integration Framework).
In my vision leveraging AIF in the Dynamics AX Retail area is a missed opportunity. To prove this and to provide more information regarding Dynamics AX Retail/3rd party integration in general, I’ve decided to write a series of blogs regarding this topic. In this blog post you can find the solution which I’ve recently implemented for a globally operating Retailer based on: Standard AX Retail CDX (Commerce Data Exchange). Here’s a picture of the entire architecture as described in the blog.
So here’s the challenge… we have Retail CDX up-and-running… how do we hook up any middleware to integrate with 3rd party POS systems, E-commerce and other sales channels?
Hmmm… let me add one nuance here which we might overlook: how do we hook up middleware without touching the integrity of Retail CDX?
In order to answer this question I think it’s good to shortly refresh our minds about Retail CDX. Then we’ll take a look at my solution for both the batch processing as well as transactional types of interfacing. More
In my main blog post regarding Dynamics AX Retail 3rd party sales channel integration I presented the mechanism to trigger BizTalk to take action after an AX scheduler job run. In this blog I’ll provide some more details on this particular topic. Let me first explain how the change tracking mechanism is leveraged on AX HQ side and let’s then take a closer look on how change tracking can be leveraged on the channel database and Async client database for use by middleware like Microsoft BizTalk.
In my main blog post regarding Dynamics AX Retail/3rd party integration I mentioned leveraging Real Time Service to allow middleware (like Microsoft BizTalk) and 3rd party systems to report to AX on the results of their actions. As the meta data is written into the standard Dynamics AX Retail download sessions and upload sessions forms, these forms will now serve system administrators to have visibility and control even beyond their the Dynamics AX Retail CDX landscape (CDX -> see rectangle in the middle, beyond CDX -> bottom rectangle):
Some people hate it.. some people cherish it as a means to eternalize their brilliant designs… DOCUMENTING. One way or the other, in the bigger projects you can easily fill up a local library with all the paper produced. That’s why a good solution design is crucial in these projects. If such a design covers 1 system like AX, it’s easier to come to a holistic view on the desired solution. But what if your solution spans across multiple systems, all requiring some installation, configuration and customization. How do you keep the overview without getting lost in the details? For this situation your solution design needs an extra helper: the UML sequence diagram: