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CDS and CDM Overview

Microsoft Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform

In the last step, we demonstrated an application within Dynamic 365. In this step, we look at The Common Data Service (CDS) for Apps and how many business application share an open-sourced definition of standard entities that represent commonly used concepts and activities known as Common Data Model (CDM).

The Common Data Service (CDS) for Apps is a cloud-scale database used to securely store and manage data for business applications. CDS is an abstraction on top of underlying Azure cloud data management services to make it easier to build business applications. CDS provides not just data storage, but a way to implement business logic that enforces business rules and automation against the data.

Data in CDS is organised as entities. For example, account and contact would be two types of entities. Each entity is a set of records with the data represented as a set of fields. These entities can have relationships that define the business connection between the data stored in an entity. For example, the fact that John (a contact) works for Contoso (an account) could be expressed as a relationship. CDS for Apps includes a base set of standard entities, like contact, account, and activity. You can also create custom entities to represent the data and relationships specific to your organisation. The security model of CDS enables data protection from an entire entity down to the field level on individual records. Some of the key benefits of using CDS are:

  • Abstraction – Focus on building the business application and not the plumbing to integrate low-level technology components.
  • Security – Multiple security models are built-in allowing quick implementation of most business application security requirements.
  • Metadata – CDS tracks detail metadata about components, from data-types to relationships. Details like minimum and maximum values are built-in along with support for multi-language and multi-currency.
  • User Experience – The user experience can be quickly built with forms over data or completely custom layout using canvas apps. When you create an entity an initial set of forms and views are automatically created for you.
  • Business Logic – Business rules can be implemented without developer code or by developers to handle the more complex needs.
  • Integration – Out of the box integration with Office 365 productivity applications allows collaboration on the data. Using Connectors there are over 200 other integrations that can be easily composed.

CDS databases are created in the context of a PowerApps environment. Each environment can have only a single CDS database. CDS databases can be provisioned by you or licensed individuals in your organisation to support their custom applications. CDS databases are also automatically provisioned when a Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement application is added to your tenant.

When you work on implementing your business requirements, you will create and modify entities and fields to implement your project requirements. These become part of the overall schema that is available to build apps and automation with in that environment. Many business applications share common data modelling needs to address this, Microsoft has published the Common Data Model (CDM).

The CDM is an open-sourced definition of standard entities that represent commonly used concepts and activities. You can view the CDM GitHub repository at CDM GitHub repository.

Every CDS database starts with the entities defined as ‘core’. CDM also contains definitions for common applications such as sales and service as well as definitions for tracking web interactions. CDM can also support industry verticals like healthcare. The following is a high-level look what CDM currently contains.

image "Common Data Model"

CDM is designed to be extended, either for your own specific requirements or by adding some of the existing modular schema components that are published as part of CDM.

The goal is to simplify working with data by having a consistent data representation across multiple applications. Many of the Dynamics 365 applications are built on CDM. Other applications such as Power BI can also use existing CDM definitions. Using this with Power BI allows mapping external data into the CDM structure. This allows building standard analytic solutions that use the CDM schema and have them work with any data that is mapped to CDM.

Microsoft has partnered with Adobe and SAP on the Open Data Initiative to further enable data exchange and enrichment across systems and vendors.

image "Open Data Initiative partnerships"

You can learn more about the Open Data Initiative here:

Take a few moments to explore the Common Data Model using the Visual Entity Navigator you can find at Click on an entity to explore its schema.

image "Common Data Module with Load from Github! outlined with a red box"

Up next, let’s uncover Microsoft Flows.

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Dynamics 365: Using Power Platform Applications

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