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Upgrading to Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012

Microsoft has made significant changes in the upgrade path for Microsoft Dynamics AX. This article will primarily focus on the upgrades for major versions – e.g., Microsoft Dynamics AX 4.0 and Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009 to Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 or Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2. It will not focus on the upgrade from Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 to Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2, which is a relatively straightforward and painless upgrade.

I’ll start by pointing out the obvious. If you are on Microsoft Dynamics AX 4.0 or Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009, don’t even consider going to the base version of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012. You should go directly to Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2 and the latest cumulative update. As of the date of writing this article that is CU6. So your target upgrade would be Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2 CU6 or later. There is enough new functionality in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2 + architectural improvements (e.g., support for data partitioning is only available in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2) that if you are doing an upgrade you may as well go to the version that offers the highest return. 

To do the major version upgrade, the main change is that the upgrade is now a ‘Source to Target’ model versus an ‘In – Place’ upgrade. In simple terms, you need a new environment for the target production upgraded instance – hence the upgrade is called Source to Target.  Before you could just do an upgrade on the same environment, and hence called an In Place upgrade. Clearly there is one downside, which is that there is the additional cost of the new environment required for doing this. Without being entirely dismissive about that cost, I’d like to point out three things that make this not such a bad scenario:

  1. Hardware costs have constantly decreased over the years and new hardware virtualized or non-virtualized is going to be the least expensive item of an upgrade.
  2. Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 has a significantly overhauled architecture. It provides significant flexibility and a lot of scale for high volume transactions but needs much more robust and scalable infrastructure than what prior versions required. So irrespective you will need to significantly update your hardware. Besides, if you implemented Dynamics AX 4 or Dynamics AX 2009, your hardware is likely to be at least 3 years old, which means it is likely fully depreciated or nearly fully depreciated and needs a refresh. This is the time to do it.
  3. There is a timing advantage of the Source to Target model, which can significantly reduce the downtime required in an upgrade. This is especially relevant for enterprise environments where there are high data volumes and where the pre-processing of data can take a significant amount of time.

Expanding on point 3 stated above a little bit more, I’ll illustrate the difference between the two upgrade paths. When you do an In Place upgrade, here is what your upgrade looks like. Notice the significant amount of down-time represented by the dark grey color.

Figure 1. In Place Upgrade for Microsoft Dynamics AX has more downtime.

Figure 1. In Place Upgrade for Microsoft Dynamics AX has more downtime.

On the other hand, when you do a Source to Target upgrade, you can pre-process your data online and parallel prepare your target system for the upgrade by doing the installations of SQL Server, Microsoft Dynamics AX Server, Help Server, and ensuring all permissions are correctly granted. What this does is significantly reduce the downtime required as most of the time of the upgrade the source production system is online.

Figure 2. The Source to Target Model for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 upgrades lowers the amount of downtime as the production system is online for most of the upgrade.

Figure 2. The Source to Target Model for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 upgrades lowers the amount of downtime as the production system is online for most of the upgrade.

Microsoft has made the upgrade process fairly streamlined despite the significant change in architecture. The most significant change in the architecture is the move towards a model store architecture, which allows high performance run time layer flattening. During the upgrade, the prior model (AOD) is upgraded to the Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 model store architecture as shown in the diagram below.

As part of the upgrade to Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, the older architecture is converted to the new model store architecture, which enables higher performance.

Figure 3. As part of the upgrade to Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, the older architecture is converted to the new model store architecture, which enables higher performance.

Key to streamlining the upgrade process is a set of checklists that define the tasks required for an upgrade.

  1. Preprocessing upgrade checklist: Tasks that prepare data on the source system for export into the database schema of a Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2.
  2. AOD code upgrade checklist: Tasks that are involved in migrating any customized code in legacy AOD files to the model architecture of a Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 or later system.
  3. Model code upgrade checklist: Tasks that are involved in migrating any customized code in legacy models to the most recent Microsoft Dynamics AX release.
  4. Data upgrade checklist: Tasks that are involved in upgrading imported data on a Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 or later target system.

Reporting changes: The old model of reporting in Microsoft Dynamics AX has been retired and all reports in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 are built on SQL Server reporting services (SSRS). This includes several benefits, including providing the ability to schedule reports with native SSRS capability as well as the ability to export all reports into Microsoft Excel, Word, XML etc.

For a more detailed discussion on your upgrade needs, please email us at dynamics@ignify.com and schedule a phone call with our Dynamics AX upgrade team.

Sandeep Walia is the Chief Executive Officer of Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of ERP, POS, CRM, and eCommerce software solutions to mid-market and enterprise businesses and public sector organizations. Ignify is winner of the Microsoft Partner of the Year award in 2013, 2012 and 2011. Ignify offers Microsoft Dynamics AX, Dynamics AX for Retail POS and the Dynamics CRM solutions for organizations. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing business in North America for 6 years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine and ranked as one of 100 most innovative companies in the world in the Red Herring Global 100 in 2011 and 2010. Sandeep was ranked in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 in the Microsoft Dynamics Top 100 Most Influential People List by DynamicsWorld. Ignify has offices and team members in Southern California, Northern California, Arizona, Tennessee, Washington, Florida, Pennsylvania, Canada, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, India, and Philippines.

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