MICROSOFT

Dataverse

Due to its potential to democratize software development, low-code is the biggest trend in modern business tech and it is growing fast. With its formidable array of low/no-code tools – Power Apps, Power Automate, Power BI, and Power Virtual Agents – Microsoft’s Power Platform offers organizations amazing possibilities for rapid app development without traditional coding.

Now, with the unveiling of Microsoft Dataverse, organizations not only enjoy the frontend tools they need to create custom low-code solutions, they also obtain the backend infrastructure they need to access, integrate, store, and maintain the data that powers their applications.

Before now, SharePoint was the go-to for storage and integration of business application data. Today, Dataverse presents a powerful low-code alternative that organizations and their teams can learn to use with little to no coding skill.

What is Microsoft Dataverse?

Microsoft Dataverse is a data warehouse that allows organizations securely store and manage their business application data. Essentially, it is a cloud-based SaaS solution that is specifically created to simplify and speed up application development by providing a low-code alternative to more complex storage options.

Dataverse was first announced by Microsoft in July 2020, although it was initially introduced under a different name. The announcement incorporated two products: Dataflex, which renamed an earlier storage service called Common Data Service (CDS) and Dataflex Pro, intended to be a ‘lite’ version of Dataflex Pro. Dataflex is now called Dataverse for Teams while Dataflex Pro is what we now know as Dataverse.

Microsoft introduced Dataverse to solve an obvious challenge that users of low-code platforms face. Like all software solutions, data is critical to the work that organizations can accomplish with the Power Platform. Before creating complex business applications, organizations need to be able to access the data they require. They need to be able to integrate that data into their app development program, a venture that often means leveraging complex Microsoft SQL solutions that the average low-code user is likely unable to use.

Users need this data to be highly available, a difficult feat even for entirely on-premises storage servers, and the data must be stored securely and efficiently. On top of this, users require the storage service to incorporate the same simple drag-and-drop attributes that make low-code development accessible.

For a long time, SharePoint was the primary direction to access and store this data. For instance, SharePoint Lists provided the default data infrastructure used by Power Apps when it was first introduced. But this, in effect, creates a silo between the low-code frontend and a backend that still requires technical skills for data integration, access, and maintenance.

Dataverse removes these concerns by providing a storage service that everybody can use. Apart from incorporating a simple WYSIWIG (what you see is what you get) interface that aids visual development, Microsoft made specific efforts to simplify terminology throughout the storage platform. Previously opaque concepts like entities, attributes, records, and picklists are now simply known as tables, columns, rows, and choices, respectively.

Simplifying low-code data storage

Data is stored within Dataverse as a set of preset tables and columns. Each of these represent a field of standard datasets that cover typical scenarios based on best business practices. Users can create custom tables that incorporate datasets specific to their organization using Power Query.

Apart from its alliance with Power Platform, organizations can also leverage Dataverse for their Dynamics 365 apps and several other standalone applications. Here are some features of Dataverse to keep in mind:

Storage

  • Flexable, scalable, easibly accessible Azure-backed cloud storage
  • Automated backup system with up to 28 days of data retention

Data

  • Shape, model, validate and report on data
  • Common Data Model provides a shared data store and language that all business apps can use
  • Univeral Data Architecture works with any data type

Logic

  • Single language for datasets from multiple sources enables easy application of business logic at the data level
  • Apply rules to all your data to improve workflows, detection of duplicates, and processes

Integration

  • Integrate multiple data sources from various locations using Dataverse collection tools including APIs, webhooks, data exports and eventing

Security

  • Securely stores and provisions access to your data using Azure Active Directory (AD)
  • Supports multi-factor authentication and granualar access controls even down to the row and column level

Dataverse for Teams

Dataverse for Teams is bundled with Microsoft 365 plans that included seeded rights to use Microsoft Teams. The solution functions as a ‘free’ or ‘lite’ version of Dataverse and only allows users create and use custom Power apps within Teams. Despite this, Dataverse for Teams presents a good entry point into the Dataverse world for users that want to test-run the solution before committing to a full license.

Dataverse for Teams puts the power of low-code in the hands of smaller businesses and organizations in a streamlined package that allows them innovate quickly. Along with the rights to Power Apps and Power Automate already seeded within Microsoft 365 plans, users can employ these tools to extend the business productivity apps they use within Teams or create new ones.

The solution presents a lightweight framework that supports asynchronous teamwork, enabling faster and less dependent problem solving. With the rise in work from home and other off-site work models, organizations are increasingly reliant on the remote collaboration that Microsoft Teams offers. With Dataverse for Teams, every department and citizen developer in your organization now has the power to quickly spin up solutions to their niche problems without needing to wait on IT for more centralized problem solving.

Differences between Dataverse and Dataverse for Teams

Dataverse for Teams provides a lightweight starter pack for citizen and pro developers that want to solve problems within their small team. Compared to this, the full Dataverse license offers more complex functionalities that may be much more than a small team needs. Dataverse differs from its lightweight counterpart in many more ways including the following:

  • Access: Access provisioning with Dataverse for Teams only anticipates admin roles that include System Administrator and Customizer, and user roles that include Team Owners, Members, and Guests. Dataverse includes admin roles that cover both Administrator and Customizer alongside other admin roles. Users roles for Dataverse also include various standard security roles as well as custom roles, potentially offering more granular control over access.
  • Integrations: Dataverse offers considerably greater integrations than Dataverse for Teams. With Dataverse, users can leverage integration with Azure Synapse Link for Dataverse, Power Automate, Webhooks, Data Export Service, SQL Server Management Studio and more. Dataverse for Teams supports integration with Power Automate.
  • Licensing and Pricing: Full licensing for Dataverse is typically purchased as part of a Power Apps premium subscription. There are two premium plans available (at the time of this writing): $40 per user per month for unlimited apps and $10 per user per month for the right to run one app or access one portal. Dataverse for Teams is available for free as part of anyone of the following subscriptions:
    • Office 365 E1, E3, E5, F3
    • Office 365 A3 for Faculty, A3 for Students, A5 for Faculty, A5 for Students
    • Microsoft 365 Business Basic, Standard, Premium
    • Microsoft 365 F3, E3, E5

Users may choose to upgrade their access to Dataverse for Teams to premium Microsoft Dataverse at any point.

The importance of Dataverse

With the increasingly short supply of professional developers and the central role of software in solving business challenges, low-code may well be the next frontier of the digital revolution. As an alternative to the complex Microsoft SQL that would have been needed to securely store data in less-accessible repositories like SharePoint, Dataverse plays a crucial role in bringing the power of low-code to everyone.

Microsoft has carefully charted its development of a low-code app development infrastructure over the years, and Dataverse helps brings users one step closer to a low/no-code ecosystem. While Dataverse does not currently host most of Microsoft’s standalone business applications, industry insiders think the storage service will begin to occupy that role in the near future. This will be significant for numerous reasons.

“Data is at the center of everything a business does today and powers the insights that can drive what it should do tomorrow,” according to Microsoft. However, “building out the data infrastructure to enable business insight can be both time-consuming and expensive.” Organizations must scan this data from a variety of sources including systems, applications, devices, services etc., not to mention the intricate integrations needed to harmonize the datasets and the expensive expertise required.

With the highly-accessible and globally-available storage Dataverse provides, organizations obtain the power to “work with any type of data and any type of app,” and employ their data to find insights they didn’t know were possible.

Dataverse provides the tools and simple integration features that enable deep integration with Microsoft cloud services and other popular business applications. This allows an impressive range of integration scenarios, including cutting edge instances like employing Dataverse on a blockchain. The storage service also supports virtual tables which allow users map data in an external source, making it appear to exist in Dataverse. With this tool, users can then perform instant operations against the data source as if they were working in Dataverse.

Dataverse not only gives organizations the power to harness their data, it also provides the tools to make sense of it. The service is able to create paginated reports and lightweight charts. Business application data can also be imported into Power BI to spin up interactive reports and rich dashboards. Organizations can also use AI Builder to add AI capabilities to their business process flows and analyse their data. AI Builder comes bundled with Power Platform and also includes six pre-built AI models that anyone can use, regardless of their coding background or expertise.

Benefits of Dataverse

The most obvious benefit of Microsoft Dataverse is it truly endows your people with the ability to create solutions with barely any code. You no longer need IT resources to manage the backend of your low-code applications. With Dataverse, citizen developers can take their data management into their own hands.

For organizations that have been leaning into the low-code revolution, Dataverse should be the next logical addition to your low-code stack. With the capabilities that the storage service provides, you and your people can now begin to unlock the true capabilities that low/no-code app development can bring.

A single source of truth

Because Dataverse is founded on the Azure Cloud, it already incorporates a cloud-native environment that should easily extend from your current storage solution. In the long run, this potentially provides a system that is highly interoperable and with the deep integration it allows, organizations can maintain a single source of truth for all of their data. Dataverse provides a level of structural and semantic consistency that enables a common language for business tables, processes, and systems. This potentially makes diverse datasets easier to work with as they all become subject to the same set of business logic.

Business intelligence

Dataverse supports deep analytics of data and dissemination of business intelligence. The platform’s tools enable simplified integration and disambiguation of data collected from various sources. With your data sharing a common and consistent form, it becomes easier to share insights with every member of your team.

Consistent data, apps, and processes

Dataverse enables rich metadata, including data types and relationships, that are then applied directly within Power Apps. It provides consistent logic and validation for datasets so users can define calculated columns, workflows, process flows, and business rules to ensure data quality.

Dynamics 365 and Dataverse

Organizations that already have a Dynamics 365 stack will benefit from being able to plug Power Apps and Dataverse directly into their existing business data within Dynamics 365. Dataverse currently provides the backend infrastructure for the D365 stack, meaning you can use all of your core business data within these apps without the need for integration.

You can quickly build apps against your D365 data within Power Apps or through the storage service’s extensible platform that enables interaction with metadata and data. Pro developers can use this to apply business logic, create custom data connectors, and integrate the platform (or your custom apps) with external data.

Dataverse leverages many of the same processes already existing within D365 and Power Apps. This means users skilled in Power Apps and D365 can apply those same skills within Dataverse as they create tables, charts, and forms in a consistent fashion across applications.

Empower your teams for success with i3solutions

The Dataverse is a powerful addition to Microsoft’s low-code stack and it can make the difference for your citizen developers. Would you like to learn how Dataverse can augment the ability of your people to solve their own problems? Our consultants at i3solutions can help you understand how Dataverse adds to your organization and assist you in drawing up a plan to take full advantage.