Friday, October 31, 2014

Update on Life Cycle Services, AX Update Installer

This is a short follow up on my last post.

LCS has been down for partners in Norway for a while, but it is available now (maybe a candidate for a later post titled “The downside of being dependent upon services in the Cloud”).

A short check today (October 31 2014) revealed a change in the mysterious “Updates until a given date” limitation and right now, this includes Updates until October 19 2014 as shown below:

Like people blogging about the different updates (builds) for AX, SQL Server and SharePoint (very useful information indeed and a life saver), this could also be a hot candidate for such information.

But the gap is not as big as it was last time and it seems like Microsoft has included most of the available updates for AX 2012 R3 in the current range.

Don't get me wrong - I think Life Cycle Services will be an important part of the future services around AX, and clearly something Customers (projects are initiated by Customers) and Partners (invited to participate) will benefit from in a long term relationship. Many thoughts and reflections could be tied to this, but I'll leave it for now...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Life Cycle Services, AX Update Installer

Microsoft is now investing heavily in Life Cycle Services (LCS) with monthly releases.

One of the most interesting features for Technical resources is AX Update Installer found under the Updates tile for AX 2012 R3 projects. This is the content after opening the tile:

After downloading the package, you have to extract the special build of AXUpdate.exe and then execute AXUpdate.exe to connect to the project in Life Cycle Services and get the magic started.

I will not go into details around this, since it is a quite straightforward and self-explaining process. One thing to mention is the requirement to have the System Diagnostics configured and at least have uploaded the Discovered Environment once. This uploads (push) Diagnostics information from your On Premise solution to Life Cycle Services including Metadata, which is important for several of the technical features in LCS like Cloud Power Support and Updates.

What I found compelling about the new AXUpdate approach was that it seemed to address the pain trying to keep up with the number of hotfixes released both for the application and for binaries. Therefore, I went through a test earlier in September to see how this really fitted with the description and my expectations. The expected benefit was to be able to produce solution specific update packages without the need to identify and download many individual fixes between Cumulative Updates (a collection of hotfixes and new features). This would be very efficient in a project where we are approaching GOLIVE on R3 (CU8 will be the first CU for R3, but no formal information about expected release date yet).

Everything played surprisingly well and I managed to update a default AX 2012 R3 solution (Model Store) without any modifications with approximately 500 application fixes and binaries for all server roles. The possibility to create and store an Update Package is another nice feature.

After finishing the Update process including the The Model Store has been modified Wizard, it was time for QA and I therefore opened Help > About from the AX Windows Client. As expected I now had many new Models in the SYP-layer (you get one SYP-model for each KB number), but when I checked the current Kernel Build number against the latest/current build number, I discovered that the updated binaries had a lower Build number than the most recent released Binary Build. This was indeed not the expected outcome…

After a couple of days I ran AXUpdate.exe again to check if any new hotfixes where available and the answer was zero (0) applicable updates. I then reviewed one of the first steps in the process after logging in to LCS called Select updates and this revealed the reason as shown below (performed October 06):

In the Combobox to Select a group of updates to evaluate, Most recent was explained as “Contains all updates until August 04, 2014”.

I have not checked after this, but Microsoft has for whatever reason defined a limitation on the set of available updates to include updates until a given date. If this was (is) intentionally it is hard to understand why since the power of AXUpdate.exe connected to LCS, is to address the pain of discovering available updates and downloading them periodically (or when needed) as a package.

I will check this again as soon as LCS is available (still inaccessible for me) to see what the date limit is right now – hopefully this was a onetime glitch and not an intended limitation.

Bottom line – do not be surprised if you do not get all available updates when using AXUpdateInstaller connected to LCS. I would like to add that this was a possible onetime glitch, but it could also explain why you do not end up with the updates you expect.