Microsoft releases its Common Data Model database to testers

Microsoft has made a promised public preview of its Common Data Model (CDM) entity database available to testers. CDM is at the heart of the coming Microsoft Dynamics 365 bundle.

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Microsoft made the promised public preview of its Common Data Model database available on August 8.

The Common Data Model, which Microsoft describes as "an out-of-box business database for storing and managing business entities," is at the center of its PowerApps service for building custom business apps and the coming Dynamics 365 ERP/CRM cloud bundle.

CDM can be used today as a business database for flows created with Microsoft's Flow event-automation tool. CDM can provide access to standard entities, plus allow developers to build custom entities. Microsoft is providing some templates to help users get started.

Users will be able to use CDM to collect data, such as Tweets or RSS items. They also can import and export data from services like Dynamics CRM, Salesforce.com, Excel, and Microsoft's SQL database (cloud and on-prem). They also have the option to use CDM to build and store history/status of pending approvals.

The CDM is meant to provide a database of entities that are common across industry domains, like Sales, Purchase, Customer Service, and Productivity. These entities will connect to Microsoft's first-party business applications, as well as third-party and customer-developed apps.

The entities in CDM will support data types like Address, Email, Currency, Invoice and Order Auto Numbering, images, geographic locations, and more. They'll be implemented using the latest SQL Server data types.

The CDM will be at the heart of Microsoft's Dynamics 365 cloud bundle, the first pieces of which will be available this fall.

Microsoft's new service makes app developers out of everyday employees

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Work is growing increasingly mobile thanks to smartphones, but companies can have a hard time coping with demand for apps that let their workers take corporate data on the go. Mobile developers are expensive, and getting new applications tested and then pushed out to users can be a time-consuming process.

Microsoft just unveiled a new beta service on Monday that's supposed to help ease that tension by allowing anyone to build an app - no software development experience required. PowerApps combines a cloud application backend with easy-to-use tools that make creating a mobile app a drag-and-drop affair.

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PowerApps applications can pull in information from a variety of data sources including Office 365, Dynamics, Google Drive, Workday and other services. Developers can also build connections for PowerApps in their own services if there isn’t a connector already available.

Once the data connection is set up, users can then start building an application interface from one of Microsoft’s pre-built templates, or plug key data into PowerApps and let the service suggest the right designs for their purposes. Those people who have a strong idea for what they want their app to look like can create it from scratch.

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Once users have built the apps they want, they can then use Microsoft's service to share their newly created tools with coworkers who have the PowerApps application installed on their smartphones.

The system is currently limited to building software that runs inside the PowerApps app on mobile devices, however, so employees won’t be able to push their creations to the iOS App Store or Google Play Store. Microsoft Corporate Vice President Bill Staples said during a press briefing that Microsoft will consider feedback from its customers when determining if the company should make it possible to create standalone applications using PowerApps.

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