SQL Server 2016 SP1 and Dynamics AX 2012 R3

Here are some ideas on SQL Server 2016 SP1 and Dynamics AX 2012 R3

Enterprise Features in Standard Edition since Service Pack 1

There was a major change in Service Pack 1 for SQL Server 2016. While most cool features were Enterprise-Edition-Only for a very long time, many features like Column Store Index and Compression are now available for Standard Edition too. Have a detailed look at this Blog. SQL 2016 also introduces new features like the Query Store and Power BI Integration with Reporting Services

Reporting Services

SQL Server 2016 Reporting Services require Dynamics AX R3 CU12 and an additional KB3184496 hotfix. Otherwise the installation will fail. The typical AX user won’t see the difference between SSRS 2016 and older versions. However, there are some features that might be interesting for us AX folks too, namely Power BI Integration.

Right now (January 2017) Power BI Integration is not so useful. You can place your Power BI files at the SSRS, which is actually only a better alternative to place the .PBIX file on a file share. However, it is said SSRS will be able not only to store but also to render Power BI files On Premises. This might be interesting for customers who are not willing to use Power BI in the cloud.

Host Power BI files in SSRS 2016

Right now in SSRS 2016 SP1 you can pin SSRS reports to your Power BI (Online) dashboard. This means, you can integrate your SSRS reports in Power BI. This might not sound very useful for Dynamics AX users. Why should I pin an invoice to a Power BI dashboard? But if a customer is already using SSRS for reporting, this might be a good option to start with Power BI and reuse the existing reports. Some Dynamics AX reports with OLAP data source can also be pinned to the Dashboard.

There is a Power BI Button in the SSRS report portal

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This will pin your report to one of your Power BI (Online) dashboards

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Query Store

This is a very useful feature. All of us are familiar with performance problems reported by some users. The problem is to identify and reproduce the query which performed badly and find the reason. Query Store can be used to store information about such problem-queries, like the SQL statement executed, the used execution plan, etc. In SQL Server Management Studio you can view reports based on execution time, logical and physical write/reads, memory usage, etc.Query Store therefore is a very useful feature in SQL 2016 to identify performance issues.

SQL 2016 Query Store

Column Store Index

Column Store Indices were introduced in SQL Server 2012 too speed up aggregation queries (e.g. sum). However, CSI hat a lot of limitations and  was an Enterprise Edition features till 2016 (non SP). In SQL 2016 SP1 we can now use CSI in combination with Dynamics AX at our customers who have licensed Standard Edition of SQL Server.

In contrast to traditional Row Store Indices where records stored in 8 KB pages (e.g. CustInvoiceJour records), CSI store column values (e.g. LineAmountMST) together in 8 KB pages. Therefore aggregation functions can perform faster because less pages have to be read.

Here is an example:

select CustGroup, year(InvoiceDate) as YR, sum(LineAmountMST) as Amount
from CustInvoiceJour
group by CustGroup, year(InvoiceDate)

When executing this query against a Dynamics AX Contoso Demo database, 2158 logical reads were required.

Query Dynamics AX 2012 R3 database without Column Store Index

Next, create a non-clustered Column Store Index on the fields CustGroup, InvoiceDate and InvoiceAmountMST which are used in the query

Create a Column Store Index in Dynamics AX 2012 R3 database

The same query now utilizes the Column Store Index to fetch and aggregate the data. The IO statistics show that less reads were required to get the result. The query performs faster than with the traditional Row-Store index.

Colum Store Index with Dynamics AX 2012 R3

Be aware that Dynamics AX removes the Column Store Index from the database when you synchronize the data dictionary. This might not be such an issues in a production environment. When you deploy a new application version from Test to Live, make sure to recreate all lost CSI.

Stretch Database

With stretch database you can migrate cold data (aka. existing but hardly not used) from your on premises expensive high performance storage to the cloud. This means you can split the data in large table and move old records in SQL azure. The application doesn’t recognize this split. Only if you query cold data, it will take longer to fetch the result. This sounds good. however there are some very crucial show stoppers.

  • You can’t UPDATE or DELETE rows that have been migrated, or rows that are eligible for migration, in a Stretch-enabled table or in a view that includes Stretch-enabled tables.
  • You can’t INSERT rows into a Stretch-enabled table on a linked server.

So right now, this feature is not useful for Dynamics AX on premises installation

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Using R in SQL 2016 to calculate the distance between Cities

Since SQL Server 2016, R can be used in T-SQL statements to perform sophisticated calculations. One example I was facing, was to calculate the distance between two cities. Although there are many ways to solve this tasks, R can also be used to perform a exact calculation.

Prerequisites

R services need to be installed in order to execute R scripts within T-SQL. To calculate the distance between two geo coordinates, the geosphere library is required. The procedure to install additional packages is documented at MSDN.

image

Data model

This example contains 2 tables, Cities and DistanceTable. The Cities table contains the name and geo coordinates of a city, while the DistanceTable contains two references FromCity and ToCtiy to the Cities table.

Column Datatype
CityID int (Primary Key)
Name nvarchar(128)
Longitude real
Latitude real
Column Datatype
JournalID int (Primary key)
FromCity int (Foreign key)
ToCity int (Foreign key)

For example the two Austrian Cities Linz and Vienna look like this:

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An entry in the distance table looks like this:

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I’ve added another view to output the geo coordinates from both cities which are referenced in the DistanceTable

CREATE VIEW [dbo].[DistanceViewLonLat]
AS
SELECT DT.JournalID,
FC.Longitude AS FromLon, FC.Latitude AS FromLat,
TC.Longitude AS ToLon, TC.Latitude AS ToLat
FROM
dbo.DistanceTable AS DT
INNER JOIN dbo.Cities AS FC ON DT.FromCity = FC.CityID
INNER JOIN dbo.Cities AS TC ON DT.ToCity = TC.CityID
GO

A record from the view looks like this

image

R Script

The following R script takes a record from the view as input and calculates the distance between two points and rounds the result from meter to kilometer.

exec sp_execute_external_script
@language =N’R‘,
@script=N‘
library(sp)
library(geosphere)
sqlvalues <- as.matrix(InputDataSet);

getDistKm <- function(row)
{
p1 <- c(row[1], row[2])
p2 <- c(row[3], row[4])

d <- distGeo(p1,p2) / 1000
c(row[1], row[2], row[3], row[4], d)
}

km <- apply(sqlvalues,1,getDistKm)
km <- t(km)

OutputDataSet <- as.data.frame(km)
‚,
@input_data_1 =N’select FromLon, FromLat , ToLon, ToLat from DistanceViewLonLat where JournalID = 1;‘
with result sets (([fromlng] real, [fromlat] real, [tolng] real, [tolat] real, [km] real not null));
go

The result looks like this:

image