By: Nicholas Hayduk
Microsoft continues to push forward with Dynamics 365 Portals, and while their focus is on the public cloud, they haven’t forgotten about their on-premises customers. But as the end of life for the older Adxstudio Portals product nears, there are some important questions to answer about how to maintain current solutions and plan for future Portals-based projects.
In September, Microsoft announced that as of August 1, 2018, the legacy version of Adxstudio Portals (version 7) will no longer be formally supported. This means that after that date no updates will be provided, including any security fixes, or support for any breaking changes in the CRM APIs.
Customers who purchased a perpetual license can continue using the product after that date, however they should anticipate that at some point a breaking change will occur that will hinder their ability to upgrade to the latest version of Dynamics 365, or a security concern will be raised that will necessitate looking at another alternative.
For customers who took advantage of the subscription license, they will be issued a key that will be valid until August 1, 2018; after that point they will need to have a new solution in place.
While this news should not have been a surprise to most partners, it’s an important development as we now have the line in the sand and can start preparing our clients for what comes next.
Source code release
In a move that should address some of the concerns with the end of Adxstudio Portals, Microsoft released the full source code and solutions for the latest version of Dynamics 365 Portals (v8.3) via the Microsoft Downloads Center. This allows customers to build and host their own version of Dynamics 365 Portals, and includes support for on-premises customers.
There is, however, a big caveat: this is a one-time release only. Microsoft has indicated that they will not be supporting the released code, and that we shouldn’t expect similar releases for future versions.
In terms of licensing, the code itself was released under the open-source MIT license. Adoxio (the technology services company that spun off from Adxstudio after Microsoft acquired the IP) uploaded the code to GitHub with the goal of maintaining it moving forward. The solution files were not released under the MIT license, so they still need to be downloaded directly from Microsoft. They have entitled the project xRM Portals Community Edition. Engineered Code intends on supporting this project.
The way forward
While of course every situation is unique, we find ourselves providing similar recommendations to our clients with regards to Dynamics 365 Portals:
- For new projects, if at all possible, use the new Dynamics 365 Portals. This is the version that will be fully supported by Microsoft going forward, including new features and bug fixes, and as a bonus one Portals license is included with your Dynamics 365 subscription. While at first it may seem like there are limitations with regards to server-side code, there are techniques available to overcome them, which means there are few limitations with this version.
- For new projects with customers who are on-premises, unfortunately, Dynamics 365 Portals is not an option. The first question we ask whether this is the appropriate time to consider moving to Dynamics 365 Online. If, for whatever reason, the customer remains on-premises, then our preference is to leverage the xRM Portals Community Edition.
- For customers already using Adxstudio Portals v7, the situation is more complex. There is currently no official upgrade path, and the feature set between v7 and v8 is not quite the same. Modules like Event Management and E-Commerce are not available in the new version; if you want to continue to leverage that functionality you’ll either have to build it yourself, or hope that the community implements a solution as part of the xRM Portals Community Edition. While not recommended, we believe it naïve to think that there won’t be many implementations that continue to use v7 long after August 1, 2018.
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New v8.3 features
For customers using Dynamics 365 Portals, the 8.3 version began rolling out in July and included a number of new features:
- You can now expose files attached to knowledge article attachments (via notes) on the portal
- It is now possible to setup pages with Entity List, Entity Forms, and Entity Permissions quickly and easily through the use of a single form, known as the Administrative Wizard
- An integration with Dynamics 365 for Customer Insights allows you to see a user’s interactions with the portal
- Integration with Azure Active Directory B2C, and improved single sign-on support including eliminating the requirements for extra clicks when logging in