When Microsoft originally made the Spring 2018 release announcement for Business Applications products and essentially promoted XRM to be the Common Data Service for Apps, they didn’t yet disclose the finer details about how the CDS for Apps license model would work outside the Dynamics 365 Apps and Plans that we’re familiar with. On May 1st the details were revealed alongside the blog post “Which PowerApps plan do I need for model-driven apps and CDS for Apps”.
In his earlier blog post, Frank Weigel announced that PowerApps Plan 2 officially became the platform SKU for CDS for Apps. In the updated PowerApps pricing page we can see that actually the license types and prices have effectively remained the same as they were before Spring 2018 release:
The changes are mostly on the new Model-driven App side (formerly XRM), but since there’s now also a wealth of server-side functionality made available for PowerApps via the new CDS for Apps concept, it also affects the Canvas Apps designers. Let’s dive into the details and explore the license model from a few different angles.
PowerApps for the Productivity Folks
A customer who’s got Office 365 will already have the specific PowerApps license type included in that subscription. As stated by the Licensing overview page over on docs.microsoft.com, this allows them to create and run applications within the context of this service (O365), as well as connect to “common cloud services including Box.com, Facebook, and many more”. Not D365 and not CDS, but that still covers a lot of interesting scenarios for building an app to replace a manual process that used to run on email or Excel.
Since it never was a “pure business app” like Dynamics 365 CRM and ERP products, PowerApps has grown into a highly versatile tool that connects with the more mainstream Microsoft services. You can embed them into a wide variety of places within your MS Cloud environment, like on Power BI dashboards or modern SharePoint pages. For your data collection forms, they are InfoPath on steroids. An Office 365 customer might therefore get pretty far with just mashing up the UI’s of different apps and storing data into less structured places like SharePoint lists or OneDrive files.
If they’d like to introduce more solid capabilities for relational data modeling, process automation and granular security management, the PowerApps Plan 1 would unlock this scenario for €5.90 per user. With this the data could be managed in CDS for Apps database, a much more robust back end for a business application than simple lists in the Office tools. The users still couldn’t access any Dynamics 365 style UI, since Plan 1 doesn’t grant the access to Model-driven Apps. You would need to construct the required lists, forms, navigation and client side logic with the traditional PowerApps “maker” experience and publish it through the same channels as what the Office 365 users already have access to.
This Plan 1 approach could be viewed as the first step up from the starting point where a knowledgeable power user or “citizen developer” had built a PowerApp with the license they already had via Office 365 and now the app needs to be adopted more widely within the organization. The new admins and designers of the app would need a Plan 2 license for €33.70 but the users could be assigned the cheaper Plan 1 license for €5.90 a piece. It shouldn’t be too difficult a business case to build if there’s real demand for the app and it either saves time or money in some business process that used to be a painful manual operation before Microsoft Cloud came along. If things work out well, these same P1 licensed users can then go and use any number of apps that the P2 power users design for them, since each P2 gets 2 databases with it and no limits on how many PowerApps you have on top of those.
PowerApps for the Dynamics Crowd
Dynamics 365 has a powerful, growing set of first party Apps from Microsoft, but sometimes there isn’t an app for that particular business process you’re looking to digitally transform with the help of MS Cloud. This is where the power of the platform comes to rescue and saves you from custom software development and maintenance efforts. Earlier this platform was called “eXtended Relationship Management” (XRM) but now we refer to it as the Common Data Service for Apps. We don’t even need to buy a Dynamics 365 license for it anymore, since we could just use PowerApps Plan 2 instead.
What sets Plan 2 apart from Plan 1 is that you can work with the application data via the Model-driven App UI that is automatically generated for you when you design your data model. Sure, you’ll need to configure the details of it to deliver a pleasant UX, but you’re not forced into pixel-perfect design work of the Canvas App. Navigation is provided for you, there’s the full search capability, you can quickly configure dashboards, Business Rules can make your entity forms adapt to field data values, and so on. With the new Unified Interface your Model-driven App will adapt to any screen size, and the solution framework ensures you can easily transport your customizations across environments. The Model-driven sample apps will give you a quick idea of what a non-Dynamics 365 app on CDS might look like.
There are limitations, though, and you’ll find them listed on the “license requirements for entities” page on CDS for Apps documentation. As mentioned, P1 users can’t access the Model-driven App UI, but they also aren’t authorized to access a Canvas App that runs on a CDS for Apps instance and uses entities that have real-time workflows or plug-ins associated with them. These require a P2 license, which unlocks the full XRM style functionality of the platform.
Now, just because the Dynamics 365 first party Apps from Microsoft are built on the same platform as your custom Model-driven Apps, that doesn’t mean a PowerApps P2 license would fully cover their usage. There’s a list of restricted entities that are used in MS apps like Sales, Customer Service, Field Service, that you aren’t allowed to touch without the proper Dynamics 365 license. For example, you’re free to work with leads and opportunities, but you can’t use cases or knowledge articles in your custom PowerApps – because Microsoft said so.
For an overview of the different license types and privileges, be sure to check out the great blog posts and ever so slick videos that MVP Scott Durow has created for explaning the topic of PowerApps to those of us who’ve got a Dynamics background.
PowerApps vs. Dynamics 365 License Model
Just because we now have something declared as Platform SKU on a Microsoft blog post doesn’t mean we get to skip the finer details laid out in the Dynamics 365 Licensing Guide. Anyone working on the partner side must have experienced the amount of documentation that goes into performing changes to the licensing practices of Dynamics products. (Remember that deck about transition from Dynamics CRM to Dynamics 365? Of course you do, how could you ever forget…) I’ve got a feeling that we’re going to see more licensing related information emerge about the new PowerApps Model-driven Apps offering in the near future, as this initial announcement raises many questions that need to be answered before customers and partners can fully embrace the new platform opportunities. [Read more…]