Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Reporting Services log files

This should be a very brief post. I find myself replying to many posts in the CRM forums about reporting problems, and most commonly direct people to the Reporting Services log file(s), which provides a lot of potentially useful information. The main information you can get is:
  • More detail than CRM will provide on errors running a given report
  • Whether or not a report is being run
In general, I find the information reported in the log files to be self-explanatory, but if I find examples of messages than could benefit from further explanation, then I'll post them here.

The log files are in the Reporting Services\LogFiles folder within the Reporting Services directory. On a default instance on SQL 2008 R2, this would be:

%Program Files%\Microsoft SQL Server\MSRS10_50.MSSQLSERVER\Reporting Services\LogFiles

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Using WSDL Proxies with CrmOnline - Recent changes

A recent change applied to Crm Online in EMEA affects the information needed to connect to Crm Online if you don't / can't use the .Net 4 CRM SDK assemblies. This article gave information that was valid at the time, but the AppliesTo parameter now needs to be, instead of

I would expect similar changes would occur in other data centres, but unfortunately I don't know of a way to know when such changes will occur

Thanks to fellow MVP Wim Coorevits for discovering this change

Thursday, 26 April 2012

CRM Email Router errors with ADFS

I've been trying hard to get too involved with the detail of ADFS and Claims authentication, but I've not been able to avoid it completely (though as an aside, maybe I should try and adhere to the MCT renewal perspective that believes you cannot be an expert in more than one of Dynamics, Development, or IT Professional).

One issue I got involved is that the Crm Email Router can end up continually crashing if it can't connect to ADFS. This is a significant server stability problem, as the Dr Waston errors can cause the server to be compute bound, taking resources from other services. The symptom is a lot of errors in the event log like 'The authentication endpoint Username was not found on the configured Secure Token Service'. One consideration is whether you have the endpoint configured in ADFS (see for an example), but another consideration is service dependencies.

In most environments, ADFS would run on a different server from the Crm Email Router, but in smaller or test environments they may run on the same machine. This causes a problem, as the ADFS service is set by default for a delayed start, whereas the Crm Email Router service is not. Therefore the Crm Email Router starts before ADFS, it fails to connect, and all the errors start occurring.

The solution I applied was to set a service dependency so that the Crm Email Router is dependent on the ADFS service. This can be done via a registry value:
  1. Use regedit to go to the HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\MSCRMEmail key
  2. Add a Multi-string (REG_MULTI_SZ) value 'DependOnService'
  3. Set the value to adfssrv (or add this value if there were already a dependency)

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Using wsdlbasedproxies with Claims authentication

The CRM SDK has a little-known, but very useful set of projects called wsdlbasedproxies, which show how to connect to the CRM web services without using the .Net 4.0 assemblies.

When testing the project for claims, I found that it needs some code additions. The code as supplied (in SDK v 5.0.9) sets the credential.Windows property, but this fails with the error "The username is not provided. Specify username in ClientCredentials".

Fortunately, this can be easily fixed by setting the credentials.UserName property instead. To do this, I made the following code replacements:

credentials.Windows.ClientCredential = new NetworkCredential(UserName, UserPassword, UserDomain);
credentials.UserName.UserName = UserName;
credentials.UserName.Password = UserPassword;

And replace:
client.ClientCredentials.Windows.ClientCredential = credentials.Windows.ClientCredential;
client.ClientCredentials.UserName.UserName = credentials.UserName.UserName;
client.ClientCredentials.UserName.Password = credentials.UserName.Password;

Monday, 13 February 2012

Data Migration Performance to Crm Online

I've recently been looking at the rate of data migration into Crm Online using SSIS, and how this can be optimised. I started with a baseline rate of 12 records per second, and have so far improved this to 430 records per second, all using one client machine.

The easiest way to migrate data into Crm Online is via a synchronous, single-threaded process that writes one record at a time, so this was the baseline. It soon became very clear that the performance bottleneck in this scenario is network latency - i.e. the round-trip time for the network packets to make a request to the Crm Online server, and to receive a response back.

So, the challenge was to improve on this, which can be done by addressing each aspect of the simple scenario - i.e.

  1. Synchronous v. asynchronous calls

  2. Single or multi-threaded - either within one process, or multiple concurrent processes

  3. Sending more than one record at a time

So far, I've not tested asynchronous calls, primarily because SSIS is stream-based, and I can't see a way to write out synchronous error output if using an asynchronous pattern. It would be possible to write out asynchronous error information, but for now that would involve too much code rewrites. In general, though, I would expect use of an asynchronous pattern would give similar performance benefits to the multi-threaded approach, though it may be possible to multiply the benefits by combining the approaches.

Multiple threads
SSIS controls the threading behaviour of a package, so rather than try for a multi-threaded single process, I went for running several instances of the same package concurrently, which you can do with the dtexec tool. There are two main aspects to making this work:

  1. You will need to be able to partition the source data, so that each package instance submits different records. For my tests, I had an integer identity column on the source data, and used the SQL modulo operator (%) to filter on the remainder from an integer division. For 10 concurrent packages, the where clause was 'WHERE id % 10 = ?' with the '?' replaced by a package variable.

  2. The package will not be able to reference any files, either as data sources, destinations or log files, as SSIS will attempt to get exclusive access to the files. So, I used a SQL Server source, and wrote log information to SQL via the SSIS SQL Log Provider

I tested 10 concurrent packages, and this gave between a 7-fold and 9-fold performance improvement.

Submitting multiple records
The Crm API is primarily designed around modifying one record at a time, with a separate request per record. However, CRM 2011 introduced the facility to pass multiple records, using the RelatedEntities property of a 'parent' entity. This allows you to build (in memory) a RelatedEntityCollection of multiple records, then attach this to one record, and submit this as one request.

There are two limitations to this approach:

  1. The entities have to be related via a relationship in CRM.

  2. The same data operation has to apply to the parent record, and the records in the RelatedEntityCollection

Initially I'd hoped to use the systemuser entity as the parent entity, as there is necessarily a relationship between this entity and any user-owned entity. However, this wouldn't work with limitation 2, as I wanted to update the systemuser, but create the related entities, and this doesn't work.

Instead, I had to make schema changes. I created a new entity (e.g. exc_batchimport), and a 1-N relationship with each entity that I wanted to import. Each request would then create 1 exc_batchimport record, and a configurable number of related records.

I tried various batch sizes, and had success up to a batch size of 1000, but failures with a batch of 5000. My initial view is that the failures come from the number of records, and not the total data size, but I've not tested this extensively.

This approach also gave significant performance gains, though only when network latency was a main performance factor - i.e. it helped a lot when connecting to Crm Online, but gave no appreciable benefit (and in some case, worse performace) when connecting to an On Premise CRM server. Most of the benefit came with a batch size of 10 records, though performance did continue to improve slightly if increasing the batch sizes up to 1000 records.

Performance results
I did the tests running on Windows 2008 Server with moderate capacity:

  • A virtual server running via Hyper-V

  • One processor core allocated to the server, running at 2GHz

  • 4 GB of memory

  • Server was running in a hosted environment in England, connecting to the EMEA Crm Online Data Centre

The tests were done writing 100000 new records to a custom entity, writing 2 text fields, and integer field, and an option set, and allowing CRM to generate the primary key values.

Concurrent packagesBatch SizeTimeRecords / sec

The main performance issue with modifying multiple records with Crm Online relates to network latency. I've successfully tested 2 complementary approaches which give a combined 35-fold speed improvement, and it may also be possible to gain further improvements with asynchronous calls.

The performance figures were for a custom entity. I'm intending to do further tests with the customer entities (account and contact), and the activity entities, as each of these require more SQL updates than a custom entity.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Using WSDL Proxies with CRM Online. It's different outside of North America

I've been spending more time than I'd like using WSDL Proxies with CRM Online (i.e. when I can't use the .Net 4.0 OrganizationServiceProxy class). I'll write up some more about this soon, but this is a quick post about a specific issue with connecting to CRM Online for an organisation in EMEA, rather than North America, which I've not found documented anywhere.

I was basing my code on the wsdlbasedproxies example in the CRM 2011 SDK. Once you find it, this code is reasonably well documented.

However, when testing it, I could connect to the IDiscoveryService without problems, but continually got the error 'An unsecured or incorrectly secured fault was received from the other party. See the inner FaultException for the fault code and detail' when connecting to the IOrganizationService.

Ultimately the issue was with the AppliesTo constant. The setup.txt instructions tell you to set this based on data in the element from the Discovery.svc wsdl. This gave me "" when connecting to an Online organisation in EMEA, which worked for the IDiscoveryService, but not IOrganizationService.

** Update 2012-07-11. IOrganizationService now also uses **

So, this needed a few minor code changes to the code in Online\program.cs, as you need different tokens for each service. For EMEA, I used the following:

private const string AppliesToDiscovery = "";
private const string AppliesTo = "";

static void Main(string[] args)
//Authenticate the user
SecurityToken tokenDiscovery = Authenticate(UserName, UserPassword, AppliesToDiscovery, Policy, IssuerUri);
SecurityToken token = Authenticate(UserName, UserPassword, AppliesTo, Policy, IssuerUri);
//Execute the sample
string serviceUrl = DiscoverOrganizationUrl(tokenDiscovery, OrganizationUniqueName, DiscoveryServiceUrl);
ExecuteWhoAmI(token, serviceUrl);

Update July 2012: AppliesTo for EMEA should now be See