Girish and I dropped in to the new Channel 9 Studio (formerly Monaco) to record a few Channel 9 episodes around some demo code we’ve been working on for a few months.
In this series we’ll focus on self-service and specifically on building self-service sites that use Dynamics CRM on the back-end to enable customers, employees, citizens, etc. to get the information or perform the tasks they want without having to interact with a representative.
We’ve talked previously about using Dynamics CRM as a platform to build general purpose line-of-business applications. Typically these are for users that are behind the firewall. When we’re talking about self-service we mean the wide range of users that are out on the internet that need access to that same information in the CRM data store.
In this episode we walk through the demo in some detail. The Wide World Importers Conference site we use here is the main site for a fictitious conference. The self-service part of this is entirely hosted on Windows Azure. As we walk through the registration process the information is retrieved and stored directly in Dynamics CRM Online. Naturally, as we’ve said in the past, Dynamics CRM is great at managing both contact and transactional information. We also look at how, by using 3rd party web services, we can compose new capabilities into our system. In this case we show how to integrate an internet flight booking service into the attendee registration process and then store that complex flight booking information in the Dynamics CRM data store. Finally we show how to use Silverlight to build a compelling user experience for a self-service portal. This one is pretty slick.
Dynamics CRM was customized here for the requirements of a conference organizer. In our case we used Dynamics CRM Online but it could easily have been CRM in an on-premises deployment (or hosted by any of the hundreds of Microsoft hosting partners) as long as CRM is set up in an internet facing deployment mode (IFD).
The self-service site is running on Windows Azure so we walked through the Windows Azure Portal for the site to show how Azure helps us to deploy, configure and manage the site. The interesting part comes when we talk about how to scale up or down a site to handle large or small numbers of end-users (depending on the need of the application). Here Girish and I got into a discussion of running a site like this from the perspective of capital expenditures (capex) versus operating expenditures (opex). There are many scenarios like the conference one where the site will go through peak periods of high demand but then drop back down to very low demand. In those cases buying the equipment to handle the peaks means you have a lot of expensive equipment running idle during the low periods. Azure solves that problem by giving the power you need when you need it for as long as you need it. Unlimited scale for rent, I guess you could say.
We’ll dive into each of the various pieces of the demo over the next few days so come back and have a look. Be sure to leave us your feedback below.
Watch in the embedded viewer above or on Channel 9: