5 Ways to Prepare for the Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013 Web Client
The past three months have found me diligently ramping up my skills around the deployment of Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013 Web Client. I have had the distinct privilege of working directly with some of the guys in Fargo on testing some of the installation procedures, particularly on the Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 platforms.
As a matter of fact, I think I was probably the first person attempting a deployment on these two platforms and have learned a great deal about it in the process. So, here's a list of considerations for deploying the Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013 web client on the Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 platforms.
1. Understand the Web Client architecture
Deploying the standard Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013 Dexterity-based rich client remains virtually unchanged. However, if adding the Web Client to your environment as a deployment option, you must begin to understand how the different components interact between them. Session Central Service, Session Host, Session Service, Tenant Management Service, Tenant Discovery Services, Silverlight Client, and Runtime Service, are now a standard part of the Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013 lexicon and very important concepts to master prior to planning any deployment, whether single machine or multiple machines.
While the architecture has evolved since the first concepts were published, you may still want to take a look at my article series published last year in May:
2. Know your ports and certificates
No, I am not talking about the Port of Miami or the New York Port Authority. Believe it or not, a lot of the issues I ran into when deploying the web client in my test environment were ports and certificates related. Understanding how to reserve TCP/IP ports, setup certificates, and troubleshooting endpoint secure socket layer (SSL) mappings to the various ports used by the web client is now a must. There's a vast amount of information on the web on how to do this, but here are some references:
I also found it extremely helpful to understand how firewalls really work, since a lot of the communications issues between different machines on the network and outside of the network must pass through a firewall. However, this is where having a competent IT staff who understands all about networking makes a big difference.
While my testing went pretty much around a single machine scenario, I can assure you that multi-machine deployments will be more of the norm, not the exception. So understanding certificates and ports configuration becomes even more critical.
Then there's the issue of Silverlight and its need to access local resources on your machine (printers, folders, etc.). As it turns out, Silverlight also requires a specially signed certificate delivered by Microsoft as part of the web client installation. While there's an installer for this and chances are you won't have to deal with this manually, you may need to be prepared to troubleshoot any issue that may arise in your specific environment.
3. Brush off your Internet Information Services (IIS) skills
While creating websites and application pools is a fairly simple task, it helps to understand the IIS basics. After all, securing your GP website is more important than ever if you are to allow employees to access your accounting system from outside the firewall.
Thank goodness, the web client installation takes care of a great deal of the mapping of the proper Active Directory security groups to each of the required components (Web Client, Web Management Console, etc.); however, it does not hurt to understand how these groups are used throughout your domain, including your SQL Server.
And while we are talking about IIS, you can find a fairly good set of resources on the IIS website:
4. Add some tools to your troubleshooting bag
It never ceases to amaze me how many good little tools are out there to assist with the ever expanding role of troubleshooting your Microsoft Dynamics GP environment. With the addition of the web client, it now becomes a must to have other tools in our arsenal to ensure we understand what's going on in our browser session. One of those cool tools is Fiddler Web Debugger.
Fiddler is a web debugging proxy which logs all HTTP(S) traffic between your computer and the Internet. It allows you to inspect traffic, set breakpoints, and "fiddle" with incoming or outgoing data. It includes a powerful event-based scripting subsystem, and can be extended using any .NET language.
Fiddler is freeware and can debug traffic from virtually any application that supports a proxy, including Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Apple Safari, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, and thousands more. You can also debug traffic from popular devices like Windows Phone, iPod/iPad, and others.
Another favorite of mine is Process Monitor (Procmon). Procmon is an advanced monitoring tool for Windows that shows real-time file system, Registry and process/thread activity. It combines the features of two legacy Sysinternals utilities, Filemon and Regmon, and adds an extensive list of enhancements including rich and non-destructive filtering, comprehensive event properties such session IDs and user names, reliable process information, full thread stacks with integrated symbol support for each operation, simultaneous logging to a file, and much more. Its uniquely powerful features will make Process Monitor a core utility in your Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013 web client troubleshooting process.
The Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013 web client itself includes some powerful tracing capabilities. Among these capabilities are the ability to enable a trace log and script log for the runtime service. If you are familiar with the Dexterity script log for the Microsoft Dynamics GP rich client, then this should be fairly similar. The following settings in the web.config file activate such logs:
<Description>GP - Logs</Description>
Finally, there's no substitute for old fashioned training. I don't expect any single person to know all this stuff, but at least understanding the basics of each of the technologies, services, and applications involved must be a priority for any organization - whether you are a Microsoft Dynamics GP customer, partner, or independent software vendor (ISV) - in the quest of deploying or upgrading to Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013.
Also remember... the web client is just another deployment method. You can always decide to stick to the standard Dexterity client. But even so, the upcoming release of Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013 features over 150 new enhancements. Don't you think it's time to go back to the classroom? Take advantage of all the upcoming partner roadshows, online webinars run by GPUG, or regional chapter meetings. Heck, get out to Convergence 2013 in New Orleans! All these venues will sure have something to offer around the upcoming Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013 release.
And please keep up with my blog as I will continue to release more and more articles around Microsoft Dynamics GP web client.