Microsoft Stack Part 9: CDS & CDM

Microsoft’s Common Data Service

Microsoft’s Common Data Service (CDS) is an Azure-based application which stores and manages the data that is used to create applications on PowerApps and explore insights on Power BI.

CDS is the collective name for two different services offered by Microsoft, CDS for Apps and CDS for analytics.

The former is built into PowerApps and it brings together and stores the data from Dynamics 365 applications and databases to enable users to create business applications.

The latter, on the other hand, is similar to a data warehouse or data lake. It pulls, aggregates, cleans, integrates and stores data from multiple sources which can then be used by organisations for analysis to produce visualisations, dashboards and reports.

Using CDS has a number of benefits, including:

  • Effortless data management: the data is stored in the cloud, so users can benefit from the lower costs associated with cloud storage, scalability. data redundancy and high availability.
  • Security: role-based access allows organisations to easily control who has access to the data
  • Dynamics 365 integration: users can easily utilise data on Dynamics 365 to create business applications
  • Data quality: business rules, workflows and process flows are used to ensure the quality of the data that is stored.

Common Data Model (CDM)

When using multiple sources to create business applications or explore business data, each source may have a specific way in which it categories, formats and structures the data. In order to aid the development of business applications and data analysis, CDS uses the Common Data Model to create standardisation and consistency across the data. The CDM is shared data language that allows different business applications and databases to communicate in the same language, so to speak.

The CDM contains a set of standardised schemas and semantic metadata that creates a standardised structure and format for data coming from different sources. It does this through the set of entities that standard across businesses, as well as the relationships between these entities. Entities are a set of individual data records.

Think of entities as tables within a database and records as specific rows within those tables. It is common for entities to share the same data and thus have a relationship.

For example, the entity “Discount” will likely share data with “Quote”, since businesses will quote a discounted price to attract customers. If a business requires an uncommon, specific entity they have the option of creating their own. Some of the standard entities included in the CDM are listed below.

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