Update Rollups, Service Packs, Major Releases: Understanding Dynamics CRM Versioning

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Posted on 17th July 2014 by Jukka Niiranen in News and events

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When it comes to commercial software, there’s often times a difference between what the engineering department calls their product versions and how the marketing department decides to label the product for the end customers. For example, after Windows 3.1 the commercial name of the product changed to “Windows XP” while the underlying version number progressed to 4.00. After various changes in both product and naming strategy of the OS, we’re now using a product called “Windows 8.1″ when its actual technical version number is 6.3…

Just like with Windows, Dynamics CRM also has version numbers that are different from the names you’ll see in marketing materials and end user documentation. These numbers are relevant to anyone who needs to either maintain and administer a Dynamics CRM environment or customize and develop solutions for the product, since you need to be aware of the changes introduced by various updates to Dynamics CRM.

Before CRM 2013 there wasn’t a convenient way through which you could have determined the installed updates by just looking at the version number, since each Update Rollup just had a seemingly random four digit build number assigned to it. Luckily the latest releases have made the version numbers much more user friendly, by starting to follow the standard “major.minor.update.build” pattern. There’s still a few CRM specific things you need to be aware of, especially with the very latest releases, which is why I thought now’s a good time to draw some attention to the topic.

CRM_version_numberStarting with CRM 2013, the version numbering scheme follows a pattern like this (notice the bold numbers):

  • Major Release
    • Name: Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013
    • Version number: 6.0.0.xxxx
  • Service Pack:
    • Name: Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 Service Pack 1
    • Version number: 6.1.0.xxxx
  • Update Rollup:
    • Name: Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 Update Rollup 1
    • Version number: 6.0.1.xxxx

The build numbers are of course not “xxxx” in reality but I left them out since they’re not something you should actively need to remember. Just bookmark this page and reference it whenever you need to know the detailed number of a particular release: Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 and 2011 Update Rollups and Service Packs: Release Dates, Build Numbers, and Collateral.

I’ll go through these levels in a reversed order, since I think that makes up for a more exciting story line here. Also, I think it’s more likely to resemble the real life process via which you’ll encounter each of these versions of Microsoft Dynamics CRM after your initial deployment. You’ll certainly need to be aware of the different versions even prior to setting up your very first demo/test/development environment, but keeping up with the Dynamics CRM releases is a job that never ends!

Update Rollups

These are collections of hotfixes to existing product functionality. When you open a support ticket with Microsoft for an issue you’ve encountered with the software, sometimes you might receive an individual hotfix package from them that fixes your specific issue (and nothing else). Normally you wouldn’t need to install each and every hotfix separately, however, as most of these fixes will eventually be released in an Update Rollup package. You’ll see a list of “issues that are resolved” in the Microsoft Knowledge Base article of each Update Rollup, which is normally your best indication of whether the software bug you’ve encountered has been squashed.

<rant>Since the official name of these releases is “Update Rollup”, the official acronym for them would logically be “UR”. However, some people seem to happily forget about the first word and instead call them “RU”, presumably as a shorthand from “RollUp”. Fine, call them whatever you want, even give each of the releases your very own pet names if you wish, but you’ll never, ever see me use anything but “UR” on my blog.</rant>

At the time of writing, the latest released version for CRM 2013 is Update Rollup 3, version number 6.0.3.0106. It was released on July 15th and contains over 200 hotfixes as listed on the KB article. Normally there would be a UR3 package released for all the server and client components, but this time there’s no Outlook version available, since apparently none of the hotfixes required the client bits to be updated. Update Rollups are usually cumulative, so CRM 2013 UR3 also contains the fixes from UR1 and UR2.

If you don’t manually download and install the UR’s, they will also be distributed via Windows Update later on once Microsoft makes them available via this channel. Since you should always test the effects of each UR prior to production deployment, it’s usually never a good idea to just let things run on autopilot. For example, letting your Outlook clients get the UR’s via the Windows Update schedule without keeping your server components up to date will soon land you in unsupported territory.

Service Packs

During it’s first 11 years of existence, there weren’t any official Service Packs released for Dynamics CRM, unlike many other Microsoft products. This changed a couple of months ago when CRM 2013 Service Pack 1 was released on May 28th. Even though MS is mostly referring to it by the name Spring ’14 release in their marketing messages, based on the naming policy of CRM Online, the SP1 version is essentially Spring ’14 for on-premises customers and the Outlook client components (even for CRM Online customers).

While the CRM 2013 SP1 KB article looks like any UR article we’ve come to know, with a list of resolved issues, this isn’t just a collection of hotfixes. Service Packs are the delivery mechanism for new product features as well as changes to existing functionality of the product. An example of this would be the case creation and routing features introduced in SP1. For a more complete list of SP1 contents, refer to the “What’s New” page on CRM Customer Center. Note that in order to access some of the new features, you’ll not only need to install the SP1 bits onto the server but also go to the CRM organization’s settings menu and apply “Install Product Updates” from there.

Service Packs are cumulative in the sense that they contain the previously released Update Rollup hotfixes. So, while CRM 2013 UR1 and UR2 were released prior to SP1, you don’t need to install them separately when setting up a new Dynamics CRM 2013 environment. Just grab the Service Pack and you’re all patched up to that point.

Update Rollups for Service Packs

Now this is where it really gets interesting. Remember that latest CRM 2013 Update Rollup 3 I linked to a few paragraphs earlier? Based on our discussion so far, would you assume it to contain all the fixes, updates and new features released for CRM 2013 so far? I see quite a number of nodding heads out there and I’m not at all surprised if your initial assumption would be “of course”. The correct answer, however, is “no”. Due to the counter-intuitive nature of this situation for any Dynamics CRM veterans, an explanation is surely in order here. (more…)

eXtreme CRM 2013 Rome takeaways

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Posted on 7th February 2013 by Jukka Niiranen in News and events

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eXtremeCRMThere are no more Microsoft Convergence events held in Europe, but luckily the eXtreme CRM organization has stepped in to arrange a bi-annual conference where all the Dynamics CRM professionals can meet up and share information & thoughts on what’s happening around the product and the surrounding ecosystem. Last year in Berlin was the first time I attended the eXtreme CRM conference and this year it was time to head down south to Rome for eXtreme CRM 2013. Here’s my travel report from the event, focusing on the product roadmap details that were revealed and the direction that Microsoft Dynamics CRM seems to be heading towards, based on my interpretation.

It’s been a bit rough

The opening keynote by Bob Stutz, corporate vice president of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, was a somewhat unusual appearance compared to the traditional Microsoft way of highlighting their past achievements and future opportunities. From the European viewpoint, the typical US style keynotes often go over the top in building up hype for the success of the products, but Bob came onto the stage with a different kind of a message. Basically he apologized for all the problems that have surrounded Dynamics CRM recently: the delay of cross-browser support, CRM Online performance/reliability issues and the sad saga of recent Update Rollups being pulled.

Bob_Stutz_eXtremeCRM_keynoteI think most of the MS partners in the room had shared the pain from these issues, especially when having to explain them on a day-to-day basis while working with customers. In the software business it’s of course nothing unheard of that  such problems may occur, but there’s been an elevated sense of frustration recently with the lack of information given to partners on what’s going on at Microsoft. Communication is the most effective cure in recovering from such events and I bet that it would have been far easier for all parties if there had been more transparent exchange of information on each of these issues earlier on, but it’s good to see the top management acknowledge this now and hopefully do what is necessary to straighten these things out.

One thing that Bob Stutz promised to change was to return the Update Rollups back to pure hotfix packages instead of vehicles for new feature delivery that they’ve turned into after Microsoft adopted the agile release policy for Dynamics CRM shortly after the 2011 version came out. What this means in practice is that MS will need to come up with a new delivery vehicle for introducing the new features into on-premise CRM environments at least once a year. While this can potentially improve the stability of those environments, the gap between CRM Online and on-premise feature release schedule can also grow even larger as a result of this, which could introduce it’s own challenges through an increased platform fragmentation.

The mobility story

This time last year Microsoft made a big announcement of their upcoming “CRM Anywhere” prodcut offering. Following the aforementioned turn of events, the cross-browser support got eventually delayed up until Polaris / Update Rollup 12 while the mobile strategy was gradually revised, scrapping their planned partnership with CWR Mobility and opting to develop in-house mobile apps instead. Individual pieces of news around the mobility offering have become available during the past fall and now at eXtreme CRM 2013 Rome the following mobility roadmap slide was presented:

Dynamics CRM Mobility Roadmap & Vision

From this slide and the accompanying presentation I was able to pick out the following pieces of data:

  • The iPad Safari web client that was postponed from the actual Polaris rollout is arriving this month for CRM Online customers, on-premise support will be in Orion
  • Tablet devices will receive a dedicated app, not only the Windows 8 Sales Workspace but also a similar iPad native app appears to be scheduled for Orion, with further Service and Marketing apps in the horizon
  • iPhone and Android support will be limited to the Mobile Express client even after Orion, all the way until Leo
  • No details on whether Windows Phone will receive any new features in addition to the WP7 Activity Feeds app that was released a bit over year ago
  • Customization options as well as offline data support will be rolled out gradually to these clients

One thing that Bob was emphasizing during the keynote was Microsoft’s decision not to charge additional licenses for access to these mobile and tablet applications. Choosing to take the longer route of build vs. buy in the mobile CRM gives MS a wider range of options to adjust their commercial offering to market needs, but the prolonged period of uncertainty means that many customers will also be postponing their investment decisions on mobile CRM deployment until they have facts available on what level of functionality is going to be baked into the core platform. At the same time ISV’s like Resco and more recently also CWR Mobility are working hard to be able to offer a HTML5 platform for developing customized mobile and tablet apps for Dynamics CRM for those customers who need to equip their mobile workforce with CRM solutions already today.

Update 2013-02-16: Microsoft partners can now download the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Mobility Roadmap slide deck from PartnerSource (login required).

From Polaris to Orion via Gemini

The new “Flow” UI of Dynamics CRM has been rolled out to existing CRM Online customers. This has caused both a lot of excitement as well as anxiety, since the new design and integrations (Bing Maps, Yammer etc.) are very tempting to be demonstrated as the next generation user experience, but the feature set of Polaris takes away many of the standard customization options that rely on form event scripting. I’ve covered the Polaris new features & gotchas in a previous post, in case you haven’t had a chance to dig deeper into the updated CRM Online version yet. Just to repeat once more what I’ve been trying to emphasize ever since latest Statement of Direction document was released: on-premise customers won’t get the new UI with Update Rollup 12, it arrives in the Orion release.

Orion_the_next_version_of_Dynamics_CRMWith that in mind, let’s get the big news out of the way before digging any deeper: Orion is not an Update Rollup or even Service Update type of a release, it is the next major version of Dynamics CRM. In his closing keynote Bill Patterson pretty much confirmed that it would be called “Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013″ (or 2014) for the on-premise customers. Not a whole lot of other details were shared, apart from the fact that the target release date is in Q3 2013. Although Bob Stutz was hesitant on giving any dates in his speech, July was mentioned more than once, but whether that refers to general availability or CRM Online is anybody’s guess as of now.

Before that, we’ll have time for another star in the spring sky: Gemini. Yes, it looks like there will be even more frequent releases for CRM Online than previously communicated. Gemini arrives in Q2 2013 and will focus on bringing the Marketing Pilot features acquired last October available to Dynamics CRM users. The feature set was shown in a very brief run through of slides, since the network issues that plagued the whole eXtreme CRM 2013 Rome event held at Marriott Park Hotel forced Bill to skip the live demo and resort to screenshots instead. Not much can be said about what to expect from Marketing Pilot at this stage, but here are some facts I picked up: (more…)

Using the updated Activity Feeds to monitor Queues

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Posted on 31st January 2013 by Jukka Niiranen in Features

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As a part of the CRM Online Polaris update and the on-premise Update Rollup 12, new functionality has been added to the Activity Feeds solution. In fact, it’s no longer a separate solution but rather converted into a part of the Default Solution during the upgrade to Polaris / UR12 (see this YouTube video for details). Yeah, I know you were thinking that Activity Feeds are on their way out as the Yammer integration arrives, but the reality is that the auto posts functionality will still remain a CRM platform component, although the data itself may be presented through the common Yammer UI.

We’ll see how it goes in practice once the Yammer integration arrives in February (hopefully for on-prem, too, although no official info on that yet), but we’re already free to explore the enhancements of the updated Activity Feeds. In addition to the great new feature of being able to filter the records from where posts are shown in your feed instead of having to go and follow each and every interesting record, there’s also another important addition: the support for organization owned entities. Previously you couldn’t add the Record Wall onto entities like competitor but now such limitations have been lifted.

Another interesting entity that could well benefit from the Activity Feeds style of presenting the latest updates is the queue entity. Although queues themselves are a useful feature for process automation and routing tasks between users, their usability in the out-of-the-box configuration of Dynamics CRM is fairly poor. Unless you’re a full time service rep working on queues, it’s not a very intuitive way for monitoring work to be done and who’s working on what, let alone getting notified of something added into a queue that you should do something about.

UR12_ActivityFeeds_Queue1

Enter Activity Feeds. With the ability of having the actions in queue item updates being reflected in a timeline that allows people to also comment on the progress of these items, all of a sudden the whole queue concept can become a lot more accessible to casual CRM users. Following the relevant queues you want to receive updates from is as easy as following your teams’ accounts, and with the new filters in Polaris/UR12 update there’s even more possibilities for creating views of only specific types of queue items.

There are no standard post configuration rules available for the queue or queue item entity, so you’ll have to build the auto post rules by using workflow processes. Although the users will prefer to follow queues and not queue items, what you as a system administrator or customizer will want to do is create workflow rules for queue items and reference the related queue as a regarding object. This will allow users to see Activity Feed posts when new items are added into queues they are following, when their “worked by” information changes etc.

UR12_ActivityFeeds_Queue2

With the new social dashboards introduced in Polaris, it’s ever more likely that users will encounter the What’s New section when logging into CRM. Why not make the most of this and configure a few new rules for creating auto posts that surface relevant and interesting information to the users on what’s happening with the various processes that Dynamics CRM is used for managing?

UR12_ActivityFeeds_Queue3