What the latest Microsoft Dataflex news means for you

Image: Microsoft Dataflex graphic
By Clarissa Gillingham on

Microsoft Dataflex For Teams: The next exciting update

 

Last week Microsoft made a huge announcement launching Microsoft Dataflex: the new data platform enabling organisations to truly combine the strength of Microsoft Teams and power of Microsoft’s Power Platform. Following that announcement, we at Silversands released this blog article – which broke down what we knew so far and what we didn’t know at the time – along with a promise to keep all of you updated when new information was available.

On Wednesday 29th Microsoft provided more details on the capabilities of Microsoft Dataflex and Microsoft Dataflex Pro. This blog will be going through what’s changed, what’s new, and what we’re still asking questions about.

 

What’s changed?

In the most recent announcement, what we were calling Microsoft Dataflex has had its name tweaked to Microsoft Dataflex for Teams.

This should hopefully ease confusion over the use case for Dataflex and clarify the difference between Microsoft Dataflex for Teams and Microsoft Dataflex Pro; the name now more accurately describes Dataflex for Teams’ status as a micro-version of Dataflex Pro that exists solely within Microsoft Teams.

 

What’s new? / Questions we now have the answers to:

 

Which Microsoft 365 customers will be able to use Microsoft Dataflex for Teams without any additional cost?

The answer to this is, excitingly, anyone with a Microsoft Teams license.

The latest article from Microsoft states clearly that:

  • “Microsoft Dataflex for Teams is available as part of your Teams license”

This is a huge value-add to the Microsoft Teams license, and a sigh of relief for any organisations worrying that they would need to purchase additional licensing to take advantage of the new product.

It is still unclear whether the Teams license will now, by itself, grant users the ability to make and consume Power Apps and flows in Power Automate, or whether the current seeded (e.g. E3) licensing would be required as well.

It’s also not been confirmed how licensing will be handled for Power Virtual Agents, which Microsoft Dataflex for Teams is bringing to Teams (and a non-premium world) for the first time.

 

How much data can I store?

We found out last week that Microsoft Dataflex for Teams would produce 1 environment, and so 1 Dataflex database, per Team. But what we didn’t know was how much that database could store.

Yesterday Microsoft confirmed that each Team would be given capacity for:

  • 2GB of data

Which is roughly the equivalent of:

  • 1 million rows of data

Again, it is important to remember that this is on a per Team basis; so that is 2GB per Team.

 

What do those numbers mean?

To put this into context: the digital version of War and Peace is 2MB, which correlates to roughly 0.1% of the capacity your Team will have available to them.

This is a pretty generous amount of capacity to be included in a license many of you will already have. Let’s compare to Microsoft Dataflex Pro:

  • For Microsoft Dataflex Pro, each Power Apps Per User license contributes 250MB (~0.25GB) of capacity to an organisation’s Microsoft Dataflex Pro capacity.
  • Additionally, additional Microsoft Dataflex Pro database capacity can be purchased at a rate of 1GB for $40 per month.

This means that with Microsoft Dataflex for Teams, you have the equivalent of 8 users’ (or $80) worth of capacity per Team.

 

So, would I ever need to use anything else to store my data?

In short, the answer is: Yes.

While 2GB is very generous, some enterprise level projects will exceed this data quite quickly. And it is important to note that this is 2GB of storage within the confines of a single Team, not accessible to all your users like Dataflex Pro.

For areas where this capacity becomes a limitation, Dataflex Pro is there to pick up the slack and provide you with unlimited environments and in excess of 4TB of capacity – that’s 2000 times more capacity than you would have in any given Team.

Additionally, while 2GB goes a long way in storing row-based data, images and files consume a significantly larger proportion of capacity than typical database data. Dataflex Pro has provisions for additional file storage (at 1GB for $2 per month), but Dataflex for Teams has no equivalent add on.

As such – although the official announcement clarifies that Microsoft Dataflex for Teams can include image and file storage in the provided capacity – recommendations are still to use SharePoint to handle file storage, and Microsoft Dataflex for Teams to store metadata.

 

Will using Dataflex for Teams take up my Dataflex Pro capacity?

Luckily this one’s a resounding no. Capacity will be managed separately for both products and neither will contribute to the other’s capacity limits.

 

If I reach the capacity limit, will I have start building my solutions again in Dataflex Pro?

While we don’t have much in the way of details, the article contains assurances that:

  • “You can build solutions [in Microsoft Dataflex for Teams] with confidence knowing that you can easily upgrade for additional capacity or the advanced capabilities in Dataflex Pro.”

So we assume that there will be an easy way to push solutions up into the Pro space without requiring rebuilding.

We look forward to exploring how this process will work, how solutions and entities (or tables as they will now be called) will be integrated into Dataflex Pro from Dataflex for Teams, and running many more tests when the public preview becomes available in August.

 

What Security is available in Dataflex for Teams?

In Dataflex Pro Security is handled by assigning Security Roles (both default and custom) to users. Dataflex for Teams follows this security philosophy to an extent, but with some limitations. In Dataflex for Teams only the following Security Roles are available:

  • Owners
  • Members
  • Guests

These Security Roles are assigned to users upon giving them access to the Team – with Team Owners being given the Owners Security Role in that environment’s Dataflex for Teams database, Members being given the Members Security Role etc.

At this point in time we don’t know what the differences would be between the three different default Security Roles, but we do know that you won’t be able to create custom Security Roles in Dataflex for Teams like you can in Dataflex Pro. This will give a streamlined version of Security that, in most cases, should be perfectly tenable, but for some solutions may not provide enough customisation. For these solutions, users are pointed towards the advanced Security available in Dataflex Pro.

 

Can users with Guest access to my Team access my apps and bots?

Yes, though it is currently unclear how much control Admins would have on configuring this access or locking certain security groups (i.e. the Guest security group) down.

We also, as of yet, have no knowledge of whether Guests can create apps and bots or whether their rights would be limited to consumption only.

 

Can I monitor what’s happening to my data in Dataflex for Teams?

Yes, Dataflex for Teams has support for Activity Logging, so admins would be able to keep track of who has made changes to their data and when.

It is worth noting however, that Dataflex for Teams will not contain the full auditing capabilities of Dataflex Pro, and the implication from the article is that it will instead be relying on the activity logging already present in Microsoft Teams.

 

How can I implement Application Lifecycle Management if I can only have 1 environment per Team?

The typical ALM implementation of having a Dev, Test (or Integration) and Production environment is not possible within 1 Team in Microsoft Dataflex for Teams. However, this does not mean that it is not possible at all.

Our recommendation would be to consider having a Dev, Integration and Production Team for any solution that requires this level of management. For example, if you have an internal and external-facing Team for a project, use the internal Team to develop adjustments to your apps / bots and then push to the external-facing Team to surface the solution to guest users.

 

Can I import / export applications into / from a Team?

The previous answer does beg the question of how we will be able to move assets from one Team’s environment to another. While Microsoft have not clarified whether users will be able to import and export individual apps / bots / assets from one team to another, they have confirmed that there will not be support for solutions on release.

The article states:

  • “In the future, Dataflex for Teams will also support classic import and export of solutions.”

We currently don’t know how far down the roadmap adding solution support to Dataflex for Teams is. As always, we hope for soon, but it is worth nothing that other promises of future functionality have been accompanied with some more solid time frames.

 

Will model-driven apps be available in Microsoft Dataflex for Teams?

Not on launch day, but Microsoft’s latest article does confirm that we can expect this to land in the coming months:

  • “Dataflex Pro and Power Apps currently support model driven apps today and these will be coming to Dataflex for Teams later this year.”

This will be a huge boon since Model-driven apps are currently only available under Microsoft Dataflex Pro licensing.

 

Will I be able to access my apps outside of Teams?

No, apps and bots that are created using Microsoft Dataflex for Teams, will only be accessible inside Microsoft Teams.

 

What are we still asking Questions about?

 

Will I be able to transfer data between Dataflex for Teams and Dataflex Pro?

The current hope is that we would be able to use either Dataflows or flows in Power Automate to fold data stored in Dataflex for Teams into Dataflex Pro storage for manipulation / collation. However, there is currently no official line available on this matter.

 

Any news on Power BI integration?

The latest announcement included this rather cryptic sentence:

  • “With data visualization being a core piece of many solutions, it was important to support graphs and charts in applications.”

This could be in reference to Power BI, which is of course Microsoft’s flagship product for data visualisation, but also could refer to the innate charting and graphing capabilities in both Canvas and Model-driven Power Apps.

So as of yet we are still in a bit of a no-man’s land, with nothing explicit being released about how Power BI will integrate with Microsoft Dataflex for Teams. We currently assume that we would be able to again use Dataflows to bring data from all your Teams environments into Power BI reports, and that it will be possible to host these reports in a tab in the Team in the same way as is currently possible, but even this is currently speculation.

 

Does Microsoft Dataflex for Teams include Power Automate?

It has been confirmed that Power Automate will be able to connect to Dataflex for Teams using the Dataflex Connector – formerly the ‘Common Data Service Native Connector’. This means that integration between Microsoft Dataflex for Teams and Power Automate will be simple to implement.

The remaining question regarding Power Automate is whether a Power Automate studio will be available within the Teams client (similar to the Power Apps and Power Virtual Agents studios), and whether users with Microsoft Teams licensing and no other licenses will be able to make use of Power Automate.

 

Since Model-driven apps are coming, will Portals be on their way next?

We have no information about whether users will be able to create Power Apps Portals within Microsoft Dataflex for Teams, though it seems unlikely due to their web-based nature.

For now, assume that Portals are only available with Dataflex Pro.

 

What should I be doing to prepare my organisation for the Microsoft Dataflex release?

 

Microsoft Dataflex for Teams will be going into Public Preview in a matter of weeks.

If you have any queries or concerns about how best to handle this roll out – and/or what opportunities this new product opens up for you and your organisation – please don’t hesitate to contact us via the form below.

We also have an upcoming webinar to fully explain how Microsoft Dataflex for Teams fits in to the Business Applications landscape, led by our Power Platform Lead Benjamin Haynes. Register for free today!

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