If you have been using Microsoft Flow, Power Apps or Power BI for a while then I’m sure that you have been using the Common Data Service (CDS).

Architecture of Common Data Service

At least you have been looking into the CDS or at least you have heard some people talking about the CDS.

If you don’t know what Common Data Service is then this first of a series of posts is for you.

CDS overview

The CDS is the preferred data layer for your PowerApps, Flow and Power BI. This doesn’t mean that you suddenly need to move all your data into a CDS, but it does mean that Microsoft would like you to move your data there if that is possible.

Why would you use the CDS?

On the Common Data Service introduction page Microsoft gives us 6 reasons to use the CDS:

  • Easy to manage
  • Easy to Secure
  • Access to you Dynamics 365
  • Rich metadata
  • Logic and validation
  • Productivity tools

Although all of this might be right, for me there is only one main reason to use CDS above for example SharePoint lists. Being a SharePointer I am used to putting my data in SharePoint lists. When using a lot of data however I’ve always found SharePoint lists very limiting. SharePoint is simply not a database.

Why not use SQL then?

Using SQL to store your data in is of course a good alternative too, however it does mean that you have to have the SQL skills. Designing data and designing a performing database are two different things. The CDS takes a lot of the potential troubles away for you.

How to get started with the Common Data Service?

It is easy to start with PowerApps and/or Flow in your production environment create some entities and apps and before you know it you think that you’ve created something good. It is wise to first consider things like governance and data design. When you use the Common Data Services you are working with a database that can be used across multiple application. The Just go ahead and put something together will almost certainly result in some regrets later on.

Further information about CDS

Common Data Services – a complete overview

By Pieter Veenstra

Business Applications and Office Apps & Services Microsoft MVP working as a Microsoft Productivity Principal Consultant at HybrIT Services. You can contact me using contact@veenstra.me.uk.

6 thoughts on “What is the Common Data Service?”
  1. Thanks for writing this. I have been using Flow and PowerApps for a year and I do not know much about Common Data Service. I look forward to reading the rest of the series on CDS.

  2. Hi Pieter.
    I noticed your comment about SharePoint Lists not being a database.
    I completely agree.
    But there are literally hundreds of millions of lists and libraries out there.
    So we created a tool to use SharePoint Lists and libraries just like tables in a database.
    With all the Create, Update, Delete actions you can think of – also for FileShares interaction with Libraries and between libraries. High performance using multithreading and Azure Migration API. And absolutely NO-CODE!
    Flow is nice but in most cases almost useless for any serious List & Library manipulation and maintenance. Flow id good for acing on a few items being created or updated.

    1. Hi Steen, thank you for your comment. I am not sure that I agree that flow cannot handle large loads. One of the systems that I implemented processed over 30k documents through 3 levels of approval within its first 3 months of production.

  3. Hi Pieter,
    I understand completely. And I also used Flow for larger projects involving many items and files. And it works well with approvals etc.
    However, my claim is that although you theoretically can do anything with MS Flow just like using c# or PowerShell if you code it and have time to debug, trach and enhance. There is a need for a No-Code tool that simply works better for List and Library manipulation, file replication and interfacing to data.
    (not a replacement for flow approvals, Single item reaction, etc.)

    I believe we have done that and we even included flow as a data source.

    I would be happy to visit you in person and defend my claim? 🙂

    // Steen

    ps. I’m a relatively skilled developer as well. I just realized that coding (low code flow or c# or Powershell) is, in my opinion, not always the right path to take especially not for List and Library manipulation and migration.

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