What are Virtual Entities for Dynamics 365?

New in Microsoft Dynamics 365 - Version 9, Virtual Entities are an easy to deploy solution for viewing data in D365 that resides in an external system.

Perhaps you have data in another system that only needs to be viewed in Dynamics 365.

Or, maybe you have highly sensitive data in an external system that you don't want to be stored in Dynamics.

In both scenarios, Virtual Entities are a new solution for data integration which avoids enlisting a developer to configure a traditional integration that synchronises data back and forth.

Removing the need for custom coding and data replication, Virtual Entities are an alternative to client-side and server-side approaches for connecting external data that is significantly easier to configure and manage.

Virtual entities are defined in D365 with an internal metadata flag to mark them as virtual which distinguishes them from traditional database held entity types. 

As such, these are not stored with the associated physical tables specific to records of 'full' entities.

Each Virtual Entity will be associated with a virtual entity data provider that offers an OData v4 endpoint, or using a custom connector. During run-time, when an entity instance is referenced, this will be dynamically retrieved from the associated external system. 

There is no support for Dynamics 365 business processes around Virtual Entity data. As result, business process flows or workflows cannot be utilized that reference this data because it is not held the Dynamics instance or reside on your tenant. 

This is an important point and will likely be a defining factor in determining which integration approach is needed. 

For businesses that need external data to flow into Dynamics 365 and be a trigger for a process, or to update one of more fields, a traditional client / server-side sync would still be the route to follow.

However, in instances where users want to be able to view everything in one place, including data held in external data sources, Virtual Entities will be a simpler solution that is easier to deploy.

All virtual entity data is 'read only'.

There isn’t any role level security for virtual entities as these are owned by the organisation. 

As a result, users will have permissions to see virtual entities, or not, there isn't any middle ground and these entities do not support field level security.

Once enabled, virtual entities give users visibility to view this data in fields, grids, search results, Fetch XML-based reports and D365 dashboards.

Jesper Osgaard has shared a deep dive covering the steps to configure a Virtual Entity on Microsoft TechNet and Preact also provided an overview in our recent D365 Version 9 webinar.

An excellent and low cost alternative to data replication for D365 users who just need greater visibility of data!

READ MORE: Get Started with Virtual Entities

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