Dataverse (formerly known as Common Data Service or CDS) is Microsoft’s cloud-based database platform.
Like most databases, Dataverse is made up of tables and columns, and comes with a bunch of standard tables like Accounts, Users, Contacts, and Tasks, with the potential to create custom tables to fit your specific business requirements. Dataverse can be used exclusively as your sole and primary database, or as an intermediary database by utilising Power Query or Power Automate to periodically synchronise external data sources with.
These tables and columns are easily navigable and understandable because of the low-code nature of the Power Platform. Creating a custom table or adding a new column is as simple as clicking through and following the wizard – no development knowledge required.
This is not to say that the ability to implement complex business logic has been eschewed in favour of accessibility, however. Calculated columns, rollup columns, and business rules can be used to enforce consistent logic across all applications sitting on top of Dataverse. Setting or clearing column values, displaying error messages, validating data – all of this can be implemented without writing a single line of code.
With Dataverse set up, we can now use the full suite of Power Platform products, all of which integrate natively and seamlessly with Dataverse, to create business solutions.
You may hear the term ‘CDM’ used interchangeably with Dataverse/CDS. CDM stands for ‘Common Data Model’. The key difference between the two is that the Common Data Model represents a framework which standardizes data concepts, like the standard entities (Accounts, Users etc). The Dataverse/Common Data Service is the platform itself – it uses the CDM as a framework and allows users to build on top of it.
If that’s confusing, or the distinction isn’t clear, we understand – it’s hard to articulate – but ultimately, it’s not massively important.
As well as standard Dataverse (Dataverse Pro), as of September 2020 Microsoft introduced a standalone Teams version – Microsoft Dataverse for Teams. Dataverse for Teams is almost identical to Dataverse Pro – users have access to a Dataverse database per Team, and the ability to build apps, flows and chatbots to be used by anyone who is a member of this team. The most obvious appeal of Dataverse for Teams is the cost implication – or lack of! Dataverse for Teams is included with Microsoft 365 subscriptions that have Teams access, which makes it a great place to start if you are a Teams user who is yet to dip your toes into the world of Power Platform.
The Power Platform attracts prospective customers with all sorts of different backgrounds and plans. Some have had fully fledged ERP systems in place for decades and want to use Power Automate to streamline an inefficient business process; some want to start developing their own Power Apps so the finance team aren’t so reliant on Excel spreadsheets; and some want to build an entire ERP solution using the Dataverse as the backend and Model-driven Power Apps as the front.
What is important to stress is that not all of these scenarios demand the use of Dataverse. There are hundreds of pre-built connectors which allow for apps and flows which interface directly with your existing data source, like SQL, OneDrive and Sharepoint, or existing ERP’s like Dynamics 365 Business Central, Salesforce and SAP. If your data source doesn’t have a pre-built connector, but has a REST API, a custom connector can be built to facilitate this connection.