How to replace DotNet in AL

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A lot of us still have a ton of C/AL code sitting around in existing databases that sooner or later will have to be moved into AL. A lot of us also have a ton of AL code using DotNet that we want to be able to run in Microsoft’s cloud (that is: not on-prem). And I guess most of us don’t want to maintain a DotNet-less and DotNet-ful versions of our code.

Sooner or later, you’ll want all of DotNet out of your AL. Even if you are a seasoned .NET developer, you’ll want all DotNet out of AL.

Anyway, when you need to replace DotNet, what options do you have? Let’s take a look at all possible paths.

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Invoking Azure Functions from AL

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One elegant way of replacing your .NET interoperability code with something else is by using Azure Functions. Sounds good in theory, but what does it take in practice? And what are Azure Functions, anyway?

Let me not take too much latitude, and let me just say that Azure Functions are a way of running simple pieces of code as a service that you can invoke like any other RESTful web services. And of course, they run in Azure. To learn more about them, follow this link: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/azure-functions/functions-overview

Creating them is as simple, as invoking them, so let’s get started with an extremely simple demo that will illustrate how amazingly powerful they are, and why they are a perfect solution for replacing your .NET code with something better.

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State of .NET Affairs

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I said a word or two about progress last week. Apparently, VS Code is not the only place where we take a small step back to be able to make a huge leap forward; .NET might seem like another one.

You know it, right? You know that if you want to run your .NET code in D365 for Financials, you are out of luck, and you do know that this applies to as much to Microsoft .NET Framework out-of-the-box types as it does to your own, custom-built .NET assemblies. If you don’t know that yet, then let me bring you up to date: In your D365 apps built on Extensions “v2” technology, you won’t be able to use anything .NET; you simply won’t be able to compile AL code that includes a DotNet variable declaration.

This is neither fake news, nor is it news per se. It has been known at least since October last year when Microsoft first presented AL Language extension for VS Code during Directions US in Phoenix. Soon after the VS Code session there was a round table (in all honesty, I have never seen a table, let alone a round one, at any of round table sessions at any conference) on the topic of .NET future, and the mood was grim. At first everyone thought it was a bad joke, then all held hopes high that Microsoft is simply “feeling the pulse” to see how the channel would react to such a disturbing change. But soon it became obvious that .NET interoperability is on its way to be gently ushered out of the (relevant) technology stack of NAV and that we should start getting ready for the day when it’s not there anymore.

So, what is the current state of .NET in NAV, what is the future of it, and what can you do about it?

Let’s take them one by one.

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C# Injection: Don’t trust FOB

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FOBs, those pesky little files that we all take for granted, import into our databases, and live happily ever after. After you read this post, you’ll handle FOB files very, very carefully.

Why is that? Well, if you haven’t already, then read this post first: From C/AL to executable: how NAV runs your C/AL code

Good, now that we are on the same page, let me explain why you must never, ever, ever trust a FOB file.

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C/AL internals: Some more invalid object states

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If you have followed the posts about how C/AL really executes in NAV, you know that C# and C/AL can sometimes be in a state where C/AL compiles, but C# does not, causing you some headaches during run time.

However, what might not be obvious is that there are situations where C/AL does not compile anymore (typically due to a changed dependency signature, or due to an object that went AWOL) but C# not only compiles, but also happily runs as if nothing is wrong in the first place.

These situations can be confusing, and after having read my original post, my friend Heinz has pointed out to those situations and asked me if I can explain them. So, here it goes.

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