Author: Richard Embry, Senior Consultant, Silverbear
If you have been curious enough to select the 'About' option under the Settings menu in Dynamics 365 Online (D365) you will have seen something like this:
So what is a 'release wave'? How, and by whom, is it enabled? Is there anything that needs to be done to receive it?
A single version of D365 for all users
Originally announced as a means of automatically updating all D365 environments to the latest version, release waves now extend across the collection of Microsoft products known as the 'Power Platform'. This includes applications and services such as Power Apps, Power Automate and Power BI.
A wave is essentially a planned schedule of automatic release of new capabilities, performance improvements and other updates to the Power Platform applications over a six-month period. Along with new 'generally available' features, capabilities that are still in development are often included for evaluation in sandbox (non-production) environments only. This allows for take-up and response to be evaluated before releasing to general availability (safe for use in production environments) in a future wave. A release may also entail the final removal of previously deprecated features or capabilities from the platform.
How are the releases managed?
The sixth-month release waves are scheduled consistently – running from each April to September and then from October until March of the following year. The updates are gradually pushed to all D365 and Power Platform environments during the release period. This measured process allows for the addressing of any issues revealed before all environments are updated.
The timing of the update depends on the datacentre region that the environment is hosted in. For example, the 2022 release wave 1 will be applied to environments hosted in the UK data centre (D365 instances with 'crm11' in the URL) between 8 April and 10 April 2022, whereas environments in the EMEA data centre (with 'crm4' in the URL) will be updated between 15 and 17 April.
While most components are deployed in April or October, at the start of the release wave, some features will be disseminated later in the wave. The following excerpt from Microsoft's published plan for the 2022 release wave 1 shows that some capabilities made available in preview from May and June 2022, after the 'generally available' items are released in April.
Does a release wave impact the Silverbear CRM product?
Customers using Silverbear CRM version 6 are potentially impacted since release waves are automatically deployed to their environments. There is no ability to ‘opt out’ of receiving them.
The risk of disruptive change is, however, reduced by several mitigating factors: advanced notification of the new features and their release dates, the ability to preview a release wave in a sandbox environment via an Early Access programme, regression testing and environment-level control over the activation of new features.
Customers using Silverbear CRM version 5 are not impacted since their on-premises instances of Dynamics 365 are not subject to release waves from Microsoft.
How do we prepare?
Silverbear perform full regression testing of the Silverbear CRM product via the Early Access programme mentioned earlier. As a result, Silverbear can confirm to customers that a current sprint version has been verified as compliant, and therefore supported with the Microsoft release wave.
Customers should still plan to undertake internal testing ahead of a sprint release to validate that bespoke components, third party extensions, integrations, reports etc continue to function as expected with the release wave enabled. A list of considerations:
- Details of changes included in a release wave are generally announced by Microsoft two months before the wave is deployed to production environments. Read through to get a sense of any that may impact your operations.
- If you have not already updated to the supported Silverbear CRM sprint version for the release wave then plan to do so.
- Take advantage of Microsoft’s early access programme and update a sandbox environment ahead of the general release to assess the impact of the changes on your own processes and data.
- Be aware that release waves often contain changes to user interface components, which may disconcert users who have not been forewarned.
- While many new capabilities in a release wave are automatically enabled and available to users, others must be activated and/or configured by system administrators. Determine which optional features are appropriate to enable immediately, and which should be held back (at least initially).
- Most of all, be aware of the release wave schedule so that you know what is going to happen and when. The excerpt below shows the schedule published by Microsoft for the 2022 release wave 1; future releases will follow a very similar schedule. Forewarned is forearmed!
Full details of the 2022 release wave 1 can be obtained HERE