Posts Tagged ‘sage 300 erp’
Sage 300 2016 has now been “Released to Manufacturing”. This is a bit of an archaic term since we don’t manufacture anything anymore. It really means that R&D has handed the product over to the next step in the chain that will allow it to be installed at customer locations. This is a staged plan where it first goes to “controlled release” customers and then out to the wider audience in phases. The important thing is that the software is ready for customers to go live with in production environments.
Recently I’ve blogged quite a bit on the new Web UIs, but in this article we cover all areas of the product.
The marquee feature is of course the new Web UIs. You can now run Common Services, General Ledger, Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable from Internet Explorer, Edge, Chrome, Safari or Firefox. There is a nice Home Page with KPIs, good international support and many usability enhancements. You can now easily access Sage 300 from a Mac, Linux computer or tablet.
You no longer need to run Day End, post outstanding batches or complete bank reconciliation before upgrading. This should make it much easier to schedule when you perform the upgrade as you no longer need to sync with these other ongoing processes.
We now run regacc.exe during installation (full and workstation setup), so that you don’t need to do this as a separate step if you want your users to run with lower permissions (more on that later). This is also run during un-installation to clean up the registry.
Better UAC Support
The goal of this support is that regular users can run day to day without requiring power user or administrator rights and that they can leave User Account Control (UAC) turned on. This means that there won’t be any registering of controls as the user runs (this is all done at installation time) and we’ve moved where we store things in the registry so a regular user won’t be required to write to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE. Of course to install the software you still need to be Administrator and the usual procedures still apply.
Support Newer Microsoft Products
With this release we add support for Windows 10, Office 2016 and SQL Server 2016.
Note that we no longer support Pervasive.SQL or Oracle. Further we only support Windows 7 (SP1), Windows 8.1 and Windows 10. I.e. we do not support Windows Vista or Windows 8. We also only support the 64 bit versions of the operation systems, we no longer support the 32 bit versions.
Check the system requirements KB article for all the gory details.
This release includes Payroll 7.2 (which is also available for Sage 300 2012 and 2014). For US Payroll this includes cost center overrides and ACA reporting. For Canadian Payroll it includes the PIER balancing report and the T4A/R2 Report.
- The G/L Transaction Listing Report can now be run either by document date or by posting date.
- G/L Journal Entry has an “Entered by” field.
- A post button was added to the main document entry screens like G/L Journal Entry so you don’t need to go to the batch list to post the batch.
- The tax tracking report can now be from/to a fiscal year/period.
- The Tax Clear History function has been moved out of the Tax Tracking report and into a separate periodic processing function.
With every release we update the various integrations that are included with the product. Make sure you also update these integrations like Sage CRM 7.3 to get all the benefits from that update as well.
Lots of new things in Sage 300 2016. Especially check out the new Web UIs. Besides the features mentioned there are always lots of bug fixes and minor improvement under the covers that improve the stability and performance of the product.
Sage 300 has always been an international product that is used in many countries around the world. This includes releasing the product in multiple languages, supporting multi-currency, supporting regional settings for things like dates and having flexible configurations for things like sales taxes. As part of the new Web UIs we’ve also carried through all these features into the world of the Web browser. This article describes how some this works, since the browser is a bit different than setting regional settings in Windows.
Generally if you are in a given location, all your computers and users will all be set to use the correct location, so there is nothing for you to do. But if you do want to change things, need to troubleshoot a problem or experiment then these details could be helpful.
Languages and Locales
In the desktop version of Sage 300 you set the language used with the Sage 300 User. Then when you log in as that user, Sage 300 will load the appropriate language files for that user and display in that language. For things like date formats, the desktop product will get them from the Windows regional settings (i.e. the registry) and use that format. In the browser you select a combined language region locale code which determines both the language and the regional settings (like date format). Below is a table for some of these. For the complete list, check out this website.
|Sage 300 Language Code||Browser Locale Code||Description|
|en-AU||English (Australia) (date format dd/mm/yy)|
|en-US||English (US) (date format mm/dd/yy)|
|ESN||es||Spanish (not support in Web UIs until Feb release)|
I didn’t include South Africa which is en-ZA because the date format for that is yyyy/mm/dd. When I Googled en-ZA, all I got was complaints that it should be dd/mm/yy. So if you are South African and like yyyy/mm/dd as your date format then by all means select en-ZA. However is you prefer dd/mm/yy then you might want to pretend you are Australian and select en-AU. We won’t change our English as a result, so hopefully we can avoid any conflicts about shrimp on the braai vs barbie.
You can set this for any of the Browsers by going into their settings and adding languages and setting which is the current one. For Chrome and Firefox there is a really handy add-on that puts the list in a convenient menu at the top so you can easily toggle between these. In Chrome this is the “Quick Language Switcher”. In Firefox this is the “Quick Locale Switcher”.
Below is G/L Journal Entry in various languages and date formats. Note that data in the database is not translated, which is why there is English text in some of the data fields.
Configuring the Business Logic
Using the Browser settings affects most things, but some language strings and locale settings come from the Business Logic layer. The Business Logic does get some of its settings from Windows, so to get these in sync with the Browser you should set the Sage 300 application pool in IIS to run as a user that is set to the regional settings that you wish. You also have to change the user that the Sage.CNA.WindowsService Service runs under. By default the application pool and the Sage.CNA.WindowsService service will run as “Local System” which works, but has a few problems:
- Local system is very high in security settings, so it’s safer to set this to be a regular user (we don’t require admin rights).
- Local system can’t access network resources, so if the shared data folder is on another server you need to change this to a user that can access the shared data folder.
- It’s easier to login as a regular user and set their settings to what you need.
You should also ensure that the Sage 300 User has the correct language set since any messages generated by the Business Logic will be in the language of the Sage 300 User.
Most people will still be using the VB screens either due to customizations or modules that we haven’t moved to the web yet. Generally if the Browser, Windows users and Sage 300 users are all set to the same thing then you will get consistent languages and regional settings across everything.
As Sage 300 moves into the Browser we want to move our international heritage as well. In the web world there is much better support for many of these things and you will see this in our new Web screens.
With the Web UIs in Sage 300c rolling out in a couple of weeks, there is a lot of interest in the SDK and how to develop for this platform. We are still putting together the SDK, but in the meantime you can learn the technologies that are involved in developing our new Web UIs. Generally we’ve used off the shelf components both commercial and open source to develop our new UI framework. The good thing about this is that there are lots of resources available to learn the various technologies involved, including books, web sites, samples, videos, courses, etc.
We’ve generally tried to use all these tools in very standard ways. For instance we don’t add large amount of code to custom controls to change their behavior, we’ve kept it standard and only changed their appearance using CSS. We use the ASP.Net MVC framework in a natural way, so what you learn from the various standard resources is all applicable.
Due to the nature of programming, you can often do quite a few creative things. There is nothing to stop you using other libraries or tools than mentioned here. However one of the points of listing these is to let you know which we use, which means if you ask DPP support, these are the tools and libraries that we know about and can help answer questions about. You are welcome to use other tools, but we may not be able to provide much help on them.
C#: All server side programming above the Sage 300 .Net API is written in C#. This is a very powerful object oriented extension to C which is quite similar to Java. It has an extensive standard class library. The tools and environments that support C# are really powerful and productive.
ASP.Net MVC: Do not confuse this with ASP.Net (no MVC). This is a completely different framework which is much more powerful and gives a really solid framework for web development.
HTML: HTML controls the general layout of web pages in the browser, however it isn’t as important as it used to be. Our HTML is generated from Microsoft Razor Views, so a good portion of the HTML is actually represented as C# code. Then layout is largely controlled by CSS and not by HTML elements.
CSS: Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) control the layout and look of all the elements on the HTML page. We provide a global stylesheet which has most of what you need. However many screens need to define custom elements for their own fine grained control. We will provide a style catalog and samples of all the main UI elements.
Visual Studio 2013: This is the main IDE where we develop and debug our code. This is a very powerful and productive environment to write, build and debug code. Chances are we will be on to VS 2015 by the time the SDK ships, but for now this is what we developed our 2016 release in. We use the premium edition because that is what comes with our particular MSDN subscription, but any edition will probably be fine.
ReSharper: This is an optional tool that we’ve licensed for all our developers. We’ve found it very helpful to improve the quality of our code and to help with refactoring.
GitHub: Although using a source code control system is optional, you should be using one. Using any of Git, Subversion, TFS, etc. is fine, but you should really be using one. We use GitHub because it is very fast and reliable. The real benefit is that it’s fast for everyone when you have large internationally dispersed teams.
TeamCity: This is another optional component. You can just build out of Visual Studio. We use TeamCity, but you can also use other automated build systems like Jenkins. Its generally a good practice to have a continuous build/integration system that is always building things as they are developed, deploying them and running automated tests to ensure that things aren’t broken.
Kendo UI: This is the library of UI widgets that we use like the editable grid and date control. When we started this project this was strictly a commercial product. However half way through they created the open source Kendo UI Core which has all the controls we use for creating Accounting Screens except the editable grid control. For the grid control and the graphical controls in the KPIs, you will need to purchase a license for the professional edition.
KnockoutJS: We use knockout for data binding between the UI controls and the MVC models. When we started the project the data binding in Kendo UI didn’t meet our needs so we evaluated alternatives. We found knockout and it did everything we needed so we’ve continued to use it. In the meantime Kendo has improved and AngularJS has become popular, but we’ve stuck with Knockout (which is popular again).
JQuery: Most modern web apps use JQuery. Although its main use of insulating people from browser differences isn’t as important and most browsers have natively implemented its main features, it is still an important library and we use it extensively.
.Net Framework 4.5.1: Since all our server components are written in C# and using the ASP.Net MVC framework, of course we are using the .Net framework. For the 2016 release we are at version 4.5.1. However by the time the SDK ships this will probably be at a higher version.
Sage 300 .Net API: To integrate to the standard Sage 300 Business Logic, we use Sage 300’s .Net API. So when writing code in the MVC models to perform Sage 300 processing, you are writing code to this API.
Crystal Web Viewer: We provide a complete framework for handling Crystal Reports, so you don’t need to directly interact with Crystal. We generate reports using the same code as the desktop version, but then display the result in Crystal’s HTML viewer rather than the ActiveX one.
Unity: This is a library for doing dependency injection in .Net. You probably don’t need to use this directly, but it’s useful to understand how your DLLs are being loaded and why the startup process works like it does.
This was a quick list of the various tools and technologies we used to create our new Web UIs. Hopefully it gives you a starting point of things to start learning about, if you are interested in Sage 300c development.
As part of developing all the Web Screens for our upcoming Sage 300 2016 release, we worked with quite a few contractors at Sonata in Bengaluru, India. I originally visited them back in November 2014 and wrote a series of three blog articles on my experiences over there (part 1, part 2 and part 3). I then visited them again in March 2015, but didn’t blog about that visit. Now I’m in Bengaluru again and thought I’d add another posting to the series.
One change is that I’m going to try to use the proper name of the city which is now Bengaluru and not Bangalore. The name was changed just days before my first visit and was a bit confusing.
The Story of Sage 300c
We started the Sage 300c project two years ago, built on a lot of the ideas and architecture from the previous Orion project. We brought in Sonata for their expertise in Microsoft ASP.Net MVC technology which we adopted for the new Web UIs. We started work collaborating with a small team from Sonata to produce a proof of concept where we produced fully working A/P Vendors and A/P Invoice Entry screens. We chose these as reasonably complex but not so complex they would take too long to develop. We learnt a lot from this POC and used that to build a frame work for our new UIs. We then built up the team and proceeded to build the G/L screens. This was a test of building a full application to get a better idea of the work and time that would be involved when we ramped up for the whole project. This went quite well and we ramped up the team and started work on A/R, A/P, Bank, Tax and C/S. We then decided to accelerate the project and ramped up the team in Bengaluru again to simultaneously work on I/C, O/E and P/O. I blogged a bit about this process on how to organize Agile development and how to scale Agile development.
We are now code complete on Sage 300 2016 and just finishing final regression ready for release. The I/C, O/E and P/O screens are coming together nicely ready for our February Product Update. Any large software development project takes lots of hard work, many long hours and some heroic troubleshooting. This project was no different. Looking back now its amazing how much commitment to producing a first class quality product went into all the work. All the Agile Scrum teams around the world really took their work seriously and really made the effort to produce something everyone could be proud of.
Team Wrap Up
With this visit we’re wrapping up the giant accelerated project, and with the main Accounting modules completed we’re proceeding on a smaller scale. It’s interesting to see this transition while in Bengaluru at Sonata. The skills used on this project are in high demand and everyone moving off this project has a place on a new project. People are excited to both complete this project and to start their new project. Overall Sonata is expanding with a new building opening next door, next month.
This Sonata office is located in the Global Village Tech Park. There are a lot of large companies similar to Sonata located here. It is really remarkable how all these companies are continually managing ramping up and winding down so many large projects with so many people involved.
Further there are 2.97 million IT professionals in India and 35% of them are located in the Bengaluru area. This means the out of the total population of 8.52 million, 1,039,500 are IT professionals (i.e. programmers). This is an amazing number of computer pros and what is helping drive Bengaluru’s annual growth rate of 38% which has propelled it to become India’s fourth largest city.
As I leave Bengaluru, on one hand its sad to say good bye to so many people I’ve worked with over the last two years, on the other hand its exciting that they are all moving on to other projects. Hopefully I’ll run into them again in a future visit. Meanwhile with the core Accounting screens completed, Sage 300c has a solid Web technology base and can move on to really adding to the base we’ve created.
P.S.: Plus the people I was working with took me to Bannerghatta National Park where we went on a Safari and saw lots of tigers, bears, lions and elephants.
The new Sage 300 Home Page provides a nice launching point for running your new Web based Sage 300 Accounting screens. It also provides a Home view where you can choose to display up to six KPIs out of a palette of twelve.
The twelve KPIs give a good selection of things from G/L, A/R and A/P since these are the accounting screens we are including with the first release. Then there will be more KPIs with the second release which includes the I/C, O/E and P/O screens and matching KPIs.
Some people love KPIs, others just find them a nuisance. Using the KPIs is entirely optional, it’s up to you to select what you wish to see. The KPIs are controlled by Sage 300 security, so if you don’t have rights for a KPI, it won’t be available to display.
Many of the KPIs have settings dialogs that you open from the hamburger menu. For instance below is the one for the Account Balances KPI where you choose the five accounts to show the balance for.
You can also edit the title of each KPI. You can re-arrange them on the screen using drag and drop. For KPIs with an associated report, there is another menu item on the hamburger menu that will open the report.
When we developed these, although I couldn’t blog on what we were working on, I did blog on some of the technical aspects that went into how these were implemented using CSQRY and then on caching and calculating these. For this on premise release, we aren’t implementing any of the cloud based technologies that would calculate these for you in the background. Instead we calculated these the first time you access them in a day, and then cache the result for the rest of the day. Most people open and close their browser pretty frequently so we want it to be quick. Of course you can select refresh from a given KPI’s hamburger menu to recalculate the data.
KPIs are a good way to see information relevant to your job quickly when you log in. Often you can use this information to decide what you need to do next, or to just keep your finger on the pulse of your business.
In this article I’m going into a bit more detail on the features in the Home Page for our new Sage 300 Web UIs. This is basically the launching point for our web accounting screens as well as provides a number of KPIs and user assistance.
We are calling this a Home Page rather than a Portal to avoid confusion with the 6.0A Portal, the Partner Portal and all sorts of other Portals. This isn’t meant to be an all-in-one entry point to everything you do on the Web, its very specific to making your use of Sage 300 easier and avoids cluttering it up with all sorts of other things.
Home Page of the Home Page
The main entry point to the Home Page is shown below. You can get to this view at any point by hitting the Home link next to the Sage 300 logo at the top left. This screenshot also shows the “Add Widgets” menu where you select which KPIs you want to see.
When you first start the Home Page or at any time from the Help menu you can run the feature tour that steps you through the main features in the Home Page to get you familiarized.
We refer to the menu where you select the accounting screen to run as the “Mega Menu” due to its size. As you can see it’s arranged in a very similar manner to the current Sage 300 Desktop, so it should be easy for users to find what they need to do. Of course if you are running with security configured (as you should be), then you will only see the items you have access to which greatly reduces the choices to sift through.
Besides using security you can also customize which menu items you don’t want to display in the Home Page. This might be because you want your users to run the VB screen due to existing screen customizations or perhaps to just reduce clutter.
Window Manager and Related Links
The Home Page lets you run up to ten accounting screens at once. There is a Window Manager widget on the right hand side that you use to switch between screens and to close screens you don’t need open anymore. You can slide the Window Manager widget up and down if it’s in the way of something.
Notice on the screen shot below that each screen always displays the group the screen is in along with the screen (a breadcrumb) and some related links along the top, so in this case you can see links for Tax Classes, Tax Groups and Tax Rates. This way usually you can get to where you need to go quickly without using the menu.
We still use the same Sage 300 Crystal Reports that we’ve always used. Only now they are displayed in the Home Page, just like the accounting screens. These will show up in the Window Manager Widget just like any other screen.
Of course there is always help available. Below is a screenshot of the frequently asked questions. There is help for all the accounting screens as well as the Home Page.
This was a quick tour of our new Home Page. There are quite a few usability innovations here, and you can expect quite a few more as we move forwards.
I introduced our new Sage 300 Web UIs, talked about installing them and then discussed security implications. Now the question is that you have hundreds of users and things are starting to run quite slowly, what do you do? Similarly suppose you are all happily using the Web UIs and the web server hardware breaks down or Windows Update kicks in or Windows fails for some other reason? These two problems are quite related since the solution to both is the same, namely adding another Web Server. If you have two Web Servers and one breaks down, then people might run a bit slower since they are all on the remaining server, but at least they keep running. If the Web UIs slow down when there are a certain number of users, then add another web server to distribute the load.
This articles will look at the various issues around adding Web Servers. For the other parts of the system I talked about various techniques here.
Poor Man’s Scaling
Later in the article we’ll talk about automatic failover and automatic ways to distribute load. In this section I just wanted to point out that you can do this manually without requiring any extra configuration, servers or hardware.
Basically just have two Web Servers, each with its own URL (which might just be //servername/sage300) and then just assign which server your users sign on to. You would want each server to have the Sage 300 programs installed locally, but use the same shared data folder and the same databases on the same database server.
Then if one server fails, just send an email to everyone using that server to use the other one. This way it’s pretty easy to add servers, but it’s up to you to distribute your users over the servers and it’s up to you to switch the users from one server to another when one goes down or you want to do maintenance.
Sticky Load Balancer
Ideally we would like to have a pool of Web Servers that are all behind the same URL. Then as users access the URL they will be distributed among the working servers in the pool. If a server fails, this will be automatically detected and it will be removed from the pool.
There are quite a few hardware load balancers on the market, most of which have the “sticky” feature that we require. Sticky means that once a user starts talking to one server, all their traffic will be directed to that same server, unless it fails. For the Sage 300 Web UIs most of the UIs are what are called stateless and don’t require this feature. However we do have a number of stateful UIs that must communicate with the same server to do things like build up an Invoice or other accounting document.
Most load balancers will detect when a server fails (usually by regularly pinging it) and hence remove it from the pool.
Many load balancers also have the feature of decoding HTTPS for you. So you have an HTTPS connection to the load balancer and then an HTTP connection from the load balancer to the Web Server. This improves performance of the Web Server since decoding HTTPS traffic can be quite computationally intensive.
If you are thinking “high availability”, you might want to now ask: what happens if the load balancer fails? In this case you would have two load balancers in an active/passive configuration where the passive will take over if it detects the active one has failed.
You also wouldn’t want all your servers to automatically do Windows Update, otherwise they will all do this at the same time and the whole system will be unavailable during this process. It’s a good idea to take control of when Windows Update happens and to stagger it across your infrastructure.
There are a number of software solutions for load balancing. After all a hardware load balancer is just really a computer with the exact hardware ports required and then runs the load balancer software. One software solution is built into IIS called Application Request Routing (ARR). Here you can have a server in front of your Web server which has ARR configured to know about your pool of servers, have sticky session enabled and off you go.
If you want to make the ARR server HA (Highly Available) you can add a second one. If you have them work in parallel then they need to share a SQL database that you might want to also make HA.
You might want to be highly available across geographic locations. However keep in mind that there is only one SQL database and the location where that is located will work really well, and the other location will probably have terrible performance. Generally for disaster recovery if something catastrophic happens to one location, you would have a second location that you can bring online reasonably quickly and probably involve restoring the SQL Server database from an off-site backup.
Rather than managing all these servers in your own datacenter, you might consider running them all as virtual servers in a Cloud such as AWS or Azure. Here you can create all these servers and configurations fairly easily. You can also add web servers when you need extra capacity and delete a few when you aren’t using them and want to save a bit of money.
There are lots of arguments between running in the cloud versus running in your own data center. These often revolve around data security, data privacy, cost, and the skills needed to maintain the given system. Whichever is right for you, you will still want to make sure you can configure the correct capacity for your needs and that you have the correct level of disaster recovery, failover and backup for your needs.
This was just a quick introduction to how you increase capacity of your Sage 300 Web Servers, along with a quick discussion of High Availability. As in all things, the most deluxe solution will be very expensive and no solution will likely be unacceptable. So you will need to find the correct balance for your business.