Ninja Snacks Tales From the Enterprise

Unlocking the Key in Navision So We Can Apply CQRS

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The Soap Box Part

We've heard this before, but it bears repeating: CQRS is not just for greenfield event-sourced ddd systems. It can apply to crappy brownfield systems too. It may even have more relevance there.

Let's take the penultimate brownfield system, an ERP system. In particular, Navision. Navision has a fantastic interface for interacting with it (snipped for brevity):

public interface SalesPrice_Port
{
    Read_Result Read(Read request);
    ReadMultiple_Result ReadMultiple(ReadMultiple request);
    Create_Result Create(Create request);
    Update_Result Update(Update request);
    Delete_Result Delete(Delete request);
}

In other words, a 100% behavior free SQL-like interface that isn't sql because you have Create / Read instead of INSERT / SELECT. Yup. In addition to the obvious computing cost of serialization/deserialization, http, etc, there's a hidden mental cost as well:

var result = salesPricePort.ReadMultiple(new ReadMultiple
{
    filter = new[]
    {
        new SalesPrice_Filter
        {
            Field = SalesPrice_Fields.Sales_Type, Criteria = "Customer"
        },
        new SalesPrice_Filter
        {
            Field = SalesPrice_Fields.Sales_Code, Criteria = customerNumber
        },
        new SalesPrice_Filter
        {
            Field = SalesPrice_Fields.Item_No, Criteria = itemNumber
        },
        new SalesPrice_Filter
        {
            Field = SalesPrice_Fields.Variant_Code, Criteria = variant
        },
        new SalesPrice_Filter
        {
            Field = SalesPrice_Fields.Ending_Date, Criteria = null
        },
        new SalesPrice_Filter
        {
            Field = SalesPrice_Fields.Unit_of_Measure_Code, Criteria = Constants.UnitsOfMeasure.Pieces
        }
    }
});

Here's where CQRS fits into this. While suboptimal, the web service interface is good enough for creating / changing records. Most of the time we will either be a) hiding navision behind a much better UI that only exposes the fields that matter to the business or b) changing records based on an event coming in from another system, e.g. PricingAttemptAccepted.

The webservice interface is terrible for reading records. Good luck if you want to aggregate information. SQL is a much better fit for querying here. It also looks nicer too. Here's the same query in Simple.Data:

var navision = NavisionDatabase.OpenNamedConnection("navision");

var prices = navision.SalesPrices;

var result = prices.All.Where(prices.SalesType == "Customer" 
    && prices.SalesCode == customerNumber 
    && prices.ItemNumber == itemNumber 
    && prices.VariantCode == variant
    && prices.EndingDate == null
    && prices.UnitOfMeasureCode == Constants.UnitsOfMeasure.Pieces);

This works just fine most of the time. Until you need to read before updating. Navision web services have this concept of a Key - you send the Key you get with a Read request with any subsequent Update or Delete requests, presumably as a form of concurreny control. Which is dumb because you already have  most of the Key information. All you need is the timestamp.

The Fixing it Part

From what I can tell so far, the Key is based on what would be the primary key in the table, the timestamp, and some voodoo. Let's take a relatively simple record type, Item. Item has only it's number as the PK, a code[20]. Other record types, such as SalePrice, have far more columns.

{
    "No_": "ATAT1001",
    "timestamp": "0x000000002F5736A6"
}

Invoking the Navision web service gives the Key as 20;GwAAAACJ/0FUQVQxMDAx9;7942447740;. It seems to be

{Length of Base 64 Part};{Base 64 Encoded Stuff}9;{Timestamp}0;

AFAICT the 9; and 0; are just formatting garbage. Now, let's decode the string:

{
    Decoded: [ "1b", "0", "0", "0", "0", "89", "ff", "41", "54", "41", "54", "31", "30", "30", "31" ]
}

Ok, now I'm making progress! 1b is 27 in decimal. I know that the Item table is program 27. So the first 5 bytes seem to be the table number, little-endian. Also, 41-54-41-54-31-30-30-31 is just ATAT1001. Awesome! That just leaves 89-ff, I can't figure that out yet. I'll leave that for another post.

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