Deploying and Designing A Modern PowerApps Portal

Caroline Mayou

Caroline Mayou

The Microsoft Dynamics AX/D365 Support Team at Avantiico is focused on solving our client’s problems, from daily issues to large and more complex problems.

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The modern PowerApps Portal allows an organization to put up a stand-alone website that can target a wide range of user-types. The beauty of a Power Apps Portal is the ability to securely target an authenticated user, and the flexibility of being able to target anonymous users, all in the same product. Along with this versatility, Power Apps portals offer a low code Portal Editor whose interface is incredibly user friendly. This allows for your organization’s portal to be customized and maintained by business proffesionals with little to no developer experience. The other major advantage of creating a portal, is around topic of data. Since the data is all stored in Common Data Service (CDS), it’s centralized and available at your convenience without messy connectors. 

New Power Apps Portal Architecture

Power Apps Portals are built on top of Common Data Service (CDS), meaning, if you don’t currently have an environment with a CDS database, you won’t be able to provision a Power Apps Starter Portal. It’s also important to note that as of late, there can only be one portal of each type and for a language created in an environment. So, let’s take a step back for a moment and take a broader look at the Microsoft Power Platform as an ecosystem. 

Microsoft Power Platform With Connectors
Microsoft's Power Platform Ecosystem

We know that on the Microsoft Power Platform there are three solutions (Power BI, Power Apps, and Power Automate) that all work together sharing data that is stored in Common Data Service. We can then use data connectors to connect to our Dynamics 365 apps, or to a database (CDS). So as we dig into Power Apps Portals, I want you to keep the image above in mind as it relates specifically to Common Data Service.

Now let’s talk about Power Apps Portals and the architecture and its ability to “connect”. We can only provision one portal typer per Power Apps Environment, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot connect that environment to another database. However, as mentioned above, anytime you need to provision a new starter portal, you’ll need to first create a new environment. 

Note: Remember that when portals existed as add-ins in Dynamics 365, the structure was referred to as ADX. So if you come across this prefix on certain items, it’s referring to the legacy structure.

The graphic above only centers in on a portal inside of a Power Apps Environment. But Power Apps can also connect to other databases or data sources. For example, we could connect in Power BI, or Power Automate. 

Licensing Around Power Apps Portals

When Microsoft launched Power Apps Portals in October of 2019, they also made the decision to begin referring to Dynamics 365 Portals (legacy version portals) as Power Apps portals as well. One of the major changes that accompanied the naming convention decision was the revamping of the licensing model. In the past, Dynamics 365 Portals were licensed as add-ons to the Dynamics 365 applications. Certain Dynamics 365 application licenses included a default add-on Portal. however, with the October 2019 announcement of Power Apps Portals, Microsoft changed licensing to be based on usage. 

If you are just now deploying a Power Apps portal, this won’t make a difference for you. However, if you have existing Dynamics 365 Portal, you can expect to go through a transition period that will be based on your current contract. Once this expires, you will be converted to the new licensing model. Microsoft has recently granted an extension to December 31st, 2020- due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Before diving into the new usage model, I want to give you a visual overview of the general licensing changes. 

To summarize, the provisioning method is completely different for portals with capacity-based licenses than for add-on based licenses. The steps you take will be different. Today’s blog post is focused on creating a CDS starter portal.

Now that we have an overview of the changes, let’s dive into the new usage model. The new usage licensing model is based on persona-types that access the portal. A different licensing usage model exists for each persona that Microsoft has pre-determined. They are essentially split into External Users, Authenticated Users and Anonymous Users. What do I mean by an authenticated user versus an anonymous user? I mean that an organization could use one PowerApps Portal to target existing customers, or maybe vendors that current exist in your system, and/or target completely anonymous users (that don’t currently engage with your organization). The authenticated users can register through connectors like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc., and then populate through to your system. You could also manually set up an authenticated user through AAD (Azure Active Directory). Here is a basic graphics showing the User Types and their appropriated Licensing Usage Model.

When looking at the ‘per login’ usage model, it’s important to understand the definition of a ‘login’. A log-in can be defined as a sort of “day pass” to the portal. If the external user has already logged into the portal once, log-ins for the rest of that day (24-hour period) will not be billed. It is also important to note that log-ins are specific to portals. So your subsequent log-ins to other portals, even if residing in the same tenant, would be counted an individual logins per portal. 

Provision Power Apps Portal

I’ll be walking you through the steps of provisioning a starter portal in an existing environment. If you have not yet created an environment, or would like to work out of a new environment, please create it now. Keep in mind that depending on the environment you select in Power Apps, you can create a CDS starter portal, or a portal in an environment that contains model-driven applications that are a part of Dynamics 365. 

1). The first thing we’re going to do is sign into PowerApps by going to to make.powerapps.com 

2). Under Make Your Own App, click on Portal from blank

3). At this point you will be prompted to select an environment or create a new one. Enter in a name for your portal and give it a URL and a language preference. When you’re finished filling the information out, select Create to provision the new starter portal. you may have a little bit of time on your hands at this point in the provisioning process. The status of the portal will be display in notifications or in the application grid. Once successful, the status will be udpated. 

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