C/AL vs AL: worth the leap

Did you know that Business Central works with AL code as opposed to C/AL, and that this has an influence on the customisation of your ERP software? We briefly explain the differences between both.

Switching from Microsoft Dynamics Navision (NAV) to Business Central? That does not only imply a fresher and intuitive interface, but also a completely different way of coding.


Why change base code?

Before we discuss the differences between C/AL and AL, it's important to understand why Microsoft thought it was about time for a major change. Flexibility that allowed the development of C/AL, also created a number of upgradeability challenges.

If you're writing code that changes the way a system works, when it's time to upgrade, you should make sure that code will also work in the new version. This takes time and effort, and is a major reason many customers remain loyal to older versions of NAV.


AL solves this obstacle:

The solution AL offers is simple, and better known as the idea of 'apps'. Previously, in C/AL, all code changes were made at the core of the system. We can think of this core as one code base that is difficult to penetrate. However, in AL, all code is contained in chunks we can see as as apps.

So, Microsoft's standard Business Central code, is basically an app, and any code you write is published in the system in one or more apps. This way, if you want to upgrade the core Business Central app, you can do it without affecting the other custom code. It's all neatly compartmentalized.


Benefits of AL code in Business Central

With AL, Microsoft has found a way to enhance one of the strengths of the NAV product, reduce the cost of future upgrades, and enable freedom of choice in implementation.

There are two main ways these apps can interact with each other. The first way is through a mechanism called Events. These are places in the code where the system sends a signal. Any app that listens to that signal can tell the system to run any code.

For example, an event can be triggered when you enter the item number on a sales order. An app can then subscribe to that event, so that once you enter a value, it can run a code to check for promotional prices for that item. This means you don't need to add code to the Sales Line table (as you would before), instead your code is neatly segmented in its own app.

The second way these apps can communicate with each other is through a new set of objects introduced in AL as Extension object type. Let's say you want to add a field to the customer table and card so that you can identify them as a VIP customer.

In C/AL you immediately add the field to the customer table and customer card, but in AL you can write an app with two new objects. The first object type has a TableExtension, here you could just add a few lines of code to describe the field you want to add. The second object type has a PageExtension, and again you just describe the change you want to make on the Loyalty Card page, in this example adding the new field.

When integrated, the app will automatically make the changes to the table and page that describe these objects.

The result of developing this way is that your new custom app barely depends on the app you're expanding.

The development of your custom ERP solutions is therefore flexible and obvious. Many extensions and applications are also accessible thanks to the AppSource. Business Central also integrates easily with other Microsoft solutions and non-Microsoft applications. Microsoft also provides regular updates that keep the platform fully up-to-speed with the dynamic environment of your company. Thanks to AL, these updates are also easy, without disrupting the daily work rhythm.


Data migration from C/AL to AL or Navision to Business central.

AL coding is the future, and so is Business Central. But how can you safely and easily migrate your data from, for example, NAV (Navision) to Business Central. Data migration must be carefully analysed and evaluated. Moving data from an old C/AL based solution to a more modern AL solution is not an easy job or simply converting the code. But it is certainly the right time to take a critical look at the old solution and design the new solution according to the needs of your company. In short, completely reconsidered, but also completely personalised.

Would you like to switch flawlessly from Microsoft Dynamics NAV to Business Central? Ask our experienced Drink-IT consultants for advice. Are you ready for an effortless data migration and development of your ERP application?


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