What is Microsoft's Dataflex and how does it tie in with Teams?

Dataflex and Dataflex Pro are all about further integrating Microsoft's low-code/no-code Power Platform tools with Teams and Dynamics 365.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor
Credit: Jukka Niiranen

Microsoft's year of rebranding anything and everything is continuing. The new brand of the week is "Dataflex," which is relevant to those working with Microsoft's Power Platform and its Teams group-collaboration platform.

"With the introduction of Microsoft Dataflex, Teams expands from the hub for teamwork to the hub of all work," said Microsoft Corporate Vice President Alysa Taylor in one Microsoft blog post that mentioned the new brand, posted on July 21, the opening day of the Inspire partner conference. 

What is Dataflex?

One Microsoft post called Dataflex "a new low-code data platform for Microsoft Teams," and said it provides relational data storage, rich data types, enterprise-grade governance, and one-click solution deployment. Dataflex is for those building apps and chatbots in Teams with Power Apps and Power Virtual Agents, officials said. 

Microsoft officials described Dataflex as being built atop the Common Data Service and as the new name for the Common Data Service.

Why the confusion? 

For one, the history of CDS is equally muddled. Plus, the Dynamics 365 team is prone to changing names and licensing models at will.

When Microsoft first launched Dynamics 365 in 2016, Microsoft officials talked about its new CRM/ERP platform being built on the Common Data Model (CDM). Officials called CDM the business database for storing and managing business entities. 

Subsequently, Microsoft execs starting using "Common Data Service," rather than CDM to explain the underlying guts of Dynamics 365. Officials began talking about a Common Data Service for Apps and a Common Data Service for Analytics -- neither of which were actually built on top of the original Common Data Service. CDS for Analytics ended up rebranded as Power BI Dataflows, leaving only the CDS for Apps as the one true CDS.

How does this tie in with Teams?

Cut to Inspire this week. Dataflex now is the official name for CDS in Teams. And Dataflex Pro is the new name for the CDS itself. 

Dataflex will be bundled for no additional charge with every Office 365 and Microsoft 365 subscription that includes the right to use Teams, said Microsoft Most Valuable Professional and Forward Forever Power Platform Advisor Jukka Niiranen. And users who have licensed Power Apps will be able to use Dataflex Pro for no additional charge, Microsoft officials said.

"Microsoft Dataflex is the logical next step in democratizing the app building and process automation tools in Power Platform. The version included with Microsoft Teams is aimed at new app makers who want to solve business problems for their own teams, for whom the organization level admin and development capabilities in the full Dataflex Pro might be overkill," Niiranen explained.

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