Friday, October 12, 2012

CRM 2011: Multiple Cascade Delete – part 2

In my previous post CRM 2011: Multiple Cascade Delete – part 1 I discussed the limitations in relationship behavior configuration for manual intersect entities, and proposed a solution with a plugin and a configuration entity.

In this post I will go into the details of the plugin and how it is registered.

I will not go into the basics of writing a plugin, there are tons of examples out there.
You need to be somewhat familiar with the event execution pipeline in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 and the SDK classes used when developing plugins using late binding.


Consider the following entity model:

Role records should be deleted if either the associated contact or account is deleted, but only one of the relations can be configured with cascade delete. Responsibility records should be deleted if associated Role is deleted.

The goal is to accomplish this through a generic plugin that is configured using a dedicated CRM entity.

Plugin overview

The plugin will contain three main blocks

  1. Configuration cache being loaded on demand and cleared whenever a Cascade Delete rule is being changed.
  2. Pre Validation step to retrieve all child records that should be deleted prior to the parent record being deleted.
  3. Pre Operation step to perform the deletion of retrieved child records.

The reason for separating block 2 and 3 is described in more detail in the previous post.

1. Plugin configuration

I use an EntityCollection as a cache for all Cascade Delete rules defined in the configuration entity (see previous post).

public class CascadeDelete : IPlugin
    private EntityCollection _cascadeDeleteRules = null;

If the plugin is triggered by a change to any of these rules, it should be cleared to force a reload on next delete message from CRM.

if (context.PrimaryEntityName == "jr_cascade_delete" &&
    (context.MessageName == "Create" ||
     context.MessageName == "Update" || 
     context.MessageName == "Delete"))
    tracer.Trace("Cascade Delete rule changed, clearing cache");
    _cascadeDeleteRules = null;

When the plugin is triggered by an entity being deleted, the cache is loaded if it has not already been loaded.

if (_cascadeDeleteRules == null)
    QueryByAttribute query = new QueryByAttribute("jr_cascade_delete");
    query.AddAttributeValue("statecode", 0);
    query.ColumnSet = new ColumnSet("jr_parent_entity", "jr_child_entity", "jr_lookup_attribute");
    _cascadeDeleteRules = service.RetrieveMultiple(query);

2. Pre Validation – Retrieve children to delete

In this block, all rules in the cache will be examined to determine for each rule if it is applicable to the (parent) entity being deleted.

EntityCollection RecordsToDelete = new EntityCollection();
foreach (Entity rule in _cascadeDeleteRules.Entities)
    string parent = (string)rule["jr_parent_entity"];
    string child = (string)rule["jr_child_entity"];
    string attribute = (string)rule["jr_lookup_attribute"];
    tracer.Trace("Relation: {0} {1} {2}", parent, child, attribute);
    if (parent == context.PrimaryEntityName)

The collection RecordsToDelete is used to contain all child records, regardless of child entity type, that shall be deleted according to all applicable rules.

This list is populated from the child entities defined in the rules in this way.

QueryByAttribute qba = new QueryByAttribute(child);
qba.AddAttributeValue(attribute, context.PrimaryEntityId);
EntityCollection relatingEntities = service.RetrieveMultiple(qba);
tracer.Trace("Found {0} {1} to delete", relatingEntities.Entities.Count, child);

After iterating through all rules, the collection of child records to delete is added to the SharedVariables collection of the context.

if (RecordsToDelete.Entities.Count > 0)
    tracer.Trace("Adding total of {0} records to delete to SharedVariables", RecordsToDelete.Entities.Count);
    context.SharedVariables.Add(sharedVarName, RecordsToDelete);

The sharedVarName variable is defined based on entityname and id of the record being deleted.

3. Pre Operation – Delete children

This block is quite straightforward. If there is a collection of entities in the SharedVariables; delete them one by one.

if (context.ParentContext != null && context.ParentContext.SharedVariables != null && context.ParentContext.SharedVariables.Contains(sharedVarName))
    EntityCollection RecordsToDelete = (EntityCollection)context.ParentContext.SharedVariables[sharedVarName];
    tracer.Trace("Found {0} records to delete", RecordsToDelete.Entities.Count);
    foreach (Entity relatingEntity in RecordsToDelete.Entities)
        tracer.Trace("Deleting {0} {1}", relatingEntity.LogicalName, relatingEntity.Id);
            service.Delete(childEntity.LogicalName, childEntity.Id);
        catch (Exception ex)
            tracer.Trace("Delete failed: {0}", ex.Message);

As described in the SharedVariables documentation, objects placed there in stage 10 must be accessed from the ParentContext in stage 20.

Note that these cascaded deletes will also trigger the Cascade Delete plugin and possibly a new chain of deletes, depending on how the Cascade Delete rules have been defined. Deletes being executed as a result of relationships defined with Parental behavior will also trigger the plugin. In the example model above, the parental relation between account and contact will trigger the role records to be deleted from "both directions".

The unconditional catch at the end of the code block above is just a simple safety precaution to handle cases where a child identified to be subject to a cascade delete rule has been deleted by other parental relationship behavior when this code segment is reached.

Download Solution

If you like the functionality of this plugin, but don't really feel like implementing your own version of it – you can download a complete managed solution HERE.

It is possible to configure a combination of native parental relationship behavior and cascade delete rules in this solution which together may cause a recursive effect that can produce sql deadlocks. As all deletes are executed within the original delete transaction, this problem will not result in any inconsistent data.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

CRM 2011: Multiple Cascade Delete – part 1

As I have recently mentioned, the possibilities of defining cascade deletes in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 are quite limited. Only one parent entity can have the relationship behavior set to Cascade Delete. When you create a manual intersect entity to connect two or more other entities, this constraint is simply not acceptable for the end users.


Consider this classic scenario:

Instead of just associating contacts with a parent account, you want to be able to define a more dynamic model.AccountContactThis could be accomplished using Connections and Connection Roles, but that too has a number of pros and cons, which I will not go into in this article.

When creating the relations to the Role entity, only one of them (i.e. either the relation to Account, Contact or Function) can be defined with cascade delete. What you would like here is to specify Cascade for both Account and Contact, and Remove Link for Function.

When using a manual intersect entity as in this example, the Role object will loose all meaning if either the associated Contact or the associated Account is deleted, thus the Role should of course be deleted in both cases.

To solve this, I will create a plugin which can be configured to perform the cascade behavior where it is not possible to do it by customizations only.

Relationship Behavior

First a few notes about the different types of relationship behavior during delete.

The Restrict behavior verifies if there are any existing associating records before stage 20 (Pre Operation). So this behavior cannot be used, as we want to perform our configured plugin delete within the triggering transaction to ensure proper rollback behavior.

The Cascade behavior can only be defined for one relationship, which in this case will be to the Contact entity.

The Remove Link behavior will leave the child records in CRM, which is possible as the relationship attribute will be nulled by CRM between stage 10 and 20. Using this behavior alone would leave Roles defining e.g. that "Jonas has function Consultant at company null" when deleting accounts.

Objective and Configuration

A plugin shall delete children of a parent record that is being deleted.

To specify which relationships that shall invoke this function, I use a configuration entity in CRM.CascadeDeleteDefinition3 It is also possible to pass the configuration as parameters to the plugin constructor, but then you have to enter the configuration in the step registrations, which is not very user friendly to the sysadmin.

The operation shall be performed in stage 20 (Pre Operation) as it will then be within the transaction of the triggering delete, and the children will be deleted before the parent record is actually removed from the database.

As the lookup attributes are nulled before stage 20 of the event execution pipeline, the plugin will retrieve a list of the children to delete in stage 10. This list is passed to the plugin triggered in stage 20 within the context's SharedVariables.

To improve performance, a cache of Cascade Delete configurations is maintained in the plugin class. If a configuration record is created, updated or deleted, the cache will be cleared.


In the next post I will demonstrate and explain the code in the plugin, and also provide a complete solution for deploying multiple cascade delete in your Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

CRM Plugins: Retrieve children during Delete

Tip of the day!

If you want to write a plugin that needs to read children of a record being deleted – this must be done in the Pre Validation stage.

Why is that?

For 1:N relations with Delete Behavior: Remove Link, the lookup to the parent being deleted is set to null somewhere between stage 10 (Pre Validation) and 20 (Pre Operation), but inside the transaction of the primary record deletion.


So if trying to retrieve the children in any stage after Pre Validation you will not get any results, as they all have a not-yet-committed update transaction where the relation is nulled.

Why on earth should I care?

You might agree with me that the constraints regarding cascade behavior on relationships do not quite fulfill the needs that are quite common when creating manual N:N relations.

I will publish some tricks to generically cascade delete from several parents to a manual intersect entity in an article soon to come. Stay tuned!

Unfamiliar with native / manual N:N relations? See Richard Knudson's excellent article on this topic.