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Announcing the public preview for connection references support in Power Platform Build Tools

Headshot of article author Kartik Kanakasabesan (HE/HIM)

We are happy to announce the July refresh for the Power Platform Build tools and the Public Preview for the connection references and environment variable support in the Power Platform Build Tools and PAC CLI. But before we get into the details of the Public Preview, I also want to share some of the other notable changes we have done in this refresh:

  • Solution pack and unpack now available in the PAC CLI and is multi-platform
  • pac auth create now has interactive login on both macOS and Linux
  • pac plugin init now generates the strong-name key without needing Visual Studio or Visual Studio command line tools to generate the strong-name key file. Strong-name key files are important to the plugin development process, as the assemblies after being built are already signed and can registered and uploaded via the Plugin registration tool. This process of building plug-ins is further simplified.

In addition to these features, we are happy to announce the public preview of being able to set connection references and environment variables by providing a deployment settings file. We know a lot of customers having been asking for this capability, so without further ado, here are the details of this new capability.

Connection references and environment variables support: Public Preview

Figure 1: Connection references and Environment variables

Connector is the interface used by the Power Platform Application to connect with a data source, and the connection contains the identity or the means with which the connector can get to the data.

Connection reference is a value that binds together the connector and connection details with a given application that needs to move from a source environment to a target environment.  This experience is straight forward in the interactive UI, and we were asked by customers like yourselves to provide such a capability or something similar to use with automated pipelines. Well, are now one step closer to providing such a capability via the CI/CD.  To be clear the public preview capability does not create the connection id in the target environment, it must be manually created, once the values are in the file, then the CI/CD pipeline can proceed as normal with the solution deployment.

In the anticipation of the coming update to command line, we released the following update to the import task in Power Platform Build tools for Azure DevOps

Figure 2: Deployment settings file option

For the PAC CLI we provided the action called create-settings in the solution command

Figure 3: Setting options

Initially, when using the create the settings files parameter, a developer had to “handcraft the json file. In this release for the public preview we are now providing the capability to generate a good majority of the json file using the command pac solution create-settings and the command will accept the solution zip file or the folder structure of a pac solution clone output and generate the deployment settings files from it.

Figure 4: Example of the deployment settings file

The developer still must update the ConnectionId value from the target environment, where the connection reference needs to be created.  This now allows for smoother transition to using CI/CD pipelines to create connection references and environment variables in the target environment. For more details on the setup and command usage please look at the documentation pages at the following locations:

Please try it out and gives feedback at @ ISVFeedback@microsoft.com or in the Powerusers community