The Case of the Missing Power Apps Environment

Tim de Boer
Posted by
Tim de Boer
February 1, 2024

Learn how to avoid a common mistake that could leave you with a production environment you can’t deploy to!

At Interfuze we find ourselves regularly working in the Health sector. In my experience working with health, I've found that best practice is critical to maintaining industry compliance and protecting important patient data. It’s true for the big apps, but equally true for smaller apps like those produced through Microsoft’s Power Platform.  

MS Power Apps Solutions for Healthcare  

I've seen firsthand how MS Power Apps has become a significant tool in the healthcare sector. It's no code/low code approach enables healthcare professionals to create their own applications swiftly and safely. This has become increasingly relevant with the growing adoption of Power Apps in various Office365 subscriptions.  

The Opportunity

One of our health care clients had a system in place to synchronise two distinct line of business systems using Power Automate. With these HR systems synchronised there was an opportunity to reduce the volume of data they were storing. In this case, the database did not need to store historical data indefinitely. By deleting data entries older than 30 days system efficiency could be maintained and the monthly cost of the database reduced. However, a significant challenge arose at this stage with one of the development environments.

The Challenge – a Missing Development Environment  

When we started this new database trim project, I quickly noticed that an unmanaged development environment involved in the system sync was missing. This meant we had lost the ability to deploy to production.

After a thorough investigation and tracing back through other development work, I realised that the Power Platform dev environment did, in fact, previously exist but had been deleted automatically due to it being inactive.  

This situation can be common as there are six types of environments in Power Platform – Default, Trial, Production, Sandbox and Developer – and documentation on choosing the right environment can be unclear.  

In fact, Microsoft even recommends the use of developer environments to reduce duplicate license fees on the one project due to them not counting towards licensing. What can be easily missed unfortunately, is the effect of the environment expiring if inactive for 90 days. A notification email should be automatically sent to Power Platform Admins and environment owners when a developer environment is expiring soon as a safeguard, but we could find no evidence of the admins receiving such an email.  

This put us in a position where we were unable to deploy to production. To explain let’s first set some context...

A Little context

There are two types of solutions - managed, and unmanaged.  

Unmanaged solutions are where the development happens before they are packaged up into a safe managed solution.  

The managed solution is then imported into Test/Production to be run in a stable environment. Managed solutions, however, cannot be converted back to unmanaged, as such, with a missing development environment, we are now stuck with a version that is not editable, and no way to deploy other solutions or add enhancements to the Power Platform capability that was initially built.    

Implications and Solutions for a Missing Development Environment  

Losing a development environment in the Power Platform can be significant, especially if it contains the latest unmanaged solutions. Without this environment, it is not possible to deploy the managed version of the solution.

It is also not possible to restore a development environment if it was deleted more than 14 days ago. What is possible however, is the time-consuming process of cloning individual components and then reassembling them into an unmanaged solution.

With this complete I then packaged and exported this unmanaged solution to a new development environment, and to ensure this environment remains, a sandbox environment was created for use as the development environment.  

As a precaution against this happening again, a Power Pipeline Application was installed into the tenancy. The pipeline app supports safer migration of solutions and keeps a copy of each solution that is deployed using it, ensuring there is always an unmanaged version available.

Finally, to avoid future loss of solutions from deletion of development environments, the Power Apps team and I created and shared a rigorous checklist for installing and managing this application.  

By doing this, we underscored the importance in using the available safety measures provided and following the best software development practices.  

Get in touch for MS Power Platform support  

Business Teams: If you have an Office 365 subscription, you are one click away from building your first Power App. Request a thirty-minute Teams call with one of our consultants to see how quickly you can get your first Power App up and running.  

IT Teams: Request a thirty-minute Teams call with one of our consultants to see how you can grow a safe and efficient Power Apps ecosystem for your end users.

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