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Salesforce Lightning Connect – Integrate and Access Data from External Data Sources. Lightning Fast!!

Salesforce1 Lightning Experience

Salesforce lightning is the latest version of the Salesforce1 platform, but it is not new. Every customer that is using Salesforce1 is using lightning right now. It brings a new framework that offers the ability to build apps across devices using components. Building apps is now faster and easier than ever before.

Salesforce lightning solves the business – developer divide by providing a suite of tools designed to streamline the development of modern apps by allowing developers and non-developers to work together.

Most prominent components of lightning are:

  • Lightning Connect – It allows you to connect to existing OData data sources such as SAP, SQL Server etc.
  • Process Builder – It allows you to streamline workflows and business processes using an enhanced, effective and user friendly UI.
  • App Builder – It allows you to create custom mobile apps, without a single line of code using point and click configurations.
  • Component Framework – It enables you to extend every part of the Salesforce interface, and create entirely new experience with a powerful component-based framework for developers.

Let’s take a closer look at Lightning Connect as part of the sections that follows.

Lightning Connect

In a large organization if there is a need for using more than one system to manage data, it became a development nightmare to bring the systems together. Not to mention maintaining multiple connections and data consistency between two systems, middlewares (if any) and still keeping it under the governor limits.

Salesforce Lighting connect lets you overcome this limitation by using the global standard OData protocol.

With external objects (which are like an actual object in Salesforce, but is ReadOnly) you can connect and integrate to an external data source like SAP or any other database that uses OData protocol or a simple URL.

You can view, search, and modify data that is stored outside your Salesforce organization using the same force.com constructs (SOQL, Apex, Visualforce, etc.) that are used with Salesforce objects. What this means is you can have orders in SAP and customer Data in Salesforce. Both will be connected together and you can use it with very less or actually no effort.

Traditionally, it was recommended to import or copy data into your Salesforce organization to let your users access that data.  ETL (extract, transform, and load) tools Or API Integrations were used to copy that data into Salesforce which would soon become stale due to non-regular updates and also occupy expensive storage in Salesforce.

Now in contrast, Lightning Connect maps Salesforce external objects to data tables in external systems. Instead of copying the data into your organization, Lightning Connect accesses the data on demand and in real time. The data is never stale, and you access only what you need.

When to use Lightning Connect

Use of Lightning Connect is recommended when:

  • You have a large amount of data that you don’t want to copy into your Salesforce organization.
  • You need small amounts of data at any one time.
  • You want real-time access to the latest data.

Why to use Lightning Connect

It connects using the open ODATA standard to pull data from any source which supports OData.

  • It’s Fast – It lets you seamlessly access data from external sources, side-by-side with your Salesforce data. Integration is completely code-free, allowing any user to quickly connect data with just a few point and clicks and not spend months on integration.
  • Data is Real Time – Data Access is On-demand and real time, that is, data can be pulled from legacy systems such as SAP, Microsoft and Oracle in real time, without making a copy of the data within Salesforce. With Lightning Connect, business users gain access to up-to-date information, so they can get on with running their business, and IT can stop managing multiple complex data integration projects.
  • It’s Extensible: Lightning Connect unbinds the full power of the Salesforce1 Platform and makes it easy to use data that is outside of Salesforce and consider it as it is in Salesforce. Users can search across external data, use it in Visualforce and Apex code to build custom apps, and relate it to customer data within Salesforce. It allows to view external data side-by-side with existing Salesforce objects.

External Data Sources supported

Any Data Source that can publish data in Open Data (OData) 2.0 protocol is supported. Some of the well-known examples are:

Commercial Packages like:

  • SAP Netweaver Gateway
  • Microsoft SQL Server
  • Dynamics CRM/NAV
  • Azure Table Services
  • IBM Websphere exTreme Scale

DIY Data Producers like:

  • .Net WCF Data Services
  • Java (Apache Olingo, odata4j)
  • NodeJS

Many more via partners like:

  • Dell Boomi
  • Informatica
  • Jitterbit
  • MuleSoft
  • Progress
  • SoftwareAG

Alok Khandelwal

Alok is Technology Head at Sailfin with primary focus on Salesforce.com services ecosystem along with other cloud technologies. He has over 13 years of dynamic experience in designing and spearheading the development of various enterprise products and solutions.

He has conceptualized and designed several products and implementations in his current and past roles and has vast experience in domains like Financial Risk Assessment, Medical Alarms, Healthcare Services, Publishing, Energy Trading and Risk Management (ETRM), Audio Conferencing/Telecom and IT Consolidation.

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