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Guest Post: Sumit Sarkar is a systems engineer at Progress Software new to developing on the Salesforce platform.  He has presented four Dreamforce sessions on data connectivity across industry data standards such as ODBC, JDBC, and OData.

Sumit Sarkar on Lightning Connect Lightning Connect, which was introduced in Winter ’15, offers new data-integration capability, and provides access to data from external sources with point-and-click simplicity. Now you can incorporate data from systems such as SAP and Microsoft SharePoint in real-time as External Objects, dramatically reducing integration time to unlock and modernize back-office systems.

External Objects provide a live connection to external data sources so your data is always up to date, how you can access them the same way as Standard and Custom Objects in list views, detail pages, record feeds, Apex and Visualforce, and create relationships between External Objects and Standard or Custom Objects to seamlessly integrate legacy data.

I decided to chronicle the first-hand experiences of a citizen developer–me–in an article featured on Salesforce Developers entitled Building a Data Integration Proof of Concept Using Lightning Connect. The article chronicles my experiences connecting my organization’s Sales Cloud with on-premise corporate business systems to create related lists of invoices grouped by account, and accessed in real-time.  Prior to Lightning Connect, this seemingly simple task was well beyond the scope of Salesforce developers and admins. I was even able to do most of it over gogo wifi from RDU to SFO which is pretty amazing for a data integration project of this scope.  You’ll find the results in my article, External Objects in Lightning Connect.

The article provides a log of my experience while walking through a typical project using point-and-click configuration from end to end.  The log includes time spent performing each task and the level of difficult in executing it. My external data source was connected using DataDirect Cloud, as suggested by our Salesforce Account Team. These integration experiences will likely apply to any corporate business systems or databases. From talking to folks at my local Salesforce User and Developer Groups, popular data sources include Oracle EBS, JDEdwards, Microsoft SQL Server, SAP, Siebel, Peoplesoft, and QAD, Banner.

The steps I chronicle each day include:

  • Requesting Connection Information for POC
  • Data Model Relationship Planning
  • Getting Started with Developer and Trial Accounts
  • Building Related Lists in Developer Sandbox
  • Migrating the POC From Development to Sandbox
  • Show and Tell – Demoing the POC

Key Takeaways

In working  with Lightning Connect, I now view the Lightning Components in a new light. The new Lightning Process Builder introduced in Spring ’15 completes the circle on reusable components.  External Objects provides almost unlimited access to data. The features of Lightning Connect got the attention of key leaders in my company, making me look like an expert on the latest technologies (even though I don’t really know anything).  My presentation was featured in a Quarterly Business Review and have demos lined up to IT and SalesOps leadership, and even our CTO recognizes my name now.

Ultimately, this has been a great experience for me as a citizen developer to collaborate with other business units.  And it’s really exciting that data integration can be self-service and point-and-click in the spirit of the Salesforce platform.  This means the Salesforce devs and IT professionals can take their innovation to the next level without having to spend grueling sprints on data integration.


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