SharePoint Gets Its Own iBOLT for ERP Integration
February 16, 2010 Alex Woodie
An explosion in Microsoft SharePoint installations across the land has IT administrators scrambling for solutions to get the suddenly popular Web-based collaboration tool under corporate control. One of the vendors offering solutions is Magic Software, which says the new special edition of its iBOLT integration suite, due next month, will drastically cut the amount of manual coding needed to feed data from ERP systems, such as JD Edwards, into SharePoint.
Microsoft SharePoint consists of two products, including Windows SharePoint Services, which is included with Windows Server licenses, and Office SharePoint Server, a separately licensed product that adds a range of Web-based document management, collaboration, search, reporting, Web portal, and social networking capabilities. Installations of Office SharePoint Server are growing at an annual rate of 25 percent, according to a report last year from the Radicati Group, and the upcoming release of Office SharePoint Server 2010 may spur more interest in the suddenly popular application.
The SharePoint phenomenon has caught IT administrators off guard, on several fronts. For starters, there’s the matter of balancing the demands of security with the opposing need to share information, which goes to the heart of SharePoint. And as organizations rely more on SharePoint, administrators are finding shortfalls in data protection.
Then there’s the matter of integrating SharePoint with other applications found in the corporate data center. While Microsoft provides a set of Web services-based interfaces for hooking into Office SharePoint Server (the Windows SharePoint Services that ship with Windows server), it doesn’t alleviate the complexity of enterprise-level integration, says Glenn Johnson, senior vice president of marketing with Irvine, California-based Magic Software Americas, a subsidiary of Magic Software Enterprises.
“[SharePoint integration] seems to be a very big requirement right now for a lot of companies,” Johnson says. “I think the reason for that is SharePoint crept up on a lot of IT departments in that it often was brought in and sponsored by line of business manager and the integration issues were not really dealt with in the beginning. Now that SharePoint has established itself as an ongoing presence in these organizations, they’re realizing their enterprise systems need to be integrated.”
The good news for IT pros, according to Johnson, is that SharePoint is a fairly open platform with a lot of defined integration points and Web services. “The ability to integrate with SharePoint is definitely there,” he says. The bad news, he says, is that integrating with SharePoint often requires expertise in Web services and a lot of manual coding. “There’s no mystery about it really. It just takes a lot of brute strength and brute force to program all that. It gets very, very tedious.”
According to Johnson, integrating one database field from an enterprise system into a SharePoint application required writing 91 lines of code in the SharePoint Designer. This could be a deal-breaker for System i shops that employ RPG talent to keep an i/OS-based ERP system afloat, but lack the expertise in Web services technology that application-level integration with SharePoint demands.
This market need led Magic to develop a special version of iBOLT, which is due out at the end of March. The special edition of iBOLT will allow organization to hook SharePoint applications into enterprise data sources through a configuration paradigm, as opposed to writing low-level code. This will allow a business analyst to map database fields from ERP applications into SharePoint using drag-and-drop motions in iBOLT’s graphical editors.
“Rather than writing the Web services code to integrate, say, RPG from JD Edwards World, you now have the ability with iBOLT to directly address SharePoint Web services at an application level,” Johnson says. “So you can determine which fields you want to map, and pick a process, and what you want to have trigger that process, and do all of the validation and exceptions management processes that need to be part of those procedures.”
With iBOLT managing the integration, organizations will find it easier to expose enterprise data sources to SharePoint’s popular and powerful document workflow and reporting capabilities. Magic also sees the new release of iBOLT allowing users to take advantage of the social networking capabilities of SharePoint, Johnson says.
Magic also demonstrated the social networking capabilities that iBOLT can unlock at the annual SharePoint conference, called SPTechCon 2010, held last week in San Francisco, California. In Magic’s demo, a book retailer finds creative ways to disseminate information on its latest titles, which is managed in its ERP system, via SharePoint and various social networking sites, such as Twitter, FaceBook, and LinkedIn.
“It provides a nice example of how an enterprise can really bring together both the backend systems that traditionally have been the province of IT, and the enterprise portals which are often sitting between the IT people and the line of business managers,” Johnson says, “and then hook into the social media sites that quite often are in a very uncontrolled state, where various knowledge workers in an organization are hosting and sharing information. So this provides a tool where you can interact with all those environments.”
Magic has several other versions of iBOLT, a dedicated application integration product that evolved from the vendor’s 4GL development environment, called eDeveloper (now part of Magic’s uniPaaS “application” platform) back in 2003. In the summer of 2005, Magic unveiled a version of iBOLT designed to work in Windows-based SAP environments. And in 2007, Magic unveiled a special version of iBOLT for JD Edwards, called JDE Connect.
iBOLT runs on i/OS, Windows, Linux, Unix, and other operating systems. For more information, visit www.magicsoftware.com.