Kentico 1 on 1: Connect & Conquer with Jeroen Fürst
Nearly every enterprise project requires integration with multiple systems. Often, data needs to be mapped from one system to another, requiring in-depth knowledge of business processes and relationships. In this Kentico 1 on 1, I talked with Kentico MVP Jeroen Fürst about Connect & Conquer, Kentico Gold Partner TrueLime’s answer to this challenge, and how it can simplify the integration process.
Jeroen Fürst is a long-time Kentico MVP and a seasoned developer at TrueLime in Breda, the Netherlands. With nearly 10 years of .NET experience, he has integrated tons of applications with Kentico and understands the challenges companies face when synchronizing data between systems. In this talk, I asked Jeroen about TrueLime’s Connect & Conquer solution and how companies use it to develop their applications.
You can check out Jeroen's blog here.
Hi Jeroen. First, can you tell us a little about yourself and TrueLime?
Hi. Sure, I live in Breda, the Netherlands where I’ve been working at a company called TrueLime since 2006. I came in as a .NET developer and, in the early years, started working with Kentico. In addition to being a Kentico MVP, I’m a solution architect where I think of and create new features using the platform. At TrueLime, we have multiple development teams that develop our projects using SCRUM, and integration is a common request for clients. That’s where Connect & Conquer came from.
What is Connect & Conquer?
Connect & Conquer is an application similar to Integration Bus. We came up with the requirements for it in 2010, in the early years of Kentico web projects using version 6. We typically use it to hook up backend software systems, such as a CRM, to Kentico and synchronize data between the two. You can then use this data to present it on a website. For example, the backend system has users or contacts that can be synchronized with Kentico, and then leverage those objects in Kentico. This allows us to give users access to a site or to synchronize a product catalog from a third party application.
In the early phase, it was more a synchronization specific to Kentico. However, we saw a bigger market and decided to rewrite the whole system. Because the system is based on .NET, which ran as a Scheduled Task in Kentico, we were able to pull it out of Kentico to a standalone Windows Service for better scalability and flexibility.
This is where we also have created a custom GUI for the application. With the GUI, you have the opportunity to create connections, by way of configuring connectors. The connector often only requires a connection string to enable the connection from one system to another. You configure a couple of connections, then the system will automatically pull from the classes and tables that are available and allow you to map those objects to different fields in Kentico and even apply some transformations to the data. You can configure the synchronization on the time schedule you need using the GUI, as well.
How easy is it to set up?
The current version runs outside of Kentico as a Windows Service, and all you need to do is install it. We already have a couple of connectors to get you started, a Kentico REST connector. We have several connectors for CRM systems, Microsoft CRM. The one I particularly like is the XML connector, which is a generic one. For every system that outputs some XML code, you leverage this connector to link it up. As you know, XML Is pretty generic, so you just need to have the field definition (such as an XSD file) and you can read all of the field and data information and then synchronize it with any system. It’s a very simple connector to get started with and use in your applications.
Once an implementation is set up, do TrueLime have to be the ones to maintain it?
The user interface is something that system admins can maintain themselves. If they want to configure additional fields or troubleshoot something that went wrong, they can do it themselves. Typically, TrueLime or an implementation partner we support that) come into play when the client wants to create a custom connector. We created a flexible system where you can easily develop connectors. There is an interface for connectors where you can implement READS, UPDATES, and DELETES. You can choose if you want a partial connector or a full connector. That’s where TrueLime or an implementation partner with basic knowledge of .NET come into play. We provide the code to create a connector, and you are free to implement any connector you want.
A lot of customers have asked if they can connect with their specific CRM or backend system. We will let them know we have a number of connectors already in place, or they can create their own custom connector if they have the resources and skills to do that.
Where can people find more information?
We have created a website that pretty much illustrates everything you need to know to get up and running. The website is www.connectandconquer.com.
I wanted to thank Jeroen for taking the time to talk with me. He and the rest of the folks at TrueLime are doing some great development, both in Kentico and other technologies. With products like Connect & Conquer, developers can build integrated, scalable solutions to solve any project requirement. I highly recommend you check out the solution for your next big project!