Seeking to make it easier for Salesforce.com users to work with data from a variety of applications, both on- and off-premises, the cloud computing giant has unwrapped Salesforce Connect, an update to its Lightning Connect service.
Salesforce is leveraging the trend toward open standards by supporting open API standards, such as OData (Open Data Protocol), which let developers integrate data from disparate applications.
“We live in an API economy,” Brian Goldfarb, senior vice president of app cloud marketing at Salesforce, told eWEEK. He noted that seamless integration between apps is more common in the consumer space. For example, you can open Google Maps, search for a restaurant and also reserve a table via OpenTable’s API, or book an Uber car with the Uber API, without ever leaving the Google Maps app.
But in the enterprise, “customers suffer. It’s a disconnected world,” he said. “There’s no bridge from say, SAP to Oracle or to more modern applications like Workday to do what you want to.”
Last year Salesforce released Lightning Connect, a service that allows developers and business administrators to quickly build real time integrations with external data sources without writing code. The company says Salesforce Connect is the “next generation” of Lightning Connect, offering the same access to customer data sitting in the back office, but adding the ability to proactively manage it.
Specifically, Salesforce Connect adds read/write capabilities, enabling Salesforce users to create, read, update and delete records in various external sources, such as order management, receivables, or inventory management systems, in real time.
Salesforce Connect also enables developers to write simple Apex adapters to connect to APIs that aren’t in the OData format. These adapters will allow developers to easily connect Salesforce to any Web API, as well as to more than 10,000 public APIs available on the Internet.
The Salesforce Connector provides a way for enterprises to link up multiple Salesforce “orgs,” or instances (whether across regions, subsidiaries, or functions) without writing complex code to do so. Salesforce cites the example of company mergers, where it’s typically a time-consuming challenge to integrate disparate instances of Salesforce. Connector solves that.
Larry Carvalho, IDC’s Research Manager for Platform as a Service, says services like Salesforce Connect are a great advance over earlier middleware offerings that were time-consuming and expensive. “Salesforce Connect offers a quick and automated way to connect applications to external and internal resources,” Carvalho told eWEEK. “This is bringing a consumer-like mashup capability into the enterprise.”
From a competitive standpoint, it’s important for Salesforce to have its own integration solution (just as IBM, Amazon and other competitors do), rather than having to rely on partners, Carvalho said.
One early customer, the online HR solutions provider Zenefits, is using Salesforce Connect to integrate its data warehouse with the Salesforce Sales Cloud. The integration gives the company’s sales team a so-called 360 degree, real- time view of customer policy and benefits information. Previously they had to switch between as many as seven applications to complete the same tasks.
Another customer, human resources consulting firm O.C. Tanner, is using Salesforce Connect to reduce call resolution times. A key benefit is that it can now search, access and edit order data without leaving Salesforce. O.C. Tanner officials say the company has used Salesforce Connect to build and deploy real-time integration from Service Cloud to SAP in several hours. This enabled the firm to reduce call resolution time by 50 percent.