Thursday, January 24, 2008

Integration basics

As I have been writing, I am currently involved in a rather large integration project. For those of you who don't have experience of working with larger integration projects I would like to just share my view of how to set up the architecture connecting Microsoft Dynamcis CRM with the integration engine (BizTalk, WebSphere, Sonic and more). Bellow, I will refer to the Integration Engine, simply as "the Bus"

First of all, communication with the bus can be divided into two different classes:
  1. CRM Initiated Communication
  2. Bus initiated communication

In the picture to the right, these two are represented with a connection each (connection 1 = CRM Initiated Communication, connection 2 = bus initiated communication)

CRM initiated communication might be considered the simplest, since it mainly controlled from CRM. It can be code that runs from aspx-pages, callouts/plug-ins or workflow addons. It simply consumes the webservice at the CRM adapter on the bus.

Bus initiated communication is set up by the bus consuming a customly created web service. This "proxy" webservice translates from integrationmessages and datastructures to CRM native communication.

Integration is then definied by defining messages that uses either connection 1 or 2. Each message has two parts, Request and Response, and the response is the syncronous answer to the request. Assyncronous messages should be set up as two individual messages one for each adapter.

So, why create a proxy web service? Why cannot the bus connect directly to the CRM web service? The reason for this is usually that the communication is defined using messages (as described above) and the person responsible for the CRM Adapter on the bus cannot be expected to have any CRM knowledge in general or specificly CRM Webservice knowledge, hence that is the CRM developers job.

These are some of my experiences and reflections on integration with a centralized integration architecture. If you have any comments or you have some other method that you use, please leave a comment, so that we can discuss it further.

Gustaf Westerlund
Microsoft Dynamics CRM Consultant

WM-Data/Logica CMG

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