By David Shugars, Senior Software Engineer
At Plex Systems, we are often asked about integrating on-premise data with data in Plex Online. We hear questions like: “Plex Online exists in the cloud. I get that. But I have systems that I need to integrate with Plex Online. Is it possible to integrate with data in the cloud?”
It is always a joy for me to tell people: “Of course you can integrate with Plex Online data!”
In this blog post, we’ll look at two different types of integration: ODBC and Web Services.
ODBC offers users the ability to write industry-standard Structured Query Language statements to integrate with Plex Online. Simply install a small ODBC driver on your client computer, configure the driver, configure the client application and then send the queries to the Plex Online databases. Most of the tools don’t require that the user even see the query being sent. The tool will do that for you.
Below is a screenshot of Plex Online data integrated into Microsoft Excel. I simply selected the table from Plex Online that contained the data that I wanted, selected the fields that I wanted and Microsoft Excel did the rest. I did all of this in less time than it will take you to read this blog post!
Of course, you aren’t limited to Excel. We have customers who integrate data from Microsoft Access, database systems such as Microsoft SQL Server and even directly in PHP code.
Access to ODBC is through our Report Services database infrastructure, which allows read-only access to data that is, at most, four hours old.
Another option for integration is through the use of Web Services. Web Services provide a bi-directional mechanism for both accessing data and modifying data. We use industry-standard XML and SOAP for communicating with Plex Online data.
We have several customers who integrate their shop floor equipment with Web Services. This integration allows them to have complete control of the PLCs linked to their machines. For example, customers can choose to enforce a shutdown of a press if the operator hasn’t filled out a checksheet. The applications are nearly endless.
Here’s an example of integration with PLCs through Web Services in Plex Online:
PLC integration is just one use for Web Services, though. In fact, I’ve heard of a customer and partner using the Force.com platform to get sales information from Plex Systems and then integrate the data with Force.com. This platform didn’t require any programming to provide integration.
As I hope you can see, integration with Plex Online uses a strong feature set with a lot of flexibility – making it easy to integrate with Plex Online’s cloud-based approach to ERP systems.