If you are planning a new integration project with Infor M3, there are a lot of different options available and in some cases it can be difficult to select the best option. In this article I aim to give some direction and hopefully make the decision easier. Let’s have a look at each of the options and provide some examples of use cases for each.
Infor M3 API’s
Infor Application Program Interfaces (API) have grown significantly in numbers over the past 10 years.
They provide the same business logic as the interactive programs, but as a set of functions, which vary by M3 program. These functions can be called programmatically and include Add, Delete, Update, Get and List functionality.
The M3 API’s are the preferred way to interact with M3, as the business logic is followed and the database is not exposed in any way. That is why most of the other methods I will discuss later use these API’s internally for invoking M3 functions.
The downside with the API’s is that they are quite cumbersome to connect to directly, unless you use propriety classes, and are not well suited for calling M3 remotely over the web.
If you have a local application, which needs to be very tightly connected to M3, and performance is extremely important, then perhaps you could consider building an interface directly to the API’s. This approach would most likely cost more to develop, test and maintain than using any of the standard methods below. Also be aware that the API’s may change between M3 versions, which could easily break the interface.
M3 Enterprise Collaborator (MEC) was developed as a response to the increase of B2B transactions over the internet about 15 years ago. I was on the first development team and later Product manager for this application, when it was still owned by Intentia in Sweden.
I am very excited that it is still around, and although there has been a lot of improvements over the years, the basic functionality is still very much the same.
MEC allows any application to securely communicate with Infor M3 via XML messages over a range of different protocols.
The M3 Enterprise Collaborator uses API’s to safely update data in M3, but with the ability to write custom java-functions, you can call web services, extract data from other sources or anything else you wish to do.
MEC comes with a complete framework, which includes the ability to setup Partner Agreements for individual configurations by the partner or application with which you wish to integrate. It also comes with a flat-file parser to process text-based files.
An extensive admin interface includes the ability monitor each message and a has a full range of other useful functions to maintain your transactions.
If you have a B2B/EDI type integration, typically over the internet, where visibility and control is important, then MEC is the preferred alternative. It can also be used for A2A integrations and is particularly useful to replicate reference data between disperse systems.
Infor M3 Web Services
Infor M3 Web Services uses the traditional web services SOAP protocol and allows for synchronous communication with Infor M3 over http. Web services methods can be based on API transactions, but can also be based directly on most interactive programs, which makes it very useful for updating data when a suitable API function is missing.
Infor M3 Web Services makes sense for A2A integration, when a remote application, which also supports web services, is pulling the strings and controlling M3.
This could be a web shop which is calling a web service to retrieve information about whether an item is in stock or not.
Infor M3 REST interface
The Infor REST interface is a fairly new development and allows M3 API’s to be called remotely by virtually any programming language, without using the propriety classes required when calling the APIs directly. Compared with Web Services, REST is much more light-weight, can be called from pretty much any tool. It is a great for loosely coupled applications with a many-to-1 connection, where updates on the server side should not break the client.
It is a welcome addition to expose the API functionality to a greater range of possible integration scenarios.
M3 ION and EventHub are also relatively new additions and are based on an event driven publish and subscribe service based communication. Infor M3 produces events for any type of update in the database and other applications can subscribe to specifically defined events and retrieve data from the files producing these events.
This type of integration is typically used for internal applications where M3 is the master. However, it can also be used to trigger MEC transactions, that could forward the information to external destinations.
Direct Access via ODBC or OLE/DB
It comes without saying, but if you decide to access Infor M3 directly via ODBC, it should only be to extract data, and NEVER to update data. Being a relational database, the tables in the M3 database have a lot of interconnected records and unless you know exactly what you are doing, it would be very easy to jeopardize the integrity of the database by removing or adding data.
However, there are still applications where direct access makes sense. I am thinking of data warehousing(ETL) and business intelligence tools for example, such as QlikView or Cognos where you need to extract large amounts of data.
There are also situations where none of the previous methods are available, and there is no other option than to extract the data directly.
If you would like more information, please contact us at Integration Wizards or get in touch with me directly (Mathias Wallgren). We can assist you at any stage of your integration project, from planning and execution to training and documentation.