Salesforce.com introduced Salesforce1 Lighting Connect, a new data-integration option billed as the "fastest, easiest" way to view data from any source system from within Salesforce cloud-based applications.
Salesforce says Lighting Connect is different from existing integration options in that it supports point-and-click setup, real-time (rather than batch) integration, and access to data from on-premises applications and databases as if it originated in Salesforce.
A recent Salesforce survey of customer CIOs found that nearly half (48%) of respondents identified integration with on-premises systems as one of their biggest challenges. Lighting Connect was designed to "wrap a layer of agility around backoffice data," said Scott Holden, Salesforce.com's VP of platform marketing, in a phone interview with InformationWeek.
Salesforce points to obvious Lighting Connect advantages over primitive options like manual file uploads and file transfers. But companies with frequent data-integration needs are already likely to be using integration tools from AppExchange partners such as Informatica, MuleSoft, and SnapLogic. Even so, these and other partners are supporting Lighting Connect because it offers a new data-integration option.
The most popular data-integration approach is ETL-style loading. This typically involves overnight or even hourly batch data uploads -- either from on-premises systems (or cloud apps) into Salesforce or from Salesforce into data marts or warehouses. Many integration firms also support more sophisticated event- and message-based integration. In this more complicated, Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) approach, data is continuously copied from third-party systems into Salesforce.
Lighting Connect is simpler than EAI, offering point-and-click setup of External Objects, a new source type that Salesforce has added alongside its existing Standard Objects and Custom Objects. Users can call on these external objects for point-in-time snapshots of up-to-the-minute information. It's an approach that's geared to human querying, searching, data visualization, and simple workflows, as when users want or need to do quick lookups from smartphones or tablets.