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Connect Apache OFBiz with the Real World

What would you expect from someone who is OFBiz and Camel committer? To integrate them for fun? Fine, here it is. In addition to being fun, I believe this integration will be of real benefit for the OFBiz community, because despite the fact of being a complete ERP software, OFBiz lacks the ability to easily integrate with external systems. The goal of this project is instead of reinventing the wheel and trying to integrate OFBiz with each system separately, integrate it with Camel and let Camel do what it does best: connect your application with every possible protocol and system out there.

Quick OFBiz introduction
Apache OFBiz LogoThe Apache Open For Business Project is an open source, enterprise automation software. It consist mainly from two parts:
A full-stack framework for rapid business application development. It has Entity Engine for the data layer (imagine something like iBATIS and Hibernate combined). It is the same entity engine that powers millions of Attlasian Jira instances. But don't get me wrong, it is not meant for usage outside of OFBiz framework, so use it only as OFBiz data layer.Service Engine - this might be hard to grasp for someone only with DDD background, but OFBiz doesn't have any domain objects. Instead for the service layer it uses SOA and has thousands of services that contains the business logic. A service is an atomic bit of isolated business logic, usually reading and updating the database. If you need you can make services triggering each other using ECAs(event-condition-action) which is kind of rule engine that allows define pre/post conditions for triggering other service calls when a service is executed. The service itself can be written written in java, groovy or simple language (an XML DSL for simple database manipulation) and usually requires authentication, authorisation and finally executed in a transaction.
UI widgets - an XML DSL which allows you easily create complex pages with tables, forms and trees.
And the really great thing about this framework is that 'The whole is greater than the sum of its parts' - all of the above layers works together amazingly: if you have an entity definition (a table) in your data layer, you can use it in your service layer during your service interface definition or its implementation. It takes one line of code(a long one) to create a service which has as input parameters the table columns and return the primary key as result of the service. Then if you are creating a screen with tables or forms, you can base it on your entity definitions or service definitions. It is again only few lines of code to create a form with fields mapping to a service or entity fields.

Out of the box business applications. These are vertical applications for managing the full life cycle of a business domain like ordering, accounting, manufacturing and many more in a horizontally integrated manner. So creating an order from order or ecommerce application will interact with facility to check whether a product is available, and after the order is created will create accounting transaction in accounting application. Before the order is shipped from the facility, it will create invoices and once the invoice is paid, it will close the order. You get the idea.

Camel in 30 seconds
Apache Camel logoApache Camel is an integration framework based on known Enterprise Integration Patterns(EIP). Camel can also be presented as consisting of two artifacts:
The routing framework which can be defined using java, scala, xml DSL with all the EIPs like Pipe, Filter, Router, Splitter, Aggregator, Throttler, Normalizer and many more.
Components and transformers ie all the different connectors to more than 100 different applications and protocols like: AMQP, AWS, web services, REST, MongoDB, Twitter, Websocket, you name it.
If you can imagine a tool, that enables you to consume data from one system, then manipulate the data (transform, filter, split, aggregate) and send it to other systems, using a declarative, concise, English-like DSL without any boilerplate code - that's Apache Camel.

Let OFBiz talk to all of the systems Camel do
The main interaction point with OFBiz are either by using the Entity Engine for direct data manipulation or by calling services through Service Engine. The latter is preferred because it ensures that the user executing the service is authorised to do so, the operation is transactional to ensure data integrity, and also all the business rules are satisfied (there might be other services that have to be executed with ECA rules). So if we can create an OFBiz endpoint in Camel and execute OFBiz services from Camel messages, that would allow OFBiz to receive notifications from Camel endpoints. What about the other way around - making OFBiz notify Camel endpoints? The ideal way would be to have an OFBiz service that sends the IN parameters to Camel endpoints as message body and headers and return the reply message as OFBiz service response.
If you are wondering: why is it so great, what is an endpoint, where is the real world, who is gonna win Euro2012... have a look at the complete list of available Camel components, and you will find out the answer.

Running Camel in OFBiz container
I've started an experimental ofbiz-camel project on github which allows you to do all of the above. It demonstrates how to poll files from a directory using Camel and create notes in OFBiz with the content of the file using createNote service. The project also has an OFBiz service, that enables sending messages from OFBiz to Camel. For example using that service it is possible to send a message to Camel file://data endpoint, and Camel will create a file in the data folder using the service parameters.
The integration between OFBiz and Camel is achieved by running Camel in an OFBiz container as part of the OFBiz framework. This makes quite tight integration, but ensures that there will not be any http, rmi or any other overhead in between. It is still WIP and may change totally.

Running Camel and OFBiz separately
Another approach is KISS: run Camel and OFBiz as they are - separate applications, and let them interact with RMI, WS* or something else. This doesn't require any much coding, but only configuring both systems to talk to each other. I've created a simple demo camel-ofbiz-rmi which demonstrates how to listen for tweets with a specific keyword and store them in OFBiz as notes by calling createNote service using RMI. It uses Camel's twitter and rmi components and requires only configuration. Notice that this example demonstrates only one way interaction: from Camel to OFBiz. In order to invoke a Camel endpoint from OFBiz you can you have to write some RMI, WS* or other code.

PS: I'm looking forward to hear your real world integration requirements for OFBiz.

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