Thursday, May 1, 2003

Integration of Notes and Domino with ERP systems


By Dmitry Irtegov

Lotus Notes and Domino represents the most successful non-relational DBMS (Database Management System) among those offered in the market. This success is ensured by a number of factors, such as record level security, replication, close integration with mailing and Web systems, and integrated infrastructure for using public key and private key encryption and digital signature. Record level security means that each document in the database has its own access control list. It allows for each user to create his own data subset to work with, or even two subsets: the first one could be modified by the user, and the second one could be seen.

Replication means the possibility to synchronize copies of databases located on different servers, or on the server and the client computer. Each field of each document includes a time mark, and the replication is conducted using the last time value. As the replication is carried out at the separate fields level, it allows you to avoid picking out a master replica and other restrictions peculiar to replication in relational databases.

In combination with record level security, replication provides unique flexibility in developing distributed systems, for example, for connecting remote offices and subdivisions in the other cities. Owing to the combination of these features, Lotus Notes enables access to all application functions without connecting to a server. A user makes changes to the local replica of the database and then replicates them to the server, when connection with the server is set. Importantly, even if an outside user finds a way to make changes to the local replica that are not matching up with the application's business logic, it will be impossible for him to replicate those changes to the server, assuming the security was designed properly.

ERP Systems

The most successful ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems are developed on top of relational DBMSs, because relational DBMSs are capable of effective processing of complex queries. A typical ERP system, such as SAP/R3, operates through a centralized server and a centralized data warehouse. Access control to this data is centralized as well. An R3 user can see all application data, though his ability to modify the data is restricted by the business logic. As a rule, to divide the whole R3 into several small parts or independent subdivisions without destroying the integrity proves to be a difficult task.

Possible integration scenarios

Based on the information above, we could draw a conclusion that Notes and ERP are not competing systems, but rather complementary ones. One of the possible integration strategies could be to use Notes as an environment for collecting and entering data for the ERP system. Primary data entry into the system could represent proposals of subdivisions and even employees, or it could be the reports on current performance.