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Getting started with Flowgear for first-time integrators – tutorial

October 23, 2015

You are a business analyst or IT manager who needs to get to grips with software integration. Here is a tutorial on the steps to getting started. After you sign up for a Flowgear free evaluation account, how should you start learning to create integration workflows? Building a simple integration workflow is a good option to explore Flowgear’s Nodes and Connectors. Once you have an understanding of the tools, the challenge of integrating your systems become much more manageable. The great thing about Flowgear workflows is that building sophisticated integrations doesn’t require coding experience – instead workflows are created visually.

 

Reading and writing files

A common workflow involves reading from or writing to a file. The File Node allows you to perform a read or write against a text or binary file. However, before you start using the File Node you will need to install a Flowgear DropPoint.

A DropPoint is a software service you install on a Windows machine that enables the Flowgear engine in the cloud to access on-premise data sources. The data source is not exposed through your firewall to the Internet. To download a DropPoint click on DropPoint on the left-hand pane and select ‘Download DropPoint’ at the bottom.

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(Don’t download the 32bit DropPoint, that is for specific applications). The downloaded file is saved as an .msi file and can be installed in the usual way. To start the DropPoint, select it from the Flowgear section on the Windows Start page.

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You will be prompted to sign in with your Flowgear credentials, select an account (usually Flowgear) and then register.

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Return to the DropPoint page on the Flowgear console and select the Refresh button at the bottom.

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The DropPoint will then be displayed.

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File Node

Now you can start with the File Node. Click on Workflows and open a new workflow using the new workflow button at the bottom.

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You will be presented with a screen like this.

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Type ‘file’ in the filter field and the related nodes will be displayed.

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Click on the ‘File’ node and drag it onto the design canvas.

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To read a file, the connection needs to be set up. Choose “New” from the Connection dropdown, which will take you to the new connection screen. There, you select the DropPoint. This is how you tell Flowgear where to obtain the file from. Select the DropPoint you created, then save the connection.

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Return to your workflow, and on the File Node set the Action value to ‘Read’. In the Path field you must specify the full path of the file thatt will be read (select the file in the Windows Explorer screen and select ‘Copy Path’). In my example I am reading from an Excel file so the FileType must be binary.

The final step for now is to drag a Variable Bar onto the design canvas (just type ‘var’ on the node filter). Right-click on the Variable Bar icon and select ‘Manage Variables’.

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A Variable Bar is used to specify how data is exchanged between two nodes. Add a new value, specify a name, and the Direction and Type as shown.

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As we are going to output the results to an Excel file, specify the File Ext as ‘.xlsx’. Then select the Finished button.

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The Variable bar will look like this.

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Now wire up the execution of the Start Node to the File node, and link the data connection of the File Node to the Variable Bar connection.

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Before you do anything else, save the workflow and then run it to check it works – these are the Start and Save buttons.

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If it runs successfully, the activity log at the bottom will look like this.

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You can remove the activity log with the Show/Hide button.

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Finally, select the Edit Details button to show the Workflow Details screen,

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and check the ‘Allow Run on Demand’ box.

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Accept the changes and return to the workflow screen.

To see your workflow running, save the workflow, then select the back arrow to return to the workflow screen. Select the workflow and click to the right of the name, and then select the Start button at the bottom.

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You should see this.

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Click on the ‘download file’ and the Windows File Download dialog box will appear for you to download the file.

SQL Console

Many integrations start with getting data from a database. Flowgear has a tool for checking and running ad hoc queries against Microsoft SQL Server tables – the SQL Console – which can be accessed from the Tools section on the left-hand pane. The console allows you to view the SQL Server data you have access to at your site, ie, it’s for on-premise databases.

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Next step

In a further post, I’ll show how the SQL Query Node executes an SQL query against a table and generates a result set. You will also see how the QuickMap Node allows you to do visual mapping of one source data layout to another layout.

In the meantime, if you want to find what nodes are available, check out the developers wiki page.

What would you suggest as other useful Nodes for a first time integrator? Let us know.

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