Welcome to an Overview of the eiConsole and the Tutorials
You should begin your learning process with the General Quick Start Tutorial (the prerequisite for all new users) and the Getting Started Tutorial. The Getting Started Tutorial is modular and designed to be completed in the numbered sequence presented (modules 1-12). Your eiConsole download comes fully bundled with all the files you will need for configuring the “Example Interface” used in the Getting Started Tutorial and the Quick Start Tutorial.
The Quick Start Tutorial provides step-by-step instructions on how to build, test and deploy a simple interface. First, you will learn how to select or create an interface using the Route File Management panel. Next, you will follow the eiConsole’s “Assembly Line” process to learn how to configure all of the stages that make up an end-to-end interface within the eiConsole. These stages include the Source System, the Listener, the Processor, the Source Transform, the Route, the Target Transform, the Transport and the Target System.
A Quick Overview of the eiConsole
All of the configuring in the eiConsole is done following the “Assembly Line” and without requiring scripting or coding. In the eiConsole, you will be presented with easy-to-fill-out configuration panels and drop-down menus. You will be able to perform data mapping using drag & drop. Even complex mapping processes can be performed using the eiConsole Data Mapper‘s included palette of XSLT structures by drag & drop. After you have configured your interface you will then test your newly created interface end-to-end within the eiConsole’s inline graphical test mode and the eiPlatform Emulator. With the eiConsole you can achieve in minutes what previously took system integrators days, or longer to accomplish and you’ll have fun while you’re at it.
The 7 Stages of the eiConsole
There are seven main stages making up the eiConsole’s process view. Each Source has three stages, each Target has three, and there is always one Route stage. Starting from the left (at a Source), we’ll move through each stage and explain its purpose.
The first stage is the “Source System.” Selecting it in the Route table will raise a configuration panel, making the screen (depending on resolution) look something like this:
This stage actually serves no particular functional use – it is used to name a system. The field labeled “System Name” is the name you wish to give to such a system. Typically this reflects an internal or external generic name, such as “Local Filesystem,” or “Server 31-a.” It may reflect the name of a client, vendor, or software application.
The next stage is the Listener stage, which is perhaps the most important component of a Source. Select a Listener stage and, once again, you will note that the configuration changes:
A Listener’s task is fairly straight-forward – it obtains data from a particular system or source and creates a transaction from it, which is then passed along through the various functional stages. The first thing you need to do, of course, is to select what kind of Listener you want to use, which is dictated by the “Listener Type” list box. Out-of-the-box, a large variety of Listeners are available:
When developing interfaces and their Routes, you will need to choose a Listener that is appropriate to the source system to which you’re trying to connect and retrieve data from. Following our example of naming our Source to indicate that it is a filesystem, we’ll use the “Directory / File” Listener (shown selected in the list above). Select a Listener and the configuration panel will change once again to reflect the various configuration options for that module:
We won’t go into details for this particular Listener’s configuration items (you should refer to the Directory/File Listener’s documentation for a field-by-field overview), but we will be configuring it as a general exercise. The first thing to note is that every Listener has a name, shown in the top of the image above. The eiConsole will automatically give a generic name to modules as they’re defined, but it will not guarantee that they are unique – which they need to be. If you are planning on using multiple interfaces and Routes, it’s a good idea to use a hierarchal naming scheme, such as the one provided by default (“Example-Interface.Directory / File Listener”).
Each configurable module or Listener will typically have its components divided by function into tabs. Any field which is required and has not had valid data provided to it will be marked with a red dot (like “Polling Interval” and “Polling Directory” are above), and any tab containing such fields will also be marked with a red dot to let you know that you need to investigate that section.
As an overview, the Directory /File Listener picks up files from a particular directory and turns their contents into Transactions. We’ll configure our example to poll C:\in for files ending in “xml” every thirty seconds:
Also, we’ll specify the action to take after a file has been processed – options are: Delete, Keep or Move. We’ll choose Delete.
Each Listener you work with will have somewhat unique requirements in terms of configuration parameters. Mousing over the label for a given field will give a short description of its purpose, as well. Refer to each module’s specific documentation for general usage. Listeners, however, do come in only two varieties: passive and active. An active Listener is like the Directory Listener – you specify how often it goes out and actively looks for data, either on a queue, in a directory, on an FTP server, an e-mail server, etc. A passive Listener waits either on a trigger or until it is invoked externally such as from HTTP posts or remote method invocations (RMI).
After a Listener picks up data, some minor work may need to be done on it. For example, a file picked up by the Directory/File Listener may be BASE64-encoded, encrypted, and/or compressed. Since the content needs to be consumable later down the process chain it becomes necessary to run operations against the data to decode, decrypt, and / or decompress it. This is what Processors are for. Each Source and Target has Processors associated with it, and they can be accessed by clicking the “Processor Configuration” tab at the top of the configuration panel when a Listener or Source is selected.
Multiple Processors can be added in a chain, and they run sequentially (from top to bottom in the above table). You can add or remove Processors with the “Add Processor” and “Remove Processor” buttons shown, respectively. You may also reorder listed Processors with the “Move Up” and “Move Down” buttons. Selecting “Add Processor” will raise a dialog similar to selecting a Listener:
Like the Listener configuration, a Processor has a name (defined by the “Processor Name” field) and a type (designated by the “Processor Type” list box). A variety of Processors are available out-of-the-box. For our example, we’ll add a “BASE64 (Input)” Processor to the list:
As you can see, the Processor was added to the table. If the Processor had any fields, they would be shown and marked as required like the Listener modules shown earlier.
Conditional Execution allows the user to create a condition for the execution of a processor. The processor will only be executed if the condition is met.
Continuing to the next stage, you may select the “Source Transform” stage:
You should notice the “Format Profile” list box and its associated buttons. This lists Formats available to this Route, which are stored separately from it. A Format describes basic metadata and a transformational process, such as a conversion from a flat, character-delimited file to an ACORD XML transaction. Formats are reusable across multiple Routes and are therefore not tied to a particular Source or Target.
If no Formats are defined, you’ll need to add a new one. It’s a good idea to add a Format for any new kind of transformation you may be doing. If you’re doing no kind of transformation, and simply intend to receive information from a Source and relay it as-is, create a Format with a name like “Relay” and use that going forward for all such tasks. We’ll do this for our example.
Create a Format called “Relay” by pressing the “Add Format” button:
After you create a new Format, it should automatically be selected from the list box for you. The configuration panel view will also change:
There are three tabs available to the Source Transform stage, including “Format Info,” “Transformation,” and “Forking.”
The “Format Metadata” table is where you can create name/value pairs of information you wish to use later to sort through large numbers of Routes or simply to keep track of things. You can use the “Add” and “Remove” buttons to add or remove tags, respectively.
“Forking” provides module selection and configuration to perform transaction forking, which is an advanced feature covered in another document.
We’ll focus on the default tab, “Transformation.”
Each Source Transform has two internal stages, shown on the left and right in the above image. The first stage is for a Transformation module. These are selected in the same fashion as Listeners and Processors via a list box. After one is selected, the panel beneath will fill with configuration tabs and items are dictated by the module. A Transformation module’s purpose is to take data that is not in XML and to get it there. This can include Microsoft Excel documents, flat / character-delimited data, name/value pairs, and so on. Some of these modules, such as the “Delimited and Fixed-Width File” one, have their own applications and configuration tools. These are not covered in this document – you should refer to that module or application’s information.
The other side of the Source Transform configuration is used for specifying an XSLT transform (or bypassing the process) and for opening PilotFish Technology’s bundled XSLT editor, the Data Mapper, for editing or creating XSLT transformations. You may browse for an existing XSLT transformation, as well. The Data Mapper is an extremely powerful and useful tool, though it is covered in a separate document.
One important aspect to note is that the aforementioned transformations are associated with a particular Format – the same format you specified for the Source you’re working with. Thus the Transformation module, Forking configurations, and XSLT transformations specified will apply to the Format and wherever else it is used. This allows you to reuse crucial transformation components rather than duplicating them and maintaining separate versions.
The fourth and next stage, the Route stage, is not tied to any particular Source or Target. It is universal across the entire Route, and all transactions are routed through it (hence its name). Selecting the Route stage will raise a configuration panel similar to those you have seen before:
There are four tabs governing the configuration of the Route stage (which is functional in its default stage). The first is the “General” tab, shown below:
The Route Panel General Tab specifies generic route options for the current interface. This is effectively performed via three subpanels – Route Settings, which specifies general information and options, and Route Metadata, which just allows the user to append non-functional information to the route, and Pool Configuration, which allows the user to specify a pool for the route.
The second tab is “Debug Trace” shown below:
The Debug Trace Settings allow the user to enable or disable debug tracing. Enabling debug tracing allows for the creation of logs containing traces, errors and exceptions from the eiConsole. There is a slight reduction in performance upon enabling this feature, but it allows for the isolation and detection of errors and assists with the quick resolution of any problems that may be encountered.
The File Retention Policies allow the user to prevent excessive use of available disk space.
The Stage Specific Tracing allows the users to limit debugging to a specific route stage.
The third tab is “Routing Rules,” shown below:
This tab determines the routing criteria and rules employed by this Route. This is handled by selecting a Routing module from the “Routing Module” list box and configuring it according to its panel. By default, the “All Targets” module is used. This states that any transaction passing through the Route stage from any Source will go to all Targets, in parallel (at the same time, on separate process threads). You should refer to the documentation for particular Route modules for their usage.
Finally, there is the “Transaction Monitoring” tab, shown, again, below:
Transaction Monitors are added, removed, and managed exactly like Processors. They have a slightly different function, however. The Transaction Monitors you add to the table are only invoked if an exception or error is encountered somewhere in the Route, such as an XSLT transformation error or in connectivity issues for a Listener or Transport. They allow you to perform specialized actions in these events, such as to e-mail an administrator with an alert or to trigger another Route with the error data and exception trace as the transaction content. Using Transaction Monitors, you can intelligently and methodically handle errant situations and deal with them correctly.
The next three stages are for Targets. These will be covered in brief, as they mirror Sources almost identically. Starting with the fifth stage, “Target Transform,” you will once again need to select or add a Format before working with the stage directly. Once selected, the stage should look very similar to the Source Transform:
For Target Transform stages, the order of transformation components is reversed. The XSLT transformation is provided on the left and the Transformation module, if one is used, is provided on the right. This indicates a reversed order of operations, since Targets may wish to accept non-XML formats. Another point of interest is that the Forking sub-stage is replacing with Joining, indicating that transactions can be joined together at this stage after being forked.
On the sixth and last functional stage, a Transport can be configured much like a Listener:
Transports are configured in exactly the same manner as Listeners. For the most part, the types are about the same as well. There are a few Transports for which there are no corresponding Listeners, and vice-versa, but for the most part they come in pairs. Transports do not come in separate varieties, either – all Transports accept a transaction, send it (to file, to HTTP, or to whatever communications form they use), and mark the transaction as completed.
Finally, there is the “Target System” stage:
Like the Source System, the Target System stage has no functional purpose. It allows you to specify a name for the Target you’re connecting to.
Now let’s look at using the eiConsole’s Working Directory.