There are a few tools that can be used to communicate with M3 outside of smart office including report writers like DB2 or MySQL for reading, M3 Enterprise Collaborator (MEC) for running transactions and of course my favorite the M3 API toolkit. Out of all these options there are drawbacks to each. The report writing is limited to reading data unless you are living life dangerously. The MEC tool can be complicated and time-consuming to set up and pretty much can’t be done without training or a consultant. The M3 API is not all that user-friendly and can be time-consuming especially with long transactions (like adding new items) and deployment can be a bit of a nightmare.
As mentioned above the M3 API toolkit is by far my favorite way of interacting with M3 outside of smart office typically with some added functionality of table lookups which is a much better way to get info out rather than an API call. The reason for choosing the API is simple. The documentation is excellent and the possibilities are endless! That being said there are still some drawbacks.
- While the API toolkit supports many different languages if you want to use more than one platform transactions will have to be completely rewritten.
- Deployment can be difficult. The toolkit needs to be installed on every computer or device that wants to communicate with M3.
- If database access is desired drivers are required and permissions will need to be granted for every client.
- Some transactions are long and time-consuming to set up.
There is good news though. Hosting your own custom web service using WCF that uses the M3 API toolkit eliminates all of these drawbacks. If your web service is well thought out expanding your functionality and streamlining day-to-day business activities becomes easy.
So let’s get started. Out of all of the transactions in M3 one of the simplest transactions is confirming a pick list because it only requires two inputs. For the sake of getting your feet wet with this new setup without overwhelming you we will start with this transaction. As we run through this example realize that while this transaction is simple the true power of the web service becomes more obvious with more complicated transactions.
Step 1 Start a new project
In Microsoft Visual Studio start a new project using the template WCF Service Application. I’ve named my project M3Ideas. (creative right?)
Once the project opens you will see two important files in the solution explorer on the right. One will be called Service1 and the other will be called IService1. Service1 is a class where all of the code for actually running transactions using the API will take place and IService1 is an example of what our client applications will see and be able to use. Notice that there is both Service Contracts with Operation Contracts which are the functions that our tablets or computer programs will call and there are Data Contracts with Data Members which is how data will be presented to our software. This is what makes the Web Service powerful, we get the ability to create our own objects and essentially make a wrapper class for the M3 API Toolkit that can be used by any program we want that needs to interact with M3.
So lets start renaming the items to suit our needs. Since our goal is to report Pick Lists I’ll chose to rename the IService1 interface to MWS420 after the M3 program for reporting pick lists. Do this in the solution explorer on the right and Visual Studio will rename it everywhere. I’ll also make just one Operation Contract for now called ConfirmPickList which takes two integers, the delivery number and the suffix. Right now I’ll go ahead and delete the CompositeType class below but don’t forget how to make Data Contracts this interface won’t be using them but with longer transactions they are pretty much the greatest thing on earth. At this point my interface looks something like this.
Remember this is just a prototype for what the client applications will get to use. You might be wondering why I named the interface after only one program. What if you want to use more than one program in you web service? The reason I did this is simply for organization and clarity when making the client applications. When I go to run transactions in other programs I will make new interfaces which will look just like this one only with their own name. This will make it so that the client has to not only specify which transaction to run but which interface the transaction comes from. This enables me to use similar function names for more than one program and still know exactly which program the transaction goes with. A good example of this is if I wanted to confirm manufacturing operations in PMS070 I can use similar function names and the client application will easily know which program each transaction belongs to even if the name isn’t as descriptive as it probably should be. It will become more clear what this will look like in future posts where we connect to the web service from our various clients.
Step 2 Set up the transactions
Ok lets look at the Service1.svc file now which is where the code for this transaction will be placed. Go ahead and rename this file to M3.svc and rename the class M3 as well. This is where all the code for the transactions will go. The single most important thing in this file is the interface implementation right after the class name. In an effort to be organized we will use several partial classes rather than one class. Each partial class will implement one of the interfaces we set up for our program. The code will look like this.
Notice that each partial class has a colon before the interface name that it implements. Since I’ve used partial classes each one implements just one of my interfaces. If you really wanted you could use just one regular class that implements all of the interfaces. All you would have to do is list them off and separate them by a comma. I think doing it this way will be a bit more straight forward though.
So now lets get to the fun part and set up the M3 APIs and show the program how to connect to M3 and make the transactions come to life. The first thing we need to do is add a reference to the M3 API. In this example we will use the 64 bit library although you can use whichever one you want. It is interesting to know that the target platform that this service will run on is completely unrelated to the programs that will connect to it. This is another huge advantage to using the web service instead of each client using the API toolkit directly.
To add the reference go ahead and right click on references in the solution explorer and select add reference. On the left select browse and again browse at the bottom and locate the file MVXSockNx64.dll. The file should be located in C:\MvxAPI. Once the file is added you should see the file in the list of references.
Once the reference has been added you can start using the library to communicate with M3. All you need to do is add the using statement at the top of the file and you can start using the library to run transactions. Don’t forget there is a help file that is well documented that will show you how to set up the transactions. Although running these transactions isn’t that elegant the documentation will tell you how to get it done.
To run transactions you will need the port number that the API uses to connect to M3 (there is one of these for each environment), a username and password that is set up in M3 and has permissions to use the APIs that you want to use, as well as the host name. When we are done our transaction will look like this. Note my port numbers might be the same as yours but they don’t have to be. Yours could be different.
I went ahead and put some of the constant Information in a static class called Info. This will make it so I don’t have to type in the data each time and I can use it in all of my partial classes. I’ve also set up the transaction which is exactly how the documentation says to do it. This includes padding the spaces so that each input is in the correct position of the string.
Step 3 Publish
Now that we have our first transaction set up lets publish it and test it. Once it’s been tested we can change to the port to production. To host the web service you will need a computer or virtual machine that is running IIS. You might need to enable the feature in windows. If you are unsure how to enable the feature a simple google search will walk you through it.
Ok to publish the web service right click on project in the solutions explorer and select publish. Set up a publish configuration to publish to the file system in a folder of your choosing. We’ll copy these files to the computer that will host the service. You will also need to locate the file MvxSockx64.dll file and copy that to folder as well. Go ahead and put it in the bin subfolder with the other libraries that got published. Next copy that folder to the C drive of the computer that will host the service and open IIS. On the left side of the screen expand the tree and right click Default Web Site and select add application. Then show IIS what folder your files will be and name your service.
To verify that your service is up and running expand the tree on the left more and select the application you just added. Then on the far right select browse and it should open a browser. Select the SVC file and it should bring you to a screen with directions how to use it. In the next post I’ll run through some samples on how to use the service to streamline reporting pick lists.
Here is the screen that you should be able to get to. If something happened to go wrong it will be displayed on this screen.
If you have any questions on what the web service can be used for please feel free to ask in the comments. Also if you run into any problems please let me know.