You have a portal? Want to integrate some external data into your portal in a meaningful way? Nothing to worry! Here’s Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 Business Data Catalog (BDC) to facilitate this exact scenario. Microsoft’s business data catalog makes it easy to surface external data inside a portal experience. For instance, you can create an XML definition file that defines the mapping between SharePoint and your external data so that it can be rendered in a Web Part, used as a column within a list, and even integrated into search.
Though BDC in MOSS 2007 enabled connectivity to external systems, it was difficult to create solutions due to lack of a designer. Moreover, though BDC made it relatively easy to create read-only solutions that display data in the Business Data List Web Part, it was not so simple to create a solution that enabled users to make changes and write that data back to the external store.
Consequently, Business Connectivity Services in SharePoint 2010 came into picture as a savior! Business Connectivity Services is all about connecting to external data. Business Connectivity Services enhances the SharePoint platform’s capabilities with out-of-box features, services, and tools that streamline development of solutions with deep integration of external data and services. Business Connectivity Services is build upon its BDC predecessor in the key areas of presentation, connectivity, tooling and lifecycle management. In SharePoint 2010, it’s easy to create an external content type with SharePoint Designer, create an external list in SharePoint’s Web user interface, and take the list offline into Outlook as a set of contacts. Also, you can make updates to contacts in Outlook that will cause the data in the external system to update as well.
Key Components that comprises Business Connectivity Services include the following:
o BDC Metadata Store – The BDC Metadata Store provides storage for a collection of external content types, each of which describes how to connect to the external store. The Metadata Store acts as part of the services layer. External content types are a fundamental building block of business connectivity services
o BDC Server Runtime – The BDC Server Runtime understands how to reach into the back-end store and connect to data based on the external content types defined within the content type store. It’s important to note the new usage of the acronym BDC to refer to the set of services that provides connectivity that is a component of business connectivity services
o Security – Business Connectivity Services provide integration with the Secure Store Service (SSS), as well as enable your own security model
o Solution Packaging – Solutions built with Business Connectivity Services can be packaged as a Visual Studio Tools for Office (VSTO) package to be delivered to a rich client, including SharePoint Workspace, Outlook and Word. Business connectivity services also exposes APIs to extend solution packaging to target additional clients
o Out of Box UI – Business Connectivity Services carry forward the ability to display external data through a Web Part UI and provides deeper integration through the addition of external lists.
o BDC Client Runtime – A symmetrical runtime is provided for client and server, enabling you to take solutions offline with a client-side cache and to connect and push changes back to the server in a consistent manner. Use of the BDC Client Runtime enables offline operations, interacting with the external data cache.
o Design Tools – SharePoint Designer provides a wealth of out-of-box functionality for creating business connectivity services solutions, including the ability to define external content types and external lists, and to define InfoPath forms to surface the data to create simple solutions. Visual Studio provides the ability for the professional developer to extend those capabilities to create advanced solutions while leveraging the existing framework.
These components in the Business Connectivity Services architecture enable interaction with additional capabilities in the SharePoint platform, including business intelligence, enterprise content management, collaboration and social features, and enterprise search. Additionally, the use of business connectivity services provide a compelling developer platform that enables the creation of solutions to quickly take advantage of these capabilities.
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