SharePoint Business Connectivity Services

With the introduction of Business Data Catalog (BDC) of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS 2007), integrating some external data into your portal in a meaningful way became easier. However, the hitch was that though connectivity to external systems was enabled by the BDC, the lack of a designer made it difficult to create solutions. Moreover, though creating read-only solutions displaying data in the Business Data List Web Part was made relatively easy by BDC, creating a solution that allowed users to make changes and write back that data to the external store was not so simple. It was this issue that SharePoint business connectivity services, or BCS (Business Connectivity Services) in SharePoint 2010 aimed to solve.

Being all about connecting to external data, BCS comes loaded with out-of-box features, tools and services that enhance the SharePoint platform's capabilities, which in turn help in streamlining development of solutions with deep integration of external services and data. By building upon its BDC predecessor, BCS enhances the key areas of connectivity, presentation, lifecycle management and tooling. For example, you can use SharePoint Designer of SharePoint 2010 to create an external content type, employ the Web user interface to produce an external list, and take the list as a set of contacts offline into Outlook. You can even update contacts in Outlook, which in turn will let the data in the external system to get updated as well.

If you are still not sure about the benefits of SharePoint business connectivity services for working with external systems and processes, considering some pointers will help. To begin with, you can use such services to create, update, read, delete, and query (CRUDQ) to the external system from a SharePoint site or Microsoft Office application if the external system supports the operations and is modeled properly in the BDC service.

Thanks to the familiar user interface of SharePoint business connectivity services, you can work in your familiar work environments without the need to learn different user interfaces. Other advantages like no-code connectivity to external systems, offline access to external data, easy governance of external data, discovery of external data via SharePoint Enterprise Search feature, easier life cycle management by creating models and Office 2010 application artifacts with ease that help in building sophisticated workflows can also help your business a lot.

Unlike BDC, bulk operations are supported by BCS. Thus, using SharePoint business connectivity services, you will be able toreduce the round trips to the database and perform many options in a single connection. So, why wait any longer? If you have always waited for a solution that can overcome the shortcomings of BDC, use BCS today and experience how you can easily integrate external databases in SharePoint and display the data in the SharePoint sites.

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