Business Connectivity Services Benefits
Published: May 2010
Microsoft Business Connectivity Services (BCS) offers the following benefits for working with external systems and processes.
External content types provide SharePoint behaviors (such as lists, Web Parts, and profile pages) and Office Type behaviors (such as Microsoft Outlook Contacts, Tasks, and Appointments, Microsoft Word documents, and Microsoft SharePoint Workspace 2010 lists), and capabilities (such as searching and working offline) to external data and services. As a result, users can work in their familiar work environments without having to learn different (and often proprietary) user interfaces.
Using Microsoft SharePoint Designer 2010, the solution developer can declaratively describe the external system and tell Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 what data he or she wants. If a data source type is supported natively by Business Connectivity Services, the solution developer does not have to write code to develop an interface to the external system.
Business Connectivity Services provides rich cache and offline work features, and supports cache-based operations. Users working with solutions that are deployed on Microsoft Office 2010 applications, such as Microsoft Outlook 2010 and Microsoft SharePoint Workspace 2010, can manipulate external data efficiently, even when they are working offline or if the external system connectivity is slow, intermittent, or unavailable. The read/write operations performed against cached external items are synchronized when connection to the server becomes available.
Access to external data is complex, because each external system has its own databases, authentication and authorization mechanisms, access controls, and logging facilities. These factors can affect security, auditing, and other management tasks.
After data from the external system is loaded into Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 by the Business Data Connectivity (BDC) service, you can access the data securely and take advantage of a straightforward audit trail. This means that you have one central location for your data and one version that everyone can rely on. Security issues and time-consuming audit concerns can be minimized.
Business Connectivity Services offers discovery of external data via SharePoint Enterprise Search in SharePoint Server 2010. A coworker has to find the account manager for one of your customers. However, this information is stored in a Siebel database. The coworker requesting this information has not installed the Siebel front-end (or client) application and usually does not have to use it.
After registering the Siebel application in the Business Data Connectivity (BDC) service and authoring the external content type for the Siebel application, you can use SharePoint Enterprise Search in SharePoint Server from an intranet portal to look up information about a specific customer. SharePoint Enterprise Search then creates an index of information retrieved via the Business Data Connectivity (BDC) service. When a coworker requests specific information, the data is retrieved directly from Siebel. As a result, the coworker gets the needed information without having to obtain approval or install a separate application.
Business Connectivity Services provides a set of tools to make creating models and Office 2010 application artifacts easier, declaratively and by writing code. You can use Microsoft SharePoint Designer 2010 to quickly create composite solutions that meet external unit needs without writing code. You can use Visual Studio to create or extend solutions with sophisticated workflows and data that span external systems.
Solutions using Business Connectivity Services are assembled from a diverse array of artifacts that must be deployed on the client (an Office 2010 application such as Microsoft Outlook 2010) and the server that is running SharePoint Server 2010. Business Connectivity Services provides automatic packaging and deployment for solutions. It packages all related artifacts as a single, versioned unit and then publishes them to a SharePoint site. After the artifacts are published on the server, the solution is available to the SharePoint sites immediately. The solution package can then be proactively distributed and deployed (the push model) to the clients or users, and they can be required to "opt in." Business Connectivity Services uses the Visual Studio ClickOnce deployment to quickly deploy solutions on the clients.