What is Business Connectivity Services - A Beginner View

What is "Business Connectivity Services" A Beginner View

In this article we will learn what is Business Connectivity Services, take a look at it's key features and some of the common usage scenarios.

What is "Business Connectivity Services"

- Provides read/write access to external data within Microsoft SharePoint 2010

- Replaces BDC in the previous version.

Here is a short description of some of the new features

- Provides read/write access to external data within Microsoft SharePoint 2010

- Write-back to external systems - In addition to view access to data, BCS allows write-back to external systems, thus providing true external system integration. To enable write-back or data updates, the external system must support the operations and must be modeled appropriately.

- Online as well as Offline data access

- End-user Ease-of-use and training curve - The end users can access features and data from multiple systems thus limiting the number of systems that need to be learned. Users can focus on a single point of access using familiar UI.

- Extensible Provider Model: Provides an extensible model allowing developers to plug-in connectors for a new external system type

- Batch and Bulk operation Support - Reads multiple items in a single call, thus reducing roundtrips to the backend and improving performance.

- Blobs, Complex types - Blob data support added. Complex types supported using the dot notation.

- Abstraction - Allows developers to use an abstract entity model - the same application can be used to target different external systems that use the same entity model

Usage Scenarios

Here are some scenarios describing where BCS can be used:

The obvious applications of BCS are in the integration with external systems into SharePoint applications.

Examples include integration with databases, web/WCF Services, .Net Connection assemblies, Custom data sources - any external LOB system, in general.

Another interesting scenario is the use of BCS in providing a common integration portal among different entry points.

Eg. Using common standards, multiple vendor systems can be set up to feed into the Vendor Management System application for order status and invoices.

Upgrade systems - SharePoint applications can be set up as the common face of an application which is expected to be upgraded/stabilized/replaced in the future. The common UI can be maintained and the backend LOB system can be replaced.

Offline Data Access - A Sales LOB System can be exposed into a SharePoint application via BCS. Users can make use of the Offline Data Access feature to enter data offline and synchronize the data back when they are online.

External Content Types

- Represent definitions of external entities and can be re-used. Includes connectivity information, data definition and behaviors for the entity.

- Can be used in External Lists, External Data Columns, External Data Web Parts, External Content Type Picker, External Item Picker, Profile Pages


In this article, we got a beginner's perspective of Business Connectivity Services. In the next installment of this article, we will dig deeper in the details of the implementation and use of BCS. I hope this generated enough interest to encourage you to take a look at BCS in depth and see if it provides a good solution to any of your requirements.

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