Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 and the Microsoft Office 2010 suites include Microsoft Business Connectivity Services, which are a set of services and features that provide a way to connect SharePoint solutions to sources of external data and to define external content types that are based on that external data. External content types resemble content types and allow the presentation of and interaction with external data in SharePoint lists (known as external lists), Web Parts, Microsoft Outlook 2010, Microsoft SharePoint Workspace 2010, and Microsoft Word 2010 clients. External systems that Microsoft Business Connectivity Services can connect to include SQL Server databases, SAP applications, Web services (including Windows Communication Foundation Web services), custom applications, and Web sites based on SharePoint. By using Microsoft Business Connectivity Services, you can design and build solutions that extend SharePoint collaboration capabilities and the Office user experience to include external business data and the processes that are associated with that data.
Microsoft Business Connectivity Services solutions use a set of standardized interfaces to provide access to business data. As a result, developers of solutions do not have to learn programming practices that apply to a specific system or adapter for each external data source. Microsoft Business Connectivity Services also provide the run-time environment in which solutions that include external data are loaded, integrated, and executed in supported Office client applications and on the Web server.
Typical solutions based on Business Connectivity Services
Solutions that are based on Microsoft Business Connectivity Services can take advantage of the integration of client applications, servers, services, and tools in the Microsoft Office 2010 suites. Information workers typically perform much of their work outside the formal processes of a business system. For example, they collaborate by telephone or e-mail messages, use documents and spreadsheets from multiple sources, and switch between being online and offline. Solutions that are based on Microsoft Business Connectivity Services can be designed to fit within these informal processes that information workers use:
- They can be built by combining multiple services and features from external data systems and from the Office 2010 suites to deliver solutions that are targeted to specific roles.
- They support informal interactions and target activities and processes that occur mostly outside formal enterprise systems. Because they are built by using SharePoint 2010 Products, solutions that are based on Microsoft Business Connectivity Services promote collaboration.
- They help users perform tasks within the familiar user interface of Office applications and SharePoint 2010 products.
Here are some examples of solutions that are based on Microsoft Business Connectivity Services:
- Help desk An enterprise implements its help desk, which provides internal technical support, as a solution that is based on Microsoft Business Connectivity Services. Support requests and the technical support knowledge base are stored in external databases and are integrated into the solution by using the Business Data Connectivity service. The solution displays both support requests and the knowledge base in the Web browser. Information workers can view their current requests either in a Web browser or in Microsoft Outlook. Tech support specialists view the requests assigned to them in a browser, by using Microsoft Outlook, and, when offline, by using Microsoft SharePoint Workspace. Workflows take support issues through each of their stages. Managers on the technical support team can view dashboards that display help desk reports. Typical reports indicate the number of support issues assigned to each support specialist, the most critical issues currently, and the number of support incidents that are handled by each support specialist during a given time period.
- Artist tracker A talent agency integrates its database of artists into its internal Web site. The complete list of artists, their contact information, and schedules can be taken offline in Microsoft SharePoint Workspace or in Microsoft Outlook. Recording contracts can be generated and filled from the Web site, Microsoft SharePoint Workspace, or Microsoft Outlook, and a workflow guides each contract through its various stages. New artists can be added from the Web site or from Microsoft Outlook. By using this solution, agents always have the information that they need nearby and they can perform many key tasks by using familiar Office interfaces.
- Sales Dashboard A sales dashboard application helps sales associates in an organization quickly find the information that they need and enter new data. Sales orders and customer information are managed in an external database and integrated into the solution by using Microsoft Business Connectivity Services. Depending on their roles, team members can view sales analytics information, individual team members’ sales performance data, sales leads, and a customer’s contact information and orders. Sales professionals can view their daily calendars, view tasks assigned to them by their managers, collaborate with team members, and read industry news, either from a Web browser, from Microsoft Outlook, or offline in Microsoft SharePoint Workspace. By using Microsoft Word 2010, managers can author monthly status reports that include data from the external systems.
Business Connectivity Services architecture
The following illustration shows the architecture of Microsoft Business Connectivity Services.
A: The Business Data Connectivity service (BDC service) provides a means for storing and securing external content types and related objects. An external content type defines the following:
- A named set of fields of data, such as "customer."
- The operations for interacting with the data's external system, such as read, write, and create.
- The connectivity information that lets solutions that use the external content type connect to the external system.
B: External content types are stored in a dedicated Business Data Connectivity service database.
C: The Secure Store Service securely stores credential sets for external systems and associates those credential sets with identities of individuals or with group identities. A common scenario for the Secure Store Service is a solution that authenticates against an external system in which the current user has a different account for authentication on that external system. When used with Business Data Connectivity service, the Secure Store Service provides a way to authenticate users and groups on external data sources.
D: Credential sets that the Secure Store Service uses are stored in a dedicated, secure database.
E: The Business Data Connectivity Server Runtime on front-end SharePoint servers uses the Business Data Connectivity data to connect to external systems and execute operations on the external systems for access by thin clients such as Web browsers.
F: The metadata cache provides caching of the runtime Business Data Connectivity service data. It can optionally be encrypted.
G: The Business Data Connectivity service supports connecting to SQL Server and other relational databases, Web services, and custom data connectors that comply with the requirements of Microsoft Business Connectivity Services.
H: SharePoint Web sites use Business Data Web parts and SharePoint external lists to interact with external data that Microsoft Business Connectivity Services expose.
I: Office client applications synchronize with the Business Data Connectivity service data and Secure Store Service data by using the Business Data Connectivity Server Runtime.
J: On supported Office clients (Microsoft SharePoint Workspace, Microsoft Outlook, and Microsoft Word), the Office Integration Client Runtime acts as a connector between Microsoft Business Connectivity Services running on the client and Office applications.
K: The Business Data Connectivity Client Runtime, on client computers, uses the Business Data Connectivity service data and Secure Store Service data to connect to and execute operations on external systems for access by supported rich clients.
L: Business Data Connectivity service data and Secure Store Service data is cached on client computers.
M: The Business Data Connectivity Runtime, on client computers, supports connecting to SQL Server and other relational databases, Web services, and custom data connectors that comply with the requirements of the Microsoft Business Connectivity Services.
N: The client cache refresh synchronizes the cache with the Microsoft Business Connectivity Services data and Secure Store Service data.
O: The Client Secure Store Service enables end users to configure their client mappings in the credential database that is associated with the Secure Store Service.
P: Solution developers can use Microsoft SharePoint Designer 2010 and Visual Studio 2010 to create external content types and BDC models.