Many of you may be familiar with the Business Data Catalog (BDC) feature of MOSS 2007 that allowed for the integration of SharePoint with various line-of-business (LOB) systems on a read-only basis.  In SharePoint 2010, the BDC has become the BCS – Business Connectivity Services.  The BCS has it’s own dedicated database and runs as it’s own service application (as do many of the other services in SharePoint 2010) that can be enabled at the Web Application level.

With Microsoft Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 capabilities, people are now empowered with read and write access to LOB applications and external data sources (such as SQL, Oracle, SAP, CRM, Siebel, Web services, and custom applications), whether they are online or offline.  An entire site can be taken offline by using Microsoft Office Workspace and then users can resynchronize when they’re reconnected to the network.

The BCS requires set up of external content types (formerly known as a BDC entity) which are reusable collections of metadata.  The external content types can easily be set up in SharePoint Designer 2010 and contain connectivity information, data definitions and behaviors.  The external content type describes the schema and data access capabilities of an external data source and its behavior within Office and SharePoint.

Business Connectivity Services

Developers can use Visual Studio to develop code-based business logic and custom connectivity of these external content types.

Connecting to your external content types is as easy as setting up a new “External List” in your SharePoint site.  This can be done either via SharePoint Designer or through the SharePoint user interface by creating an External List as shown below.

With this major improvement to SharePoint 2010 allowing for both read and write access into external data sources, users can now access the back-end data and business processes through SharePoint lists and their familiar Microsoft Office applications and extend the reach of LOB data across the organization.