Business Connectivity Services (BCS) in SharePoint 2010

Business Connectivity Services (BCS) are the   upgraded version of Business Data Catalog  from SharePoint Server 2007. BCS allow you to connect your SharePoint based content with external data (often called LOB DataLine Of Business Data). With this powerful functionality you can read the data from external sources and  edit them directly from SharePoint sites or web parts. BCS is also fully integrated with the Office 2010.

The standout feature of BCS  is the SharePoint Search capability – now you can take your relational databases with plain unformatted data and present them in a SharePoint farm  using powerful Search capabilities, social tagging and all the new features that ship with SharePoint 2010. There is also one very important improvement since 2007 – BCS is available even in the free version of SharePoint Foundation 2010, previously it was not available in WSS 3.0.

In this article I will discuss the overall BCS model and demonstrate the configuration of a  connection with BCS in a SharePoint Server 2010 farm.

Business Connectivity Services (BCS) Administration

BCS Services are administered using  the Business Data Connectivity Service (BDC). If the BDC shortcut is familiar to you from  SharePoint 2007, you should note that BDC no longer means “Business Data Catalog”. BDC is now the service that lets you manage BCS services configuration.

Using the BDC, you can manage external content types (sets of fields from other business applications), external systems (such as SQL Server databases, third party applications, etc) and BDC models (in  XML format).

Business Connectivity Services supports two types of XML definitions (similar to those from BDC in SharePoint 2007) – application models and resource files. Application models contains the XML definitions of the external content types. Resource files describe imported or exported properties, permissions or localized names.

If you are familiar with the previous BDC model, you may expect that to setup BCS you will need to create complex XML definitions using Visual Studio. Of course, you still can, but now there is simpler way, since SharePoint Designer 2010 let you do the job with only few mouse clicks.

Before we actually start some configuration, we will quickly examine  BCS’s functionality and overall model.

External Data Sources

Business Connectivity Services can connect to the following types of external data:

  • SQL Server Databases
  • SAP Applications
  • Web Services – including Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) Web Services
  • SharePoint based web sites
  • Third party applications

Business Connectivity Services Architecture:

  • BDC Service – stores and secures external content types.
  • Secure Store Service – securely stores credentials for external systems and manages the associations with the internal/SharePoint based identities.
  • BDC Server Runtime – uses the BDC data on front-end SharePoint servers to access/execute operations on the external systems for web browsers and other thin  clients.
  • BDC Client Runtime – uses the BCS Service and Secure Store Service to access/execute BCS operations on external systems from within the client environment.
  • Metadata Cache – provides caching of the BCS Service data. The cache can be optionally encrypted.

BCS Configuration Walkthrough

In the following scenario, I will connect the BDC service to a  SQL Server Database that I  created. To follow this walkthrough, you will need:

  • SQL Server Management Studio (to view the tables and to set the database security for BDC).
  • SharePoint Designer 2010 (to configure the BCS connections).
  • SharePoint Server 2010 fully operational.

First, let’s take a look at the example database in SQL Server. I created table Clients in the exampledb database, which now contains some data that I want to show within SharePoint sites.

SharePoint BCS - Business Connectivity Services

Clients Table that will be used as the external source

Launch SharePoint Designer 2010 and open the SharePoint site (which is http://sps2010 in this example).

SharePoint BCS - Business Connectivity Services

SharePoint Designer 2010 with the intranet site opened ( http://sps2010 ).

Click the External Content Types option in the navigation pane.

SharePoint BCS - Business Connectivity Services

Navigation Pane with “External Content Types” option selected

In the new tab that opens, click on the External Content Type icon. This will create the new External Content Type that we will use to connect with our   SQL Server database.

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3 Responses to “Business Connectivity Services (BCS) in SharePoint 2010”

  1. That’s excellent and informative. Fantastic way to explain BCS.
    By any way, can we use the Clients table from Visual studio while developing webparts for SP2010?
    I need this for certain calculations and Dashboards.

    Thank you.

  2. hi this is awesome! i just did mine, but what would be the steps to find this list items in the site search. i already configured the crawl but i haven’t have any luck, the items still won’t show in my search.

    any thoughts?

  3. awesome… very helpful