Learning about Business Connectivity Services

Hello, I’m Rob Silver, a technical writer on the SharePoint IT pro content team. This release, I focused on Business Connectivity Services, a set of features that help you bring external data into SharePoint and Office 2010. In this blog entry, I’ll give you a brief description of Business Connectivity Services and then describe the content we’ve created to you to help you understand this feature area and incorporate it into your SharePoint and Microsoft Office 2010 solutions.

Business Connectivity Services, which is included in Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 and SharePoint Foundation 2010, is a set of services and features that provides a way to connect your SharePoint solutions to sources of external data, such as Web services, SQL Server databases, SAP applications, and custom solutions. Business Connectivity Services is also included in Microsoft Office 2010 suites, and when you use Business Connectivity Services in SharePoint Server 2010, you can implement solutions that let users interact with external data directly from such Microsoft Office 2010 programs as Outlook 2010 and SharePoint Workspace 2010. For example, if your enterprise maintains an external database of its customers, you can design a solution that lets your sales and support personnel view the customer information from within Outlook 2010 and even create new customer entries in the external database using the familiar Outlook interface.

Business Connectivity Services builds on the Business Data Catalog feature that was included in Office SharePoint Server 2007. However it adds a rich set of new features that helps you bring your external data into the familiar SharePoint user experience, allowing information workers in your organization to collaborate on the data as easily as they would collaborate on documents and list items. Here is a summary of the key features of Business Connectivity Services:

  • More connectivity options: In addition to databases and Web services, you can connect to WCF services and .NET assembly connectors.
  • Design and customization tools: You can use SharePoint Designer 2010 or Visual Studio 2010 to design Business Connectivity Services solutions.
  • Support for a full set of operations: In SharePoint Designer 2010 or Visual Studio 2010, you can implement a full set of operations on the external data (such as Read, Write, Update, and Delete) that will be available from within your solution.
  • Richer security: Full support for Claims-enabled services as well as the Secure Store Service to map user credentials to external sources of data.
  • Office client integration: You can implement solutions that let users interact with external data directly from Microsoft Office 2010 programs such as Outlook 2010 and SharePoint Workspace 2010. Data can be taken offline and, when the connection is restored, the data can be synchronized with the external system.
  • External data Web parts: SharePoint Server 2010 and SharePoint Foundation 2010 include a set of Web parts that help you rapidly build solutions that help users work with external data.

Business Connectivity Services touches on many audiences in the enterprise and we have designed our content sets to address the needs of these various audiences:

  •  IT pros are responsible for evaluating and planning Business Connectivity Services, deploying it, and operating the various services and features that come into play in a solution based on Business Connectivity Services. You will find Business Connectivity Services content for IT pros on TechNet. For example, here is planning content for SharePoint Server 2010 and planning content for SharePoint Foundation. Here is operations content  for SharePoint Server 2010 and operations content for SharePoint Foundation. For an overview of Business Connectivity Services, download the Business Connectivity Services model poster. And for a great roll-up view of most of the Business Connectivity Services content (from an IT pro’s perspective) visit the Business Connectivity Services Resource Center.
  •  Developers design and create external content types, create Web services to expose external data, and do other development tasks to build solutions based on Business Connectivity Services. There is a rich set of content for developers available on MSDN. Start at Microsoft Business Connectivity Services. Also, be sure to visit the SharePoint 2010 Developer Center for up-to-date information on Business Connectivity Services and on all the SharePoint development capabilities. Also, the Business Connectivity Services team maintains its own Business Connectivity Services blog. You’ll find the frequent posts on that blog relevant and useful for developers and IT pros.
  • Information workers create Business Connectivity Services solutions using tools such as SharePoint Designer 2010, and they use SharePoint sites and Office applications such as Outlook 2010 to participate in solutions based on Business Connectivity Services. The Office Web site has content for information workers who want to take advantage of Business Connectivity Services. For example, if you are designing solutions based on Business Connectivity Services, check out the SharePoint Designer 2010 content.

Lastly, as a technical writer, I want to make sure that we write content that is relevant to our IT Pro audience’s needs. If there is particular Business Connectivity Services content that you would like to see published, or if you have any feedback on the content that is already published, please leave a comment to this blog entry providing your feedback or content requests.


Rob Silver
Technical writer
SharePoint IT Pro content team