Introducing the Business Data Catalog in Visual C#.NET

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Introducing the Business Data Catalog
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The Business Data Catalog architecture can be described using the diagram in figure 1.6. Several data sources are listed, but theoretically we should be able to connect to any data source by using either ODBC or a custom web service. ADO.NET or web services can be used as a provider to the data sources. ADO.NET includes most providers such as the SQLOLEDB, Jet, and Oracle providers. Via a web service, you can pretty much expose any data you like, and that s how we can connect to SAP and Siebel.
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Web Service
SharePoint Farm
Business Data Catalog
Service
Field Type
Search/Index
BDC Web Parts
Data Form Web Part
User Profiles
The services that BDC provides and how they relate to one another
The Business Data Catalog enables you to connect to live line-of-business data. The data is linked to as opposed to fetched and stored within SharePoint, as is sometimes assumed. The application definition file (ADF), described later in this chapter, is written specifically for each database or web service that you wish to connect to. The purpose of the ADF is to describe the database and tables using metadata. This metadata is then stored and used by the BDC Metabase to provide the connection to the database. The BDC Metabase consists of a few tables that are in turn stored in the Shared Services database. You may have more than one Shared Services database, depending on how many Shared Services Providers (SSPs) you have within your farm.
BDC architecture
The Business Data Catalog tables from within the SQL Shared Services database
In figure 1.7, you can see all of the tables in the Shared Services database that store BDC metadata. All of the BDC tables are prefixed with AR, which stands for Application Registry. Application Registry was the original term for the Business Data Catalog. Selected is the MetadataObject table, which displays a series of metadata items for the Adventure Works database and Production.Product table.
NOTE
As with all Microsoft SharePoint databases, manipulating the database directly in SQL isn t supported. Instead, make your changes to this database using the application definition file or the object model using .NET code.
The Business Data Catalog is a component of Shared Services. This enables you to define your BDC data source once, and then make use of it across the many web applications associated with the Shared Services Provider. By creating multiple Shared Services Providers, you can also separate out your BDC data sources. The most common scenario is a single SSP per farm. A schema file called BDCMetaData.xsd found in the bin of the 12 hive (c:\program files\common files\microsoft shared\web server extensions\12) can be used to create the application definition file. Alternatively, tools are available that help you to author the file: The Microsoft tool, which is part of the MOSS 2007 SDK
BDC Meta Man available from www.lightningtools.com
Introducing the Business Data Catalog
NOTE
Brett and Nick the authors of this book are the developers behind BDC Meta Man, and their experiences of writing the tool and working together with customers has gone into this text.
So we now know how we can use our BDC data in SharePoint, how the BDC is structured architecturally, and how it sits as a shared service. The final thing we need to do is see how we define our application definition file that describes our data source to SharePoint.
Data sources and how we connect to them
The Business Data Catalog supports many different data sources. From our experience, the vast majority of BDC users are connecting to Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, or web services.
Oracle and SQL
There are many different Microsoft applications that require or use a SQL database, including Microsoft Dynamics CRM, NAV, and GP. Of course, custom applications are also commonly written in-house that require and store business data in SQL. Oracle is also popular with BDC users who want to connect and use their data in Microsoft SharePoint. Throughout this book, we ll refer to some of the issues that BDC metadata authors face when connecting to either of these data sources.
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