Business Connectivity Service (previously Business Data Catalogue / BDC) was one of the most exciting features in Microsoft SharePoint Server since its first release. Although it had a lot of short comings in its first version, but the idea behind it made it an important tool in the package. In SharePoint Server 2010, we have the possibility of using external data almost like a native list and it is possible to work with BCS in client object model which opens new doors for its extensibilities. Microsoft has made some changes in the next version (2013) to bring it to the next level. The new interoperability between BCS and other services (e.g. Visio Services) makes the ground ready for new solutions that were not possible / easy before.
Here are the most important changes (In my opinion):
- SharePoint now supports OData as a data source for BCS
- It can receive events from external systems
- External content types can be application scoped
- REST support is enhanced
- Richer object model for BCS
- It’s now possible to use external data in Visio / Visio Services and data will be refreshed when it’s changed!
OData (Open Data Protocol) Support
External System Events
The external event system works as a push model meaning that the external system (LOB application) sends a notification to let SharePoint know that an event is occurred, SharePoint then keeps record of the event in a notification list and notifies to it’s subscribers. The external system notifies SharePoint by sending a message to a REST endpoint in SharePoint that is configured as delivery address. [Read the following article in MSDN for more information: External events and alerts in SharePoint 2013]
Accessing external data in Visio
External list can now be used in visio diagrams. The procedure is really easy and from the Visio point of view you don’t feel any difference at all. After you create an external content type with BCS, and an external list. You just need to open up Visio 2013, go to “Data” tab and click “Link data to Shapes” (as you normally do with any data source) and this time select “Microsoft SharePoint Foundation”, Select the web site and the list that you’ve created previously. [More about new features in Visio 2013 on MSDN]