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A Look at the Business Data Connectivity Control Panel in Office 365 E3 SharePoint Online

Office 365 E3 SharePoint Online plans now include an administrator control panel for Business Data Connectivity (BDC) services. SharePoint administrators can now ” . . . create Business Connectivity Services (BCS) connections to data sources, such as SQL Azure databases or Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) web services, that are outside the SharePoint site. Once [these administrators have] created these connections, [they] can manage or edit BCS information on the SharePoint admin center site.” (quoted from Manage Business Connectivity Service Applications, published on the Microsoft® Office web site).

The admin center site even includes a point and click option to set up Business Dat Connectivity (BDC) models. As the article just cited notes, “[t]he BDC Model view allows a user to import and export the underlying framework for the business data connection. This is very useful if [one has] to re-create the connection in a new environment. A BDC Model file can be imported to create an ECT connection to an external system.” All of this is done via the browser, without a need to use SharePoint Designer.

Actions can also be added through the administrative interface. “By adding actions to ECTs, administrators associate a uniform resource locator (URL) with an ECT. This automatically starts a specified program or opens a specified web page.” In other words, by including a call to a URL mapped to an External Content Type (ECT), workflows built with SharePoint Designer that require communications with the external data source can be initiated.

The Office article notes that the Secure Services Store (which we have discussed over the last few posts to this blog) is the preferred repository for credentials for connecting to external data sources added with the BCS service via the administration screen.

The administration screen also permits SharePoint Administrators to set metadata store permissions, object store permissions, export BDC models and even configure services. All of these point and click capabilities are new to the administrative screen for Office 365 E3 plans.

Ira Michael Blonder

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