This document provides a guide on how to install and use BCS Meta Man for Windows – Business Connectivity Services (BCS) tooling for Microsoft® SharePoint® 2016; Microsoft® SharePoint® 2013 and Microsoft® SharePoint® 2010, as well as Office 365™.

One of the service applications in SharePoint is Business Connectivity Services (BCS), which helps small and medium-sized businesses as well as bigger organizations put their business data to work—and create valuable business solutions. Organizations often contain lots of data that is stored in dissimilar systems and databases throughout different departments. Using BCS, you can aggregate these external data sources into solutions and expose those solutions in SharePoint sites and Microsoft Office applications, such as Microsoft Word, Microsoft Access® and Microsoft Visio®. BCS Meta Man is a tool that helps you build these solutions.

Why use BCS Meta Man for SharePoint?

The key building block of Business Connectivity Services is the external content type. The data objects defined by external content types can be exposed on SharePoint sites using external lists, Web Parts, external columns in lists, and libraries, as well as allowing SharePoint Server to index external data. External content types, together with how to connect to your external data sources are defined in a Business Data Connectivity (BDC) model. This is an XML file, which once created needs to be stored in the BCS database, known as the metadata store or external content type repository.

Microsoft provides two tools which you can use to create a BDC model. Your choice of tool depends on the external data source that you are connecting to:

  • SharePoint Designer 2013 and 2010. SharePoint Designer provides you with a code free option to connect to Microsoft SQL Server. You can also use SharePoint Designer to generate a connection to Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) data services, or other proprietary data that is accessed by using custom .NET assemblies. You will need a developer to create code to use WCF services and .NET assemblies.
  • Visual Studio® 2012 and Visual Studio® 2013, when used with the appropriate Office Developer Tools for Visual Studio, provides you with a code free method to connect to Open Data Protocol (OData) sources. For all other data sources, you must write the code by hand unless you are using BCS Meta Man.

As the BDC model is an XML file, you are not limited to using only Microsoft tools, you could use an XML editor, Notepad, or a third-party tool, such as, BCS Meta Man. BCS Meta Man can generate BDC models for a wide range of systems, including web services, customer relationship management (CRM) applications, such as, Siebel, SAP® and Salesforce® or data stored in databases created using: Microsoft SQL Server®, Oracle, Microsoft Access, Sybase, Firebird, MySQL, Informix, Progress and more. BCS Meta Man can also generate connections to OData, and other ODBC data sources without the requirement to write code. BCS Meta Man is a standalone Windows application that must be installed on a SharePoint server. The SharePoint server may not necessarily be the target SharePoint environment where you may want to use the BDC model, for example, that SharePoint server where you use BCS Meta Man could be a development environment, staging or production environment, you can then take the BDC Model files and use them on another SharePoint installation such as on-premises installations of SharePoint Foundation and SharePoint Server or SharePoint online in Office 365™. Of course BCS within each of these SharePoint products provides different capabilities.

Business Connectivity Services References

Introduction to external data →
Find content about external data →
Plan for Business Connectivity Services in SharePoint 2013 →
What does a Business Connectivity Services solution look like?
Use external data with Access →
Use external data columns in a Word document →
Using Business Connectivity Services in SharePoint 2010 →

Videos

Developing Advanced BI Visualizations with Microsoft Visio and SharePoint in the Cloud →
Crawl and Index all Enterprise Content with SharePoint 2013 Search →
Optimizing external data consumption through Business Connectivity Services (BCS) and OData Services →
Configuring Hybrid Business Connectivity Services with SharePoint 2013 →

Books

Microsoft SharePoint 2010: Business Connectivity Services, by Penelope Coventry, Brett Lonsdale, Phill Duffy

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