Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What I like and dont like about the new BDC (the BCS)

To get one thing clear - when BDC came in MOSS2007 I was very excited about it. I really thought it was great...until I had to do a real life project with it.

No, I am not talking about the pains I went through to create an application definition (this was before the BDC metaman or the tool that Microsoft released a bit later) - I am talking about how the BDC integration to sharepoint was so limited.

Every single customer who had a problem that I wanted to solve using BDC had the exact same requirements that I couldnt give them using BDC:

  1. We want it to work in office
  2. We want it to be a multiple item selection

There is no way in MOSS2007 to achieve both in BDC. You can develop a custom field type that will allow multiple selections from BDC information, but you cannot use a custom field type in Office. And the built in BDC column type only allows single selection.

That makes me sad.

In 2010, the "BCS" is much improved. It makes me even more excited about what I can do with it. It has "external lists" - which are fancy web parts that make the BDC data appear to be as if it is in a sharepoint list- including filtering, adding items, editing items and so on (not full functionality of a list though). There are two designers for the applications - no more XML! just use sharepoint designer or visual studio and create application definitions easily. Heck, in VS2010 you can create the connector to the LOB system in the same project as the application definition model - and refactor stuff later. This is EXCITING and GREAT stuff. Not to mention the object model, the (much) better support for item level security and so on.

But it still does not solve the problem I described above - the BCS column type is still a single lookup.

I was hoping that Microsoft would introduce better support for custom field types in Office 2010, but that is not happening either, so there is no oppertunity for me to develop a custom code to do that.

This makes me even sadder.

Can everyone please join me in asking Microsoft to

  1. Release a better BCS field type before RTM of as part of SP1 and make BCS perfect
  2. Redesign how custom fields are supported in office applications for SharePoint 15

Meanwhile, I will enjoy the cool new features.

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