Are you planning to use Business Connectivity Services in SharePoint 2013? Are you confused with what tooling you should use in order to create the External Content Type for your external data source? Hopefully this post will clear up some confusion for you. There are two main options that ship out-of-the-box with SharePoint, plus there are our offerings of Meta Man.
If you do not wish to use a third party product such as our Meta Man tool, you really have two choices and those choices really depend on what type of data source you are connecting to, but also your experience of writing code comes into the decision.
Microsoft SharePoint Designer 2013 provides you with a code free method of creating an External Content Type. The External Content Types that you can create include:
· SQL Server– Using SharePoint Designer 2013, you can connect to a SQL Server Data, have a choice of authentication methods and generate the required methods and actions for your ECT without the need to write code. The ECT gets deployed for you by writing directly to the Meta Data Store.
· .NET Assembly – The .NET Assembly is a compiled dll file that would have been created using Visual Studio. The code will have had to have been authored to connect to the external data source that you wish to connect to. Although SharePoint Designer 2013 can be used to connect to a .NET assembly, this is not a code free option unless another developer has already built the dll for you. Alternatively, BCS Meta Man can be used to create a .NET Assembly without you having to write any code.
· WCF Web Service– The WCF Web Service option allows you to connect to a WCF service that is providing you with the methods to connect to an external data source. Again, this is not really a code free option since the WCF Service would need to be authored in the first place as with the .NET Assembly.
The figure below is a screenshot from SharePoint Designer 2013 showing the supported external data source types that you can connect to.
Visual Studio.NET 2012provides you with a couple of options again depending on what type of data source you wish to connect to.
· OData– Visual Studio 2012 does in fact provide you with a code free method of connecting to an OData external data source. Your external data must first be published as an OData source, but then without code, you will be able to create an External Content Type.
The below figure shows adding an OData source for an External Content Type in Visual Studio 2012.
· All Other Data Sources – Visual Studio 2012 can be used to create the .NET Assembly or BDCM (Business Data Connectivity Model) for virtually any external data source. You will be required however to write the code yourself. There is a model diagram template available with the SharePoint tools that can be used to create the method stubs for your required methods, but you will need to provide the connection manually.
Meta Man – Our Meta Man tool is currently available as a pre-release offering you the ability to create a BDCM file to connect to an OData or Microsoft SQL external data source. The first release however will also support Oracle, ODBC and other external data sources. You will not need to write any code, but will be able to connect to the most common external data sources. Our current BCS Meta Man tool for Visual Studio 2010 can connect to most external data sources and generate the .NET Assembly file for you without the need to write any code.
The below image is from the pre-release of Meta Man showing the ability to currently connect to OData and SQL without writing code.
Meta Man can be downloaded for free as a pre-release from https://lightningtools.com/products/meta-man-pre-release/