Recently I worked on a BDC project and I was able to get a taste for what is possible for out-of-the-box SharePoint integration with external systems. The tricky aspect of BDC web service integration is that it only works with older web services – ones that use Basic Profile. The challenge of this is that you are limited in the integration options that are available because you must rely on the older SOAP and HTTP protocols. There are Office SDK samples that showcase integration with SAP and Siebel over BDC web services or Oracle over BDC database connections, but I was wondering how I would expose PeopleSoft or some other enterprise system that cannot be reached with a Basic Profile web service or a database connection.
Based on my BizTalk background, I knew that I could use the PeopleSoft adapter through BizTalk and then expose a BizTalk orchestration as a Basic Profile web service that could then be consumed by the BDC. So essentially this would be like a BDC bridge over BizTalk. This is when I started exploring the WCF LOB SDK as an interesting technology because the BizTalk adapter pack 1.0 is based on this SDK and it basically provides enterprise integration over WCF. Very few people are playing with the WCF LOB SDK, mostly because I think it seems confusing and has a poor name. The SDK is targeted at BizTalk developers with its "adapter" terminology, but it is really more of a way to talk about BDC from an adapter-oriented mindset. The LOB terminology should connect in your mind the LOB aspects of the BDC. If you look at the BDC documentation, the concepts are all about connections rather than adapters, but the WCF LOB SDK redefines the adapter concept by describing it as part of the channel infrastructure. So the future for the BDC is a redefined adapter based in WCF.
I found a few links that tie together the BDC adapters <-> WCF LOB SDK concepts, which really give us a glimpse of how the WCF LOB SDK is going to actually become more valuable from a MOSS perspective as the MOSS product is enhanced to support WCF. Usage pattern 7 on http://blogs.msdn.com/biztalk_adapter_development/archive/2007/07/09/wcf-lob-adapter-usage-patterns.aspx mentions how future BDC enhancements will rely on the WCF LOB SDK. It looks like Jesus Rodriguez also played with some of these scenarios: http://weblogs.asp.net/gsusx/archive/2007/07/12/sharepoint-bdc-wcf-adapters-and-more.aspx. The dates on these links suggest these concepts are old news but it is still relevant because the BizTalk adapter pack 1.0 was only recently released. The plans for this SDK go way back but the vision for how it will be used in the future seem to be missing. The WCF LOB SDK gives us a vision for the future of the BDC, which should include having a better designer experience for BDC developers as well as a much richer level of connectivity and flexibility. So the ROI for the WCF LOB SDK is still down the road, but once MOSS can support WCF it will be possible to integrate these other enterprise systems like PeopleSoft straight from the BDC. This is an exciting vision for the future of the BDC technology and a great reason to get your hands dirty with the WCF LOB SDK.
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