Author: Michaela Witt, Software Developer, Layer 2 GmbH
In recent announcements, Microsoft has unveiled its plans to retire Business Connectivity Services (BCS) in Microsoft 365, signaling a shift in its approach to external data integration. This decision is part of Microsoft's broader strategy to streamline data connectivity options for users and improve the overall experience for enterprise customers.
Understanding the transitionSharePoint has a rich history of supporting users in working with external data, evolving from the Business Data Catalog in SharePoint Server 2007 to the cloud-oriented Business Connectivity Services. However, with the progression towards a cloud-first approach, Microsoft is phasing out BCS in Microsoft 365 and endorsing Microsoft Power Apps as the successor technology for modern external data connectivity.
While there isn't a direct migration path from BCS to Power Apps, the latter offers a contemporary, cloud-centric external data connectivity experience. Power Apps can seamlessly integrate with Microsoft 365 services and external data sources, including SharePoint, Dynamics 365, SQL Server, and more. Notably, it also extends its capabilities to integrate with on-premises data sources through the on-premises data gateway.
BCS support timelineIt's essential to note that this change won't impact SharePoint Server users immediately. BCS will continue to function with both SharePoint Server 2016 and SharePoint Server 2019 until their respective end-of-life dates in July 2026. Microsoft also assures users that BCS features in SharePoint Server Subscription Edition will remain unaffected.
However, for Microsoft 365 tenants, the process of retiring BCS features will commence shortly, with the blocking of certain features starting on October 30, 2023. By January 8, 2024, Microsoft will block BCS features for new Microsoft 365 tenants by default, along with tenants who have opted not to use those features since October 30, 2023.
Embracing change with Layer2 Cloud ConnectorIn light of these developments, organizations are encouraged to explore alternatives, and one notable solution is Layer2 Cloud Connector, especially for those looking to replace the "External list" feature of BCS. This powerful tool facilitates data integration and synchronization between 150+ corporate data sources without the need for extensive programming or a separate gateway to connect to on-premises systems.
Layer2 Cloud Connector stands out for its ability to connect services and apps seamlessly, be it on-premises or cloud-based. From Microsoft Office 365 and SharePoint to Dynamics, Azure, SQL/ERP/CRM, and more, it enables permanent two-way synchronization. Operating as a Windows Service, it offers secure and direct connections without requiring changes in connected systems.
Why Layer2 Cloud Connector?➤ Versatility across data sources: Layer2 Cloud Connector is designed to connect services and apps effortlessly, both on-premises and in the cloud. Whether working with Microsoft Office 365, SharePoint, Dynamics, Azure, SQL/ERP/CRM, or others, it facilitates permanent two-way synchronization.
➤ Direct and secure connections: Operating as a Windows Service, Layer2 Cloud Connector ensures direct and secure connections without necessitating alterations in connected systems. It thrives on maintaining the integrity of data and files through secure SSL/HTTPS connections.
➤ SQL Database empowerment: Unlocking the potential of SQL databases becomes streamlined with Layer2 Cloud Connector. Irrespective of the database type – be it SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL, or others – it ensures synchronization with other systems, both local and in the cloud.
➤ Flexibility in data selection: The connector offers flexibility in data selection through SQL, XPath, OData, and more. Users can customize data synchronization, manage conflicts, and apply dynamic columns for data cleanup or transformation.
➤ Security at its core: With support for various authentication methods such as Windows domains, Microsoft Accounts, Active Directory Federation (ADFS), and OAuth, Layer2 Cloud Connector prioritizes secure data transfer. Custom authentications like RM Unify and OKTA can be seamlessly integrated.