Product Review: BDC Meta Man

Posted Monday, July 9, 2007 3:17 PM by C-Dog's .NET Tip of the Day

Many of you have already heard me complaining about the tedious task of generating a schema for the MOSS Business Data Connector. Its a painful process and I always said there is no reason why it can't be automated. I wanted a product that I could simply point at a set of tables and it spits out the XML I need. Well today, I managed to stumble upon a product that does just that. The product is called BDC Meta Man and it allows you to drag and drop tables into a design surface, click a button and you have an XML file that is ready to import.

After I installed the product, I fired it up. There is a button that allows me to connect to an initial data source. The trial version allows SQL Server, but if you have the professional version you can also connect to Oracle and web services. I am particularly excited about the web service support, since that schema is pretty painful. Once I chose the data source, I simply dragged and dropped a few tables onto the design surface, told it where I wanted the XML file and it spit out a nice clean XML file for me to import.

Generating a file is the easy part, but now for the real test. Does it import and can I view the data? The only issue I ran into was I had to manually set the permissions to my SQL Server (this is mostly just due to an issue in the way my environment is set up). Other than that, I dropped a Business Data List on the page, picked the data source and low and behold, there was my data. That is amazing. This product is going to easily save me 2 to 4 hours per entity that I have to create.

The product is great. I have a couple of idea, that would make it excellent. The main thing I would like is for it to have the ability to save the connection I create as well as what objects I have dragged onto the design surface, so that if I ever need to regenerate the XML, I don't have to set it up again. Admittedly, I only have the trial version and maybe the pro version has some of these features. I think a Wizard would be useful for the intiial creation of the project to collect info such as where your XML file is and where your shared services provider is. Also of note is once the installer finishes, there is no notification and no program group created in your start menu. You can easily find the files in Program Files\BDC Meta Man. This aside, I still think the product is great and I recommend it to everyone.

What is cool is that BDC Meta Man will even allow you to create custom actions, generate methods, and created your IDEnumerator method. What's the catch on the free version? Well you are limited to approximately 180 days of use, can only use SQL Server data sources, can't create associations, and are limited on the number of entities you can use. The trial version is pretty useful by itself though. However, I think the professional version will be worth it to get those features. Anyone that works with the MOSS Business Data Connector, I recommend you go get this product today. The number of hours you will save in development will astound you.

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