Thursday, February 03, 2005

Information Bridge Framework 1.5 (DevDays 2005)

The session about Information Bridge Framework was largely a demonstration of the upcoming version IBF 1.5 (Patrick got a release the day before, pretty impressive to deliver a presentation like this overnight). I already posted about IBF a couple of months ago (See Office Information Bridge Framework and Information Bridge Framework the sequel) But lets recap, Information Bridge Framework (or IBF) is a framework which allows you to connect the unstructured work processes of information workers ( with tools such as Word and Excel) with the structured data which resides in different line of business (LOB) applications. Integrating with these different LOB is quite challenging and IBF provides you with a web service based framework to accomplish this difficult task.

From the first session I followed (Connecting your business solution with the core platform) I already learned that developing IBF solutions is quite difficult with lots of steps. Building an IBF solution requires lots of different skillsets (Building webservices, windows forms, using smarttags, schema attached documents and using lots of XML and XSL) Microsoft seems to have understood this problem and now has a couple of wizards which can help.

Different steps in developing an IBF solution:
  • Building IBF compliant webservices - these webservices only accept/return XML blobs which are compliant to certain IBF xsds

  • Generate services metadata - with IBF 1.5 you can generate this info through a wizard or with the metadata designer but you can also manipulate the raw xml schemas

  • Define entities, views and view-locators

  • Build your IBF client UI - use smarttags in combination with plain winform or html controls which are to be displayed in the taskpane (with Outlook in a separate pane)

  • Define the entry points to your IBF application - IBF search, smarttags or schema-attached documents

  • New features in IBF 1.5:
  • IBF support for InfoPath

  • URL moniker support for Internet Explorer (this means that you can use smart tags in your webpages which in turn can access IBF compliant webservices)

  • Serverless deployment - IBF 1.0 needed SQL Server to store IBF metadata, with IBF 1.5 it will be possible to store this metadata on the client

  • Better development support for xml transformations - IBF 1.5 offers the Biztalk mapper as a tool to create transformations

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