One of the more fantastic features of SharePoint Server 2007 is the Business Data Catalog (BDC). The BDC is shared service and it will allow you pull data from databases or Web services directly into SharePoint. That is, you can use Business Data Catalog to display data from your SAP, Siebel, or other line-of-business (LOB) application via Web services or databases.
The secret sauce to making the Business Data Catalog work is to create an application definition file, which is an xml file used to help bring the data into SharePoint. Once the data is a part of the BDC, then you can index it with search or pull it directly into web pages with fairly straight forward webparts.
So the question is how to make the definition file? Well we just recently launched our own definition editor see the resources links below. Another one of the tools I have used is the BDC Meta Man tool. I have used this tool in the past and I just learned that the creators of the BDC meta man tool did a couple of nice short screencasts on the BDC and their tools. The sound on the screencasts was a bit quiet, so you may have to turn the volume up, however the content is quite good.
The first screencast, and you will need to register to view the file the first time, shows how to use the tools to connect Oracle to MOSS Search in less than 5 minutes. Very cool demo!
The next two screencasts show the versatility of the BDC data that can be used inside of SharePoint. The first link shows how to use the BDC and Key Performance Indicators together. The second shows a great little way to take data inside and put it on a map, and I even like the fact they used Microsoft Virtual Earth. :-)
You do have to purchase the BDC Meta Man tool, and I would check their site for cost information. However, it does appear that the KPI and BDC Mapper Web Parts included.
Business Data Catalog Resources:
Enjoy and take a look at the BDC inside SharePoint!