With SharePoint 2003 technologies, options for integrating applications was limited. You either purchased a product that had Web Parts or you created your own Web Parts. You could also use the page viewer Web Part but that’s old-school integration.

With the 2007 release, there are now more options for integrating applications that involve either configuration (preferred way).

So lets have a look at all the options:

  • Buy Web Parts – Buy applications that ship with Web Parts or buy third party Web Parts to integrate your applications. Manufacturers such as K2, Documentum and Meridio ship Web Parts with their product.
    • Pros: Buy vs build, known cost of ownership, ready to use immediately, functionality.
    • Cons: License fees, rely on third party to add features, limited choices.
  • Business Data Catalog – Configuration based integration provides a data-mart of sorts. SharePoint can display the information within the catalog using Web Parts, can index the information within the catalog and can use the information in the catalog to populate columns in lists and libraries.
    • Pros: configuration based, can display information easily using Web Parts, can index information to improve search experience and can integrate information within Web Parts such as lists and libraries.
    • Cons: Application Description Files (ADF) file is complex to create (New SDK addresses this), limited to viewing data (You can push updates but app owners would cringe at the thought).
  • Create Web Parts – create a Web Part interfaces with a Web Service. You could build a full featured Web Part or one that simply lists the information required and provides a link to a full featured Web or Win32 client – refer to the patterns and practices site. You could also use BizTalk Server to orchestrate some of the back end work.
    • Pros: design the Web Part the way you want it, you control the revision process, custom to your needs.
    • Cons: cost of ownership, documentation upkeep, managing updates and bugs.
  • HTML viewer – this is a simple means of displaying HTML within SharePoint. Sort of the grandfather of WSRP, it is a very simple sometimes ugly way of displaying content.
    • Pros: cheap, quick, simple.
    • Cons: ugly, no contract between producer and consumer – will break!

There are probably other options that come to mind but I think I’ve covered most of the obvious choices.