I decided to download the trial of BDC Meta Man Web Edition from Lightning Tools today since I have used BDC Meta Man so much in the past. I found the tool to be quite functional and I easily able to connect to a database table and import an application definition. There are several steps to the install process involving the installation and deployment of several packages along with several features scoped at the web application and site collection level. One thing to note is that .NET Framework 3.5 SP1 is required. The servers I tried it on I thought had it, but in fact only had 3.5. @nickswan quickly helped me figure out that was my issue after I had everything installed. A batch file allows you to quickly add the 6 needed solution packages to the solution store. Then you just have to deploy each one to your web application and activate the relevant features. The included documentation makes it pretty clear what you need to do. There are quite a few steps to the install, but it’s not bad at all.
Once installed, a link is added to the Site Collection Administration links labeled BDC Meta Man Web Edition. The cool thing about this is you don’t have to have direct access to your SSP site for it to work. When you open the page, you can start on a new BDC application definition (SQL or Oracle) or connect to an existing definition. Unfortunately, the trial doesn’t allow you to connect to existing definitions so I couldn’t try that out, but I was able to quickly make a new application definition for a new table. You start by providing a connection to the server, then pick the database and tables you want. You can configure all of the usual things in the BDC such as the methods and actions. One you are complete, there is a button to add the LOB system to MOSS. Clicking this uploads the new BDC application definition directly into the BDC. There is no need to save off the XML schema file and then manually upload it later.
All in all, its a pretty useful tool I would say. It has a nice AJAX interface that makes building application definitions easy. The only minor issue I really saw is that with tables with a large number of columns, they all did not fit nicely into the window. It doesn’t look like you can build an application definition for a web service with this tool (but someone correct me if I am wrong). I would also really like to see an export option or something of that nature to export the current or existing application definition. If you work with the BDC a lot, give the tool a try the next time you need to do an application definition.