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best practice qn

hi, say I have a JSP page I have hosted on an external server. The JSP page refers to an external DB to fetch the data it needs for its fields...

now, i want a VF page to be an exact replica of this (just consider data retrieval from DB -- don't bother about session maintenance and other allied problems)

what would be the best way for this page to function if I want to retain and use the external DB for the VF page?

Do I use web service call outs? or is there another way .. like a realtime appexchange tool?

say, I want to create such a tool for internal purposes (I don't want it to be generic), where can i start?

Message Edited by rawiswar on 02-19-2009 10:48 AM