Direct access to Spatial Data in an open structures stored by other software or processes in files and databases is very important for a flexible organization.
For example AutoCAD Map can combine design drawings from AutoCAD or AutoCAD Civil 3D with available data from other systems.
AutoCAD Map can connect to Oracle Spatial, ESRI ArcSDE, Microsoft SQL Server and MySQL databases. There are also FDO-providers to connect to file based datasource, like SDF, ESRI Shape and several raster-formats. And also FDO-providers that enables Map to connect to OGC-webservices.
Some FDO-provincers are developed by Autodesk, some by the opensource community.
Goto http://fdo.osgeo.org for more info about the opensource FDO-technology.