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This error occurs when using the ESRI OLE DB provider to open a recordset based on a connection to an SDE 3 service:
"Run-time error '-2147216035 (8004155d)'
Method 'Open' of object '_Recordset' failed"
SDE 3 services do not fully support connections made using the ESRI OLE DB provider. Although a connection may be opened and the database schema browsed, it is not possible to open a recordset based on any of the tables present in the database.
This is a known limitation and there is no workaround for it.