SharePoint Conference 2009 – Highlights for Business and Technical Decision Makers
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IntroductionWhen Virgin Atlantic flight number VS043 touched down at the McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 17 at about 1.40pm local time, I knew it was certainly time to convert the excitements and anticipations that have built up in the last few month over the next release of Microsoft SharePoint into concrete facts and deep understanding that will help shape and inform vital business and technical decisions. The Microsoft SharePoint Conference 2009 was billed to take place in Las Vegas from October 19, 2009 to October 22, 2009 and I had clear and precise objectives for choosing to attend the conference; including having a good time and meeting folks from around the world of course.
Another objective of mine for attending the conference was to understand Microsoft’s strategic and long-term plans for what has become its fastest growing and probably greatest income-generating server product ever; more so, to understand Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 and how it could (or would) deliver innovative, sustainable, and cost-saving business values to companies, organizations, and partners alike irrespective of the vertical(s) they may operate in. This article sets out to outline some highlights of the conference that should be of interest to both business and technical decision makers who are looking to either implement new SharePoint 2010 solutions within their organizations or migrate their existing SharePoint infrastructure (or legacy systems) to SharePoint 2010.
Why SharePoint Conference?Microsoft describes SharePoint 2010 as “the business collaboration platform for the enterprise and the Web” and rightly so. It is a well established knowledge that several businesses and organizations across all sectors the world over, are moving their existing collaboration platforms and Enterprise Content Management (ECM) systems from solutions powered/provided by IBM, Oracle, OpenText, EMC, SAP, Vignette, etc to SharePoint. According to a Forrester survey of 259 IT professionals, 24% plan to implement or upgrade to SharePoint right away while another 41% plan to do so within the next six months; following the survey. Yet another 12% of those surveyed plan to roll out SharePoint in the next 12 months; following the survey. No wonder several existing ECM companies including HP, EMC and OpenText are paying serious attention to what SharePoint has to offer and developing products and services that complement both SharePoint and their existing offerings in a symbiotic manner. To borrow the words of Steve Ballmer: “I don’t think there’s directly anything in the market that’s trying to do; in as holistic a fashion, in as integrated a fashion, and in as comprehensive a fashion; what we are trying to do in SharePoint.”
Tom Rizzo, SharePoint Senior Director at Microsoft, made the introductory speech while Steve Ballmer, Chief Executive Officer at Microsoft, delivered the keynote. Jeff Teper, Corporate Vice President, Office Business Platform at Microsoft, delivered the business-focus keynote speech; hailing SharePoint as a “Swiss Knife”; an analogy quite similar to one once used by John Fontana of Network World back in 2008.
SharePoint 2010 SKUSharePoint technologies; in the current release; comes in 3 different flavours – WSS 3.0, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007 Standard & Enterprise editions. SharePoint 2010, however, comes in 6 flavours; the table below shows the available SharePoint 2010 SKU.
SharePoint Foundation 2010 (successor to WSS)
SharePoint Server 2010
SharePoint Server 2010 for Internet Site, Standard Edition
SharePoint Server 2010 for Internet Site, Enterprise Edition
SharePoint Online for Internet Site
FAST Search Server 2010 SKUIn addition to the SharePoint 2010 SKU, there are 2 flavours of FAST Search Server as listed below:
On Premises FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint FAST Search Server 2010 for Internet Business
LicensingThe licensing modalities for these versions of the product stacks are yet to be made public but one of the questions most businesses would be asking would be: “What version of SharePoint 2010 should we buy?” The right response to this question would probably be: “It depends on both your immediate and strategic business objectives for SharePoint.” SharePoint can be hosted on-premise, online (using the Microsoft hosted Business Productivity Online Service – BPOS), or both. What hosting option a business decides to go with will depend greatly on lots of factors including applicable legislations, security, cost, availability, reliability, etc.
Technical PerspectivesSharePoint 2010 introduces a new “service application architecture” which allows you to effectively scale, extend, manage and centralize services. The service application architecture replaces the Shared Service Provider (SSP) architecture that existed in SharePoint Server 2007. A whole new set of services are also introduced in SharePoint 2010; these include Business Connectivity Services (BCS), PerformancePoint Services, Excel Services, InfoPath Form Services, Visio Services, Word Automation Services, and Managed Metadata Services.
ECM ChangesTwo of several new ECM features introduced in SharePoint 2010 are the Document ID Services and “DocumentSet”. The Document ID Services, when activated, generates a unique identifier for each document and stores this as a metadata on the document itself. This is very useful when tracking moved or relocated documents. DocumentSet, on the other hand, refers to a collection of related documents grouped and commonly tagged together e.g. all documents relating to a specific court case, all documents relating to a specific student’s activities on a specific course, etc. A DocumentSet is a content type that inherits from the inherent “Folder” content type.
Another new feature introduced in SharePoint 2010 is “Enterprise Content Type”. In SharePoint Server 2007, creating and managing content types across several site collections within a farm can be quite daunting. It typically required some external matrix and checklist to keep all content type changes consistent across a very large SharePoint deployment. Enterprise Content Type addresses this issue and simply takes on the responsibility of maintaining content type consistency across SharePoint deployments.
SharePoint 2010 DevelopmentSharePoint 2010 development has been greatly improved. New features like “Sandboxed Solution”, Developer Dashboard, Client Object Model, Silverlight WebParts, Language Integrated Query (LINQ) for SharePoint, new set of tools in Visual Studio 2010 for creating, packaging, debugging and testing SharePoint solutions, and; perhaps the most significant of all; install (for development purposes) on Windows 7 and Windows Vista. Unfortunately, toolsets for SharePoint 2010 will not be backward compatible (i.e. will not support previous versions of SharePoint).
ConcernsA well-known; but nevertheless unfortunate; fact is that SharePoint releases have always preceded .NET framework releases; and the same is true for SharePoint 2010 and .NET 4.0. This simply means that although SharePoint releases has been built on the .NET framework since SharePoint Portal Server 2003, the latest release of SharePoint does not take full advantage of the features and capabilities offered by its .NET counterpart. This means is that we should expect to see a flurry of custom tools, add-ons and the likes from third-parties and communities; especially CodePlex. And as always, some of these custom tools and add-ons are quite brilliant and useful but businesses will need to either buy them from third-parties and get available technical support or simply get them from communities for free but without any formal service level support.
Another big concern regarding SharePoint releases is the development cycle from the SharePoint team at Microsoft. SharePoint supported and adopted technologies always tend to get outdated rather quickly in terms of industry standards. SharePoint 2010 looks pretty up-to-date today and implements lots of today’s latest technologies like Web 2.0 but there are talks already of new technologies like Web 3.0 which SharePoint 2010 does not seem to implement. The truth here is that no software product can be “futuristic” and build on technologies or industry standards yet to be defined or established, not even SharePoint. The challenge facing Microsoft; and indeed the larger SharePoint community; is the ability to introduce new and relevant technologies; as and when they become available; into SharePoint without compromising on existing features and functionalities.
General InformationPublic beta of SharePoint 2010 will be available next month, probably around November 18 and it is expected to RTM early next year, probably around February 2010. See resources below for links to further online resources that will help provide better understanding of the new SharePoint 2010.
ConclusionSharePoint 2010 promises lots of significant changes and new things that will make it significantly stand out. There are features and functionalities which will certainly help businesses and organizations streamline and optimize their business processes and decision-making processes by delivering relevant, updated and precise information which may be derived, harnessed and diced from data and records hosted on disparate and geo-located systems. It will help businesses and their respective service providers deliver business solutions with very little TTM. It builds and depends on today’s well established technologies and standards which in turn make it a very compelling attraction to businesses looking to cut down on IT costs while not compromising on values and benefits derived from therein. But like we all know too well, a good SharePoint deployment is only as good as the strategies, planning and people behind it. There are many failed SharePoint implementations out and you need to understand what, why, when and how to achieve the right implementation before you embark on one. Remember, SharePoint is indeed a Swiss knife.
ResourcesMicrosoft SharePoint 2010 Website
Hardware & Software Requirements for SharePoint 2010
Why Upgrade to SharePoint Server 2010 Sites?
Why Upgrade to SharePoint Server 2010 Communities?
Why Upgrade to SharePoint Server 2010 Content?
SharePoint Altering ECM Landscape
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