What is SharePoint 2003 (v2)?
Microsoft marketing has a tendency to refer to different technologies with one name - for example, "Dot Net" this and "Dot Net that." They later realized that just because they are calling everything "Dot Net" doesn’t necessarily mean it will help them market Microsoft SQL Server just because it belongs to .NET Servers. Are you following me on this one?<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
This time around we have "SharePoint" this and "SharePoint" that, just to be in sync with every other naming strategy they had in mind. Guys, do you need some help?
All right, enough picking on poor old Microsoft and let’s get back to the question: "What is SharePoint 2003?"
Not to disappoint you, I am not going to give you a marketing spiel, but rather try to answer the above question by asking the following question: "Why do we need software like SharePoint?" Before writing humans managed knowledge (information) verbally. Father passed the information to son as he taught him the tricks of the trade. Knowledge sharing was limited to the interaction between two or more humans and could be lost if the holder of the core knowledge died without sharing it with others. Our early ancestors even used caves to draw pictures on the walls. Technological advancement, such as the invention of papyrus paper, provided the next level of information sharing.
Then the invention of the printing press radically increased the ease of common man’s ability to learn and to share information. To store books we invented libraries. This new volume of information introduced the problem of managing and locating needed information quickly so we invented the idea of filing and index cards to locate books based on a specific search criteria. Today, we use computers as means of producing and storing large amounts of information. Therefore there is a need for a fast, reliable way to locate the right piece of information or document from multiple sources. Meanwhile, emerging internet technologies such as google.com now provide us with the ability to locate the desired document by searching billions of pages. But we have failed to provide this same functionality to our businesses and our home users.
"SharePoint" is therefore a set of technology products, which allows us to manage our intellectual property (documents, presentations, etc.) and enables virtual teams to collaborate on the information. Technology has changed, but our need for managing and providing access to information is still with us!
"SharePoint" is a set of products
The best way to demonstrate this set is to use the following diagram.
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Windows SharePoint Server (WSS)
Designed for small-teams to be able to manage, collaborate and exchange information by means of:
- Document Libraries – ability to check-in and check-out
- Discussion Boards
- Microsoft FrontPage and InfoPath Integration
- Supports Web Parts framework
Most people are not aware that they can use this software today without buying anything extra. Simple download and install it on the box that runs Windows 2003 Server.
SharePoint Portal Server 2003 (SPS)
This is the glue for multiple WSS servers to be able to provide Enterprise level one stop Portal services such as:
- Personal Site – individual users can manage their public/private site
- User Profiles – allows storing information from Active Directory and other meta data on the user’s end
- Search – powerful search engine for intranet and extranet searches
- Single sign-on
- Site directory
SPS sits on top of the WSS framework and adds other services to make the sharing of information within the enterprise easier.
Note: for the complete list of the differences please refer to the white paper: Choosing Between SharePoint Portal Server and Windows SharePoint Services
If the price is right!
Widespread embracing of this great set of enabling technologies depends on the right pricing schema. Unfortunately, I have seen that MS has previously had a few failures of pricing products that prevented their widespread acceptance. For example Microsoft BizTalk Server was designed to be used for integration within the enterprise and B2B between small business users and larger corporations. Do you think the price is right for SharePoint Portal Server? Will your enterprise pay $30,000 for it?
Note: pricing information can be found at: http://www.microsoft.com/office/sharepoint/howtobuy/default.mspx
Is it easy to develop against WSS and SPS?
That is a tough one! It is definitely an improvement from the previous version of SharePoint but this latest version is not development heaven. In my opinion the development framework is still cumbersome and not clear. Here is my Top 10 list of issues for WSS and SPS developers:
1. Terminology is confusing. What does “Virtual Server” mean?
o IIS has virtual servers
o SPS has virtual servers
2. Debugging of WebParts
o Complicated setup of remote debugging
o I have to have VS.NET installed on the WSS or SPS server in order to step into the code
o Unable to debug into VirtualPC from the host machine because remote debugging does not support debugging from the Workgroup into Domain (note: I am asking MS folks on this one, if you know anything drop a line or two)
3. Too many CFG files – there are too many different documents with configuration files
4. Too Many folders – template, .aspx pages and settings are scattered among different folders. It looks like different teams were developing the product and later had to merge all of it together as a final product
5. WebPart model – requires knowledge of writing Server Components, which means direct access to HtmlTextWriter object unless you write ASP.NET UserControls
6. Installation process of WebParts is automated but disperses entries across multiple web.config files
7. Restoring of deleted files is not supported natively
8. IISReset required to be run for some settings to take affect
9. Overwhelming amount of XML Schemas – it looks like we have schema for everything but no documentation
10. Lack of documentation which will be solved as more people are working with the product
Where do you find Help?
WSS and SPS are so new that there is not much help out there and Microsoft does not provide much, so the only choice for my answers is the worldwide Bloggers community. I used Feedster.com to find some of the finest Bloggers that are working and blogging about SharePoint technologies.
Top 5 Bloggers
- Serge van den Oever [Macaw] (SharePoint 2003)
- Mads Haugb? Nissen #region /* comments */ (SharePoint 2003)
- Westin's Technical (SharePoint 2003)
- Jan Tielens' Bloggings (SharePoint 2003)
- Bryant Likes's Blog (SharePoint 2003)
- James Edelen (* NEW)
Finally, the #1 SharePoint Blogger and expert at the moment is Patrick Tisseghem. If you have not subscribed to his Blog yet do it right away. He is located in Belgium and trains people on Microsoft technologies.
I have tried not to sound negative. Instead, I wanted to bring about some of the issues that the Microsoft SharePoint team has to resolve and encourage users to get involved with the SharePoint technology community.
Help us to help you!