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|SharePoint 2010 Evaluation Guide|
|Thursday, 15 July 2010|
SharePoint 2010 is integrated with new versions of key Microsoft enterprise products, including Office and SQL Server. As a result, SharePoint 2010 will be an important factor for IT planning for the foreseeable future. SharePoint is Microsoft's Web application platform and suite of components for Web-based document sharing, team collaboration, corporate portal hosting, enterprise search, content management, business intelligence, and other functions. SharePoint 2010, the latest version, improves all of these areas, with especially notable improvements for sharing Office documents. Compared to earlier versions, SharePoint 2010 simplifies administration of large-scale installations and eases customization by developers. However, it also requires new infrastructure and updated skills for users, IT personnel, and developers. It also has many gaps that Microsoft partners will continue to fill. Despite the gaps, organizations need to understand SharePoint 2010 in order to accurately evaluate new versions of Office, SQL Server, and other products that integrate with it.
This 72-page report is an independent evaluation guide to SharePoint 2010 for IT architects and others who plan or approve SharePoint solutions. The report explains the main benefits of SharePoint 2010 over previous versions, while flagging its most important limitations and obstacles to upgrades. It also reviews how SharePoint 2010 interacts with other important Microsoft products and speculates on SharePoint's future evolution.
SharePoint resembles a Web counterpart for the well-known Office suite, and it shares the fundamental advantages that helped Office grow to its current dominance.
Specifically, SharePoint performs a disparate set of business functions such as document sharing and enterprise search on a common Web platform and set of licenses. It thus resembles the Office suite, which performs a disparate set of business functions (word processing, spreadsheets, and so on) on a single desktop application platform and license. Historically, an organization might buy Office for one function (spreadsheets, for example) and then adopt Office for other functions, such as word processing, because it could do so without additional deployment and licensing costs. Similarly, many organizations initially bought SharePoint to provide better team collaboration and document sharing than they could get with file sharing and e-mail. Others adopted SharePoint as a platform for their corporate portals, Web sites that give the organization's members a single, well-organized jumping-off point to corporate information. Once SharePoint is in place, however, organizations can adopt it for additional functions such as enterprise search and Web-based data analysis, at lower additional cost than more specialized (and possibly more capable) products for those functions.
Microsoft's own business units also recognize the advantages of SharePoint as a common Web platform. Most applications in the Office suite now have special features for publishing information to SharePoint users, and the latest version of the suite, Office 2010, relies on SharePoint 2010 for a variety of collaboration features. Furthermore, other Microsoft server products such as SQL Server, Project Server, and the Dynamics business management applications now integrate with SharePoint, enabling SharePoint users to access some capabilities of those products in a browser. Consequently, SharePoint seems set to become an increasingly important piece of infrastructure in any organization that uses Microsoft applications.
What SharePoint 2010 Delivers
SharePoint 2010 shipped to volume licensing customers in May 2010 and became generally available in June 2010. It does not radically change the scope of the product, but improves all of the areas the product covers, with especially notable improvements for sharing Office documents, Web-based collaboration, and search. Compared to earlier versions, SharePoint 2010 also simplifies administration of large-scale installations and eases customization by developers. The most notable improvements are as follows:
Office document sharing. New features for sharing Office 2010 documents, including Office Web Apps for browser-based read-write access to documents, coauthoring (concurrent access to documents), offline synchronization, and PowerPoint broadcast Web conferencing. (A separate free version of Office Web Apps is offered for consumers through Microsoft's Windows Live service.)
However, SharePoint still falls short of Windows file sharing in some areas, including supported file size, storage costs, and replication. Software from SharePoint partners can close some of the gaps.
Web collaboration and social computing. As with SharePoint 2007, SharePoint 2010 users can create personal collaboration sites (called My Sites) and control access to those sites based on a Facebook-like "social graph" of relationships with colleagues. A status update mechanism (analogous to Facebook status updates or Twitter messages) for broadcasting short messages and an activity feed page that consolidates status updates and other activities keep one's colleagues informed. Users can rate and comment on SharePoint and other Web content with a system of annotated, shareable bookmarks (similar to consumer-focused Web sites such as Digg and Delicious). The updated SharePoint People Search feature uses data generated by these mechanisms to locate users who have expertise on particular topics. Separately, a free Social Connector add-in enables Outlook 2010 users to see their contacts' photos, contact information, and status updates from SharePoint, Facebook, and other sources.
However, some of the social computing features could prove distracting to many users, and some generate potentially sensitive data that can't be managed with SharePoint's normal content management features. Consequently, organizations have to evaluate carefully which of the features they roll out, and to whom.
Search. SharePoint Server 2010 can improve the relevance of search results for internal documents: for example, it analyzes clickthrough data from searches to identify the most relevant pages for a search term. Several features help users refine their queries-for example, they can filter results by content type, location, or custom properties (such as a product taxonomy) supplied by the organization. Microsoft says that scalability has improved: a SharePoint 2010 search system with sufficiently powerful hardware can index twice as many items (up to 100 million) as SharePoint 2007 could. Microsoft has updated the Search Server line with this technology.
Separately, Microsoft has introduced FAST for SharePoint, which uses the acquired FAST technology for core search, while using SharePoint Server 2010 for user and administrative interfaces and some other features. FAST for SharePoint provides granular controls for users, administrators, and developers to tune and customize search results and can index more than 500 million items.
Web platform improvements. The SharePoint 2010 Web platform for end users includes an enhanced browser interface with an Office-like Ribbon and improved tools for editing Web pages, style sheets, and other Web content in SharePoint.
Content management. Mechanisms for organizing, searching, and archiving documents and other SharePoint content, as well as for enforcing policies about how content is filed, retained and discarded, have been improved for SharePoint Server 2010. For example, a managed metadata service enables organizations to centrally define vocabularies of content properties to help organize and classify content, while new document ID services enable organizations to assign permanent IDs to documents and find them regardless of their locations in a SharePoint installation. Users and applications can flag content as corporate records and place legal holds on content anywhere in a SharePoint site to control content retention and deletion; these operations previously only worked on content that had first been moved into a special Records Center. SharePoint Server 2010 also can automatically enforce complex policies for retaining content, such as multistage disposition policies in which content moves from working status to deletion in a series of predefined steps.
SharePoint still has some fundamental limitations for content management; for example, its content management capabilities don't extend to some sensitive user data, it has only a limited ability to manage content in other applications (such as Exchange), and it lacks some common content management features such as capture of physical document images. Organizations that need these functions will have to turn to products from SharePoint partners.
Business intelligence. SharePoint Server's scorecard capabilities for tracking business unit performance have been enhanced with technology from the Monitoring and Analytics components of the discontinued PerformancePoint 2007 Server product. The Excel Services feature, which enables SharePoint users to view and analyze Excel spreadsheets in a browser, has been updated with Excel 2010 features (such as Sparkline embedded charts). Excel Services users can analyze large data sets with PowerPivot, the new analytic technology delivered with SQL Server 2008 R2, and they can perform limited editing of spreadsheets with the new Excel Web App. SharePoint 2010 delivers updated capabilities for viewing reports created with SQL Server Reporting Services, and new features for browser-based access to reports created with Visio 2010 and Access 2010.
However, many of SharePoint 2010's business intelligence features overlap: for example, it offers at least four different technologies for building business scorecards. This raises the questions of which technologies to adopt, and which technologies Microsoft will continue to develop long-term.
Scalability, availability, and administration. A new service architecture, multitenant features, and other improvements help SharePoint 2010 handle larger numbers of users and volumes of content. Improved support for SQL Server's high-availability features and enhanced backup and recovery utilities could help reduce downtime, while improved logging and log analysis tools help organizations analyze feature usage and spot misconfigurations and other problems. A substantially expanded PowerShell interface lets organizations script most administrative procedures, which in turn could promote efficiency and standardization.
Despite the improvements, many organizations will still have to rely on third-party utilities for backup and other administrative tasks, and some limits on scale (such as a 2GB limit on file size) have not been raised in SharePoint 2010.
Development. Business Connectivity Services, a successor to the SharePoint Business Data Catalog feature, links SharePoint 2010 to data in systems outside of SharePoint, such as an organization's line-of-business applications, enabling SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 users to view, update, and search data in these systems. SharePoint Designer development tools for Business Connectivity Services are major improvements over those that were available for the Business Data Catalog. They also include improved versions of the site customization and workflow tools delivered in earlier SharePoint Designer versions. Visual Studio 2010 delivers tools for building, packaging, and deploying custom applications to SharePoint 2010. On SharePoint 2010, a custom application can run in sandboxed mode that limits usage of resources (such as processor time) and restricts access to data (such as the file system), limiting the damage a runaway application might cause.
This report is an independent evaluation guide to SharePoint 2010 for IT architects and others who plan or approve SharePoint solutions. The report explains the main benefits of SharePoint 2010 over previous versions, while flagging its most important limitations and obstacles to upgrades. It also reviews how SharePoint 2010 interacts with other important Microsoft products and speculates on SharePoint's future evolution.
Sections in the SharePoint 2010 Evaluation Guide:
Document Sharing with Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010
SharePoint Server Enhances Web Collaboration
Enterprise Search in SharePoint 2010
SharePoint 2010 Enhances Content Management
Web Content Management Improved in SharePoint 2010
Improved Dashboards, Reports from SharePoint
New SharePoint Aims for Larger Scale
SharePoint 2010 Improves Tools, APIs
Impact and Roadmap
Appendix: SharePoint Server 2010 Packaging, Pricing, and Licensing
Charts & Illustrations included in this Report:
This 72-Page Report Contains [43,179 words]