Sharepoint Archive

Why Should You Consider SharePoint for External-Facing Sites

SharePoint is a great platform for external-facing sites, either B2C or B2B. SharePoint is primarily known as an Intranet environment that allows non-technical end-users to build new sites in a very short time, with rich collaborative functionality such as document sharing, out-of-the-box integration with search, and easy to use content management.

But SharePoint also can meet the requirements of sites for consumers — sites with rich interactions, branding, personalization, and content targeting as well as integration with back-end transactional systems for ecommerce, internationalization, cross-browser compatibility, and accessibility compliance. And for B2B sites, SharePoint offers rich user management features and powerful end-user customization capability.

The SharePoint front-end Web architecture, site management, and content management features offer many ways to influence the appearance of sites with capabilities that are available to site designers and developers such as site definitions, portal setting, Master Pages, page layout components, and rich Internet application integration.

As you may recall, SharePoint Server 2007 required significant custom coding to integrate all of these elements into a compelling user experience for an external audience. SharePoint 2010 has simplified that integration and made the creation of external-facing sites a simpler effort.

Still, good planning and design certainly pay off when using SharePoint for B2B and B2C sites, but when using SharePoint today, you will find the right features to use to meet your requirements and design specifications, as long as your requirements are well defined. By following good design practices, you will discover that SharePoint is a productive environment with many advantages over competing platforms. For instance:

  • SharePoint is both a portal and a content management system — a rare combination that offers integration between the content management and the UI rendition part of the platform.

  • SharePoint is a site management environment too — which allows you to standardize how sites are built in a multi-site enterprise situation, which is more often the case than not.

  • SharePoint is well integrated with .NET and associated development tools. With SharePoint 2010, the integration with Visual Studio 2010 greatly facilitates the deployment of a SharePoint application.

  • SharePoint offers full search capability through the tight integration with several search solutions: Search Server, Search Server Express, and FAST, the enterprise search engine from Microsoft.

  • SharePoint offers control over search engine optimization.

  • SharePoint has a strong security model.

  • SharePoint is extensible through a rich integration layer, on the front and back-end and through a large set of third party products. There is a rich ecosystem of vendors around SharePoint that make SharePoint a nearly complete functional and operational environment.

  • Finally, SharePoint is the platform with the most publically available documentation, code samples, and guidance; and training in SharePoint is easily accessible.

There are many convincing reasons to consider SharePoint for public facing sites. Razorfish has a wealth of experience building external SharePoint sites for brands like Kraft’s Maxwell House, Kroger, Dell Financial Services, Carnival Cruise Lines, Pfizer, Parsons, and TCDRS.

Please contact us at www.razorfish.com for more information.

SharePoint Conference 2009 - Day 3

Day 3!  The whole reason I am at the SharePoint Conference this year is because I am helping our client present their SharePoint case study in one of today’s sessions.

I scheduled some lightweight sessions in the morning, starting with the fun Building Sharepoint Mashups With SharePoint Designer, Bing Maps and REST Services.  This session was really pretty straight forward.  Using a data view web part to retrieve data from an MSN and Twitter RSS and/or REST feeds and then using XSLT to display maps mashup data (Google or Bing).

Before lunch, I went to Best Practices for Implementing Multi-Lingual Solutions on SharePoint 2010 to see what new things has 2010 in store for Variations.  While there are big changes in store for multi-lingual solutions, they are more on the admin/UI side.  The biggest improvement is the performance gains in building the Heirarchy Creation as timer jobs.  From a UI perspective, the chrome is now also localized based on User preferred language selectable from all the language packs installed.  And as much as I shake my head when I hear this from people, SharePoint 2010 DOES NOT TRANSLATE YOUR SITE CONTENT AUTOMAGICALLY!

I met my client for lunch and we proceeded as a group to Breaker E - our session room.  We presented “Kraft: Migration of Consumer Facing Websites to SharePoint” to a roomful of people and a few came up for questions, comments and leads after the session.  We consider it a success!  That was of course the highlight of my day and everything else was just blah after that point ;p  If you missed it, or are interested in watching the video of the presentation, a copy of the deck and a video of the presentation is up and available on the SharePoint Conference site.  You would need to login with your Windows Live ID.

I spent the afternoon going to Developing Social Applications with SharePoint 2010; and Customizing the Visual Studio 2010 SharePoint Deployment Process. In 2010, comments, ratings, my network, RSS feeds all come out of the box.  The social features available in SharePoint 2010 are ok but not good enough yet, IMO.  This is one area where I think the focus is still more in ECM implementations rather than the Internet.  The Manager/Employee methapor just will not work in the real world.  And though, I was told by the Product team that it could be implemented in an Internet scenario, as shown in their Adventureworks demo - I will have to form that opinion once I’ve seen their Adventureworks demo site.  Deployment has indeed been made simpler in VS2010 by being able to compile and deploy from VS2010 to a local SharePoint instance.  But for deploying between environments, and betwen farms - WSPs are still the best way to go.

This evening’s event is Ask The Expert and SharePoint Idol, a Rock Band competition.  I thought for a sec about joining a team but changed my mind.  I had fun watching them though.

SharePoint Conference 2009 - Day 2

The challenge I always have with these conferences is the plethora of choices available to attendees.  I already know what topics I want to focus on:  WCM; Architecting, Developing and Building public facing internet sites, and Social features in 2010.  But even so, there are still time slots where I have narrowed down the choice to 3, and then I have to make the tough decision and hope that I made the right choice.  For the most part, I decided to always go to a 300 or 400 level session, and then just watch the video and the deck online for the 200 sessions I missed.

For the 9am slot, I had to choose between Advanced Web Part Development in VS 2010 and Introduction to Service Applications and Topology.  The architect won over the developer so I went to the Service Applications session. Essentially, 2010 SSP (Shared Service Providers) is replaced by the new Service Applications architecture. You build service applications that can live in a separate Application Server, and you call it from clients, in this case a SharePoint web front end via proxies.  I’m not sure if this is a correct simile, but I kinda liken it to old DCOM architecture. This makes it easier for organizations (and frankly, ISVs) to build Service Applications that can be deployed once and then used in multiple SharePoint web apps, and more, multiple SharePoint farms.

There’s a follow-up session to this about Scaling SharePoint 2010 Topologies for Your Organization, but I skipped that in favor of Overview of SharePoint 2010 Online. SharePoint Online is another product in Microsoft’s “Software as a Service” offerings.  It is essentially a service where Microsoft hosts and manages SharePoint for your organization.  This is part of Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) which also includes Exchange Online, Office Live Meeting, Office Communications Online, Dynamics CRM Online. It is good for small or medium size business but can also be considered for the enterprise in some special cases.  The important thing to note is that this does not have to be an all-or-nothing decision.  SharePoint online is supposed to complement/extend your on premises infrastructure, not necessarily replace it.

In the afternoon, I agonized over Developing SharePoint 2010 Applications with the Client Object Model, Microsoft Virtualization Best Practices for SharePoint but ended up going to Claims Based Identity in SharePoint 2010.  The client object model was really getting a lot of good tweets during and after the session and I see a lot of opportunities there for us to pull SharePoint information via client calls, i.e., Javascript or Silverlight.  The virtualization session focused on Hyper-V so I didn’t feel too bad about missing it. In the Claims Based Identity session, Microsoft introduced their new Identity Framework and explained how it works.  This essentially works like Kerberos where essentially SAML tokens are created.  The good news is that it supports AD, LDAP, SAML.  The bad news is that it doesn’t support OpenID and other standard internet auth schemes/standards… yet.

I wanted to know more about composites and the new Business Connectivity Services (BCS) so I went to Integrating Customer Data with SharePoint Composites, Business Connectivity Services (BCS) and Silverlight.  BCS is one other new thing with 2010 that is interesting.  Allowing SharePoint to create External Content Type that can pull data from external LOB data opens up a lot of possibilities, but most of the demos I’ve seen so far only connects to 1 table.  In the real world, we would be connecting to a more complex table, in a lot of cases - pulling heirarchical data and I wanted to see how this works - more importantly, will it support CRUDQ features.  This session finally demo’d how to connect using a LINQ data source.  Didn’t see the CRUDQ part though, because the demo was read-only data.

For the last session of the day, I chose between Securing SharePoint 2010 for Internet Deployments (400) and SharePoint 2010 Development Best Practices (300).  So of course, I chose the geekier session since security is a hot topic on public facing sites.  However, this is probably one of the more disappointing sessions for me as this was really more targeted towards SP IT Pros than developers.  It is more about hardening your servers and protecting your network.  All these considerations even come default already in Windows 2008.  I probably would have enjoyed the best practices session better even though I was afraid they will be filled with “duh” moments.  I have to check that deck out though, it produced some funny tweets.

Day 2 is also the night of the Conference Party.  This year, the theme is 80’s night at The Beach (Mandalay Bay) with Huey Lewis and the News providing music and entertainment.  Too bad I missed it.

SharePoint Conference 2009 - Day 1

I’m at the SharePoint Conference in Vegas this week. Registration and Exhibit Hall started Sunday night, but sessions officially started Monday. I am tweeting all day during the conference, follow me (@mmdeluna) if you are interested. You can track tweets using #spc09. I will be posting daily summaries. Stay Tuned!

Registration and Exhibit Hall

This year’s conference is SOLD OUT. Compared to last years 3,800 attendees, this year’s 7,400 attendance is a testament to how big SharePoint has been adopted in the enterprise. Registration was pretty well organized and the badges are smart cards that are being scanned (optionally) by vendors for mailing list subscriptions and contests; and are also scanned by event managers for session attendance. Most of the vendors I saw in the Exhibit Hall are from Document Management Services - scanning, annotating, encrypting, converting, etc. And then there are the normal partner vendors: ISVs, SIs, Training, Data Recovery, Content Migration and Professional Services. Having said that - the give aways were a bit lame :)

Keynotes

There were 2 keynotes scheduled on day one, which lasted the whole morning. You would think that it wasn’t smart to have 7,400 attendees to sit still for almost 3 hours but Kudos to the presentation team, they pulled it off. Steve Ballmer did his FIRST SharePoint Conference keynote, one of the last few things Bill used to do that he hasn’t done yet. Tony Rizzo and the others did a great job on the demos doing enough to whet the appetite of all the geeks (like me) in the room. Here are the items that “struck” me during the keynotes. I am hoping to attend some of the sessions that show these in action.

  • There’s a HUGE emphasis on SharePoint and Internet facing sites. So much so that MS has renamed their products and services to emphasize this. Expect licensing prices to reflect this change

    • Intranet Products: MS Sharepoint Foundation 2010 (formerly known as WSS), MS SharePoint Server 2010, MS Fast Search Server 2010 for SharePoint

    • Internet Products: MS SharePoint Server 2010 For Internet Sites (STD, ENT editions) and MS Fast Search Server 2010 for Interet Business

  • Oh yeah - Steve Ballmer features Kraft Foods on his keynote - Nice! I wonder if this will drive attendance on our session (Wednesday, 1021 @ 1:15 pm)

  • SharePoint 2010 goes on public beta in November - don’t forget to download

  • SharePoint Online (SharePoint in the Cloud)

  • SharePoint Workspaces (Groove Makeover)

  • SharePoint Composites - I need to know more about this.  Interesting.

  • Developer tool integration in VS 2010. One-Click build, deploy and debug >> AWESOME!

  • Powershell Scripting - say goodbye to STSADM

  • New External Content Type / BCS (formerly BDC) - opens up possibilities with integration to backend systems. I’m very excited about this

  • SharePoint Service Applications - say goodbye to SSP

  • Improved List Performance and Caching - taxonomy navigation (tags and labels)

  • New and Improved Central and Site Admin UI - it’s AJAX yo!

  • Built in Spell Checker - it’s the little things…

  • Our PLDs and PLAs will like the improved support on standards specially WCAG

  • Some Social Computing features out of the box - ratings, notes/comments, blogs, wall (My Network)

  • VS 2010, SharePoint 2010 running on Windows 7 - 64 bit mobile development machine. yay!

Steve made a point by saying he didn’t think there’s any software out there that competes directly with SharePoint. Jeff Teper implies the same when he compares SharePoint to a Swiss Army Knife. Both videos are available online for viewing at the SPC09 website.

The list just goes on and on! There are way too many things to get excited about in 2010. I am hoping to get into the details of a lot of these in the upcoming sessions.

Day 1 Sessions

For the breakout sessions on day 1, I selected a couple of SharePoint overview topics.  One was SharePoint 2010 Overview and What’s New and more specifically for developers, Visual Studio 2010 SharePoint Developent Tools overview.  These sessions give me enough information on the overall features available so I can make a more informed selection in the coming days.

CMIS - will it revolutionize the CMS industry?

Last year three major CMS/ECM vendors IBM/Microsoft/ECM came together to propose new standards that will change the CMS landscape the same way SQL 92 did for the database industry.  Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS) standards cover services that allow interoperability between content stores. These standards cover the three basic areas of Content Management Systems:

  • CMS basic operations - CRUD (Create, Retrieve, Update and delete) services, versioning and workflow

  • Content discovery - query services, search including a SQL like query

  • Domain model – object types, folder hierarchy, document, relationship and access rules

Previous interoperability proposals such as JSR 170283 have not gained traction because they were purely Java based and were too function rich, forcing the vendors to make substantial investments with little or no market driven need.    Another standard WEBDAV, was too simple and relied solely on HTTP protocol, it had no concepts of content types or content relationships.

CMIS supports both a SOAP based interface and REST based interface, the latter is much easier to implement.  Last month EMC, Microsoft, IBM and Alfresco were able to implement a draft CMIS and test it on Sharepoint/Documentum/Filenet and Alfresco.

The proposed CMIS query supports SQL like terms and clauses such as SELECT, FROM, WHERE and CONNECT by clause.  The query can include based terms and clauses based on content metadata and property such as size, date etc.  Example query:

_SELECT * FROM DOCUMENT WHERE ((CONTENT_STREAM_MIMETYPE = ‘MSWORD’) AND (CONTAINS ‘Razorfish’))

This new draft CMIS standard creates a clear firewall between applications and content stores.  It will cut application development and integrations costs, and eliminate time learning vendor specific content access APIs.  Imagine being able to design an application that can access and manipulate content from any content and change the underlying content store by merely changing an entry in some property file.   For the vendors the outlook may be murky initially, it is possible that the number of competing CMS/ECM products may shrink.  Nevertheless, the market penetration of CMS products will increase dramatically and CMS/ECM may be as ubiquitous as databases.  Microsoft’s involvement brings up the possibility that all MS Office products may support direct check in/check out from CMIS based repositories.

The CMIS draft was submitted in September ‘08 to the standards body OASIS for public comment.   It is expected to be approved by middle of 2009.  The draft is also being backed by Oracle and SAP.

Resources

CMIS charter

The draft may be accessed here as a zip.