In my second post about the Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Ignite Training for IT Pro being held in Berlin, I consider the sessions from today introducing the new product to us and an overview of the architectural changes being brought in.
If you’ve not seen SharePoint demonstrated at one of the list of recent conferences then pop over to Microsoft and catch one of the videos on the Microsoft SharePoint 2010 website. Yes it has a ribbon now and I must admit this was (is) one of the trickier things to get used to in Microsoft Office 2007, but having used it for a while in 2010 it actually organises things well and helps a great deal with the wealth of context related operations that happen in SharePoint.
Of course, from a technical perspective the only difference that a User Interface like this really makes is that the load hitting the web front end changes profile, but we all know that it makes the product a lot easier to use and a lot more attractive to people who matter – those who hold the budgets. Overview of what is new in 2010
Ok, so I am cheating a little and writing this after day two of the Ignite training, therefore I’ve had a couple of days of presentations and hands on labs to mull over SharePoint 2010. The good news is that a lot of the familiar concepts carry over from 2007 to 2010. Central Administration is still there, web applications are still there, content databases and what we do with them is still there and so on. This means that what you have learned for SharePoint administration doesn’t get thrown away. But what has been done is that things have been rounded out. For instance, the idea of Shared Service Providers was a sound one in MOSS 2007 but to me came across in a bit of a straight jacket. The idea of sharing functions between applications seems to have been fixed with Service Applications which are more flexible. Flexibility means more opportunity to get it wrong, but makes a lot more sense.
Over and again the theme is one of improvement borne from the timing of release. For instance, SQL Server Mirroring is a cost-effective way of protecting a database but because this arrived with SQL Server 2005, MOSS 2007 didn’t contain native support for Mirroring. I’d refer you to the Microsoft WhitePaper on Using Database Mirroring with Office SharePoint Server on what can be done with MOSS 2007, but there is now the option to enter the information that allows SharePoint to cope with an automatic failover. This is based on the connection string support that has been in .NET for a while but has now arrived in SharePoint 2010. The caveat as ever is that mirroring has to be set up for each database, it does not automatically configure itself by virtue of adding it to a connection string.
I’ve mentioned the improvements to the UI already, and yes it doesn’t really change what the product does but it has caught up with current opinion on web design and the kind of interactivity that users expect without postbacks to the server with every click.
Another improvement is to use PowerShell for a lot of administrative work. Again PowerShell has only really come of age with Windows Server 2008 which has the commandlets there to carry out operations. It is this that makes the real difference, as pointed out today the best way to learn PowerShell is to think of what you want to do with it rather than to learn it syntactically like another coding language. An indication of how far things have gone in this release is that a shortcut is added to the desktop for a 2010 Management Console in PowerShell. Things to look forward to in BCM
My earlier mention of SQL Server Mirroring and SharePoint 2010 awareness of it brings me on to our second subject area on day 1, Business Continuity Management. To be honest I hadn’t thought there was as much debate as to what came under this heading but such is, I was wrong. The main take away point for me was proper support for SQL Mirroring, but there are a few changes to things like configuration backups that are very important to know for backing up SharePoint farms. Basically, SQL Server backup will not give complete protection for a farm so it is important that you know what approach will backup what part.
And finally on that subject, a couple of teasers – the ability to look in to a content database that has not been attached to a web application is now supported, and patch management is now something that SharePoint is aware of.
So in conclusion, due to the passing of time we have a number of improvements throughout the product that just work better because of improvements in associated technologies such as Internet Information Server, Windows Server and SQL Server. The User Interface is just nicer to use because of users pushing for richer web based applications that have pushed the use of ajax and other techniques. And finally, things that didn’t quite get there in 2007 have been fixed, hence the arrival of Service Applications and Claims based identity.