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October 2009

Takes on SPC 2009 and Top 10 on SharePoint 2010

Its been just about week since the end of SPC 2009, and it doesn’t feel like enough time has gone by to digest all of the information that was given to us in the conference. So before my memory starts failing me, and the information becomes outdated; here are my takes on the conference and the top 10 things I look the most forward to on SharePoint 2010.

Highlights from the conference

For me, it was primarily about the sessions and learning more about how the new features in SharePoint come together. I’ve had access to SharePoint 2010 for some time, but the platform is just too broad to effectively explore on your own; you can learn a lot about certain features, but until you hear other peoples takes and Microsoft’s general direction, it can be hard to see the big picture; and it truly is a great picture!

Overall, the conference met and exceeded all of my expectations. Not only did I find the information and direction I sought after, but I shared with good friends, met some fantastic people, and it was all served in a silver platter…. Well, minus the last lunch, which was actually served in a cardboard box (a little bit of a let down.)

Things to look forward to in SharePoint 2010 

Plenty of people have been blogging about this for several days now, so I wont go in to deep. The following are my favorite new features and improvements (in no particular order, I tried but was having to much of a tough time deciding how to sort them):

  • Windows 7 support: SharePoint 2010 can run on the 64 bit editions of Windows 7 (and Vista). We no longer need Virtual Machines to develop for SharePoint. This should significantly increase developer adoption, giving us a larger pool of SharePoint resources. There isn’t much information from Microsoft online yet, but it is listed as one of the supported OS’s in the MSDN article Setting Up the Development Environment for SharePoint Server and demoed in one of the vides at http://SharePoint2010.microsoft.com 
  • Business Connectivity Services, External Content Types, and External Lists: The evolution of the Business Data Catalog; much easier to develop on, includes native Visual Studio 2010 support, CRUD capabilities (Create, Read, Update, Delete), display and interact with data as if in standard SharePoint lists. Check out the SharePoint 2010 SDK section on Business Connectivity Services for more information.
  • Client OM (.NET Managed, Silverlight, ECMA Script): Exposes a very large subset of the SharePoint object model for remote access and execution. We can easily write applications that interact with SharePoint data (both read and write) from remote clients using any number of technologies such as: JavaScript (AJAX), Silverlight, WPF, etc. Check out the SharePoint 2010 SDK section on the Managed Client Object Model for more information.
  • Sandboxed Solutions: Many SharePoint developers wont agree, but I feel is another great step in the right direction. This feature allows Farm Admins (IT Pros) to designate “sandboxes” in the SharePoint farm where developers can deploy web parts without administrative intervention, while giving the Admins the ability to monitor and restrict certain levels of resource consumption such as:
  • Much Improved Large List Support: During the sessions multiple people demoed lists with hundreds of thousands, even millions of items. All of which displayed, filtered, and sorted information at very impressive speeds, or as my daughter would say: in lickity split.
  • Relational Lists with Cascading Deletes: Pretty self explanatory, and the cascading the deletes are configurable (they don’t have to be enforced.)
  • Developer Dashboard: This feature gives us performance metrics about the components running on a page. Helping developers identify and troubleshoot poorly running web parts. More information at: http://www.spfoxhole.com/Blog/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=131
  • Visual Upgrade: This feature facilitates the upgrade process by allowing us to maintain the 2007 look and feel (including the site admin pages), giving us more time to prepare our users for the transition.
  • Service Applications: These replace Shared Service Providers (SSPs), except that they are more flexible, more scalable, and we can build our own. Consider a scenario where you have a single web application from where you want to serve information from a BDC (Business Data Catalog) configured in one Shared Service Provider, but your search results need to come from another. SharePoint 2007 only allows us to associate one SSP per web application. Service Applications, help us overcome that barrier. Harbar has written a great introduction at: SharePoint 2010: Service Applications Part One: Model Overview
  • Developer Tools: Dramatically improved Visual Studio Support, out of the box SharePoint Projects Templates/Solutions (no more STSDEV or keeping up with the latest Visual Studio Extensions.) Integrated support for Team Foundation Server with team build capabilities. F5 debugging, and a slew of other features. Steve Fox writes a good intro at http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/magazine/ee309510.aspx or take a look at the video at http://sharepoint2010.microsoft.com/product/Benefits/IT-Developers/Pages/Top-Features.aspx
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Setting up a SharePoint 2010 Development Environment

I came across the following MSDN article while browsing through the MSDN SharePoint 2010 documentation. It provides step by step instructions on setting up a SharePoint 2010 dev environment. Definitely cool content, check it out: Setting Up the Development Environment for SharePoint Server (http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee554869(office.14).aspx)

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Upgrading 2007 WCM sites to 2010 WCM – SPC 2009 Session Highlights

I have to say that the 2007 to 2010 upgrade path for WCM sites looks very promising. During this session Andrew Connell demoed upgrading a site with fairly complex branding. He did so by using PowerShell to mount a copy of a SharePoint 2007 content database (the 2010 PowerShell equivalent of the stsadm addcontentdb command).  The upgrade went through without a single hick-up… I don’t know that we’ll all be so lucky; although I am feeling pretty good about it.

Everything came across with the 2007 look and feel; I’ve already mentioned this capability in a number of previous posts; what may not have been so clear is that even the site admin pages look like they did in 2007… Almost feels like you are running 2007 and 2010 side by side; which BTW will not be supported; but if this works as smoothly as it did in the demo… who really cares (OK, maybe I’m being to optimistic)

Next comes the Visual Upgrade, this is the part that can get tricky as it changes the master pages which is where your most of your branding likely resides. Performing the Visual Upgrade is easy enough; there is a link in the site settings page. After the Visual Upgrade, some pages may break, most likely because of references on the page layout to Placeholder Controls that are not included in the 2010 master pages. However, you can easily change the master page back to the one you where using in your 2007 site, which still shows up in the list of available master pages. Now your content should look as it did in 2007 and your system pages should include all the goodness of 2010.

But the old master page doesn’t have a ribbon or a developer dashboard. Where is all the 2010 goodness for my users and developers? There will probably be more than one approach to do this, but the following steps should more or less help you get these on the page.

Master Pages

  • Create a new blank master page in SharePoint Designer
  • Copy the code from the 2007 master page over
  • Remove the Site Actions Menu
  • Remove Console (Page Editing Toolbar)
  • Add a ScriptLink to include certain JavaScript files used by the ribbon… (I cant tell you exactly what they are yet) but I know you can copy them from the v4 master page
  • Copy the v4 ribbon DIV into new master page from default 2010 master page
  • The ribbon has a couple of other dependencies(declarations) that you’ll need to copy of over.
    • These should be easy to identify from the error messages. Look for and copy them over from the 2010 master page.
  • Copy the dev dashboard tags from the v4 master page

If you need to add new metadata properties to the pages, it “should be” as simple as opening the page layout in SharePoint Designer and dragging and dropping the field controls on the page. There still appear to be a couple of quirks with this process, at least there was with the demo, but I’m confident they will be worked out soon enough.

He also talked about, and demoed, some improvements to the Content Query Web Part which again look fantastic. Most notable, we no longer need to specify CommonViewFields and the Web Part Editor Tool Pane displays an enumeration of the available fields in the template.

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Business Connectivity Services Runtime and Object Model Deep Dive – SPC 2009 Session Highlights

Let me start by saying that I don’t think the label “deep dive” was necessarily correct for this session. However, I don’t believe that to be a bad thing and it probably has a lot to do with how much this whole process was simplified by MS… seriously, fantastic improvements. That being said, it was deep and technical enough to where I had to pay a lot of attention and wasn’t able to take as many notes as I have in some of the previous sessions I attended, hence the shorter post. The following are some of the key highlights I came away with.

Important changes in Acronyms

  • BCS – Business Connectivity Services
  • BDC – Business Data Connectivity (he mentioned that this is what the case, but I continued to see the term “Business Data Catalog” used in various screens in SharePoint; this could be related to the BETA.)

Key BCS Investments

  • Development
    • Tools built-in to Visual Studio
  • Connectivity – Read and Write data
  • Tooling – Integrated tooling in VS and SharePoint Designer
  • Lifecycle Management – Automated solution packaging, deployment and management
  • Search
    • Item Level Security
    • Indexing attachments
    • Crawl and Query WCF svcs
    • Writing Custom Connectors
    • Incremental Crawls (LastModifiedTimeStamp)
    • Incremental Crawls (GetDeletedID, GetChangedIDs)
    • Batching
  • Easily Create Content Sources
  • Create “External Lists” that display data from BCS

BDC Runtime Improvements

  • Client and Server symmetrical model
    • Write back capable (was capable before, but now its supported and easy)
    • Batch read operations
    • Navigate and create associations
    • Bulk APIs
    • Read Blobs (streaming support)
    • Read and write back complex types (Dot notation)
    • Simple type conversion
  • Uniform experience across various systems types
  • Extensibility mechanisms
    • .NET Assembly Connector
    • Custom Connector
    • Secure Store Provider

Offline Capabilities with Office Integration

  • Errors and conflicts stop synchronization of affected items only and prompt user for action
    • Advanced API allows customizations so that users don’t necessarily get prompted and specific action be taken in case of conflicts.

Configurable Throttling (Really cool, can result in significant improvements to performance in the farm.)

  • Number of connections
  • Pau Load Size
  • Time Out
  • Power Shell support to read and modify settings
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SharePoint Upgrade Fundamentals Part 1 – SPC 2009 Session Highlights

There are some very welcome improvements with the upgrade process that don’t just apply to 2010 but SharePoint 2007 patch management as well. Unfortunately there is a bit of bad news (at least for some), so we’ll get started there to get it out of the way:

Requirements and Unsupported Scenarios

  • SharePoint 2010 will only support upgrading from WSS v3 and MOSS SP2. There will be no direct upgrade path for WSS 2.0 or SharePoint Portal Server.
  • SharePoint 2010 will only run on 64 bit environments (nothing new here, this has been known for quite some time)
  • No side by side installations. In other words you will not be able to run SharePoint 2007 or WSS 3.0 and SharePoint 2010 on the same hardware at the same time.
  • No gradual upgrade. This comes as a result of not being able to run both products side by side.

Supported Scenarios

  • In place upgrade
  • DB Attach

A couple of tools worth mentioning (discovery and diagnostics)

  • Pre Upgrade Checker: SharePoint 2010 equivalent of prescan, but unlike prescan.exe in 2007, you are not required to run it before performing the upgrade. I cant really see why you wouldn’t though as it provides tons of useful information, and does not modify the databases on the farm.
    • Worth noting that this already comes with SharePoint 2007 SP2 and a newer version is being released with the October Cummulative Update.

2009-10-20 14.55.55 

  • SP Diagnostics Utility:  Already in SharePoint 2007 (at least in SP2), give some very useful information regarding the farm’s overall health
  • Test-SPContentDatabase: PowerShell commandlet which reports data from server and database pairing; this is where the database may include references to certain features which may not be on the server ( You can run this against both 2007 and 2010 databases). report data includes:
    • Custom Site Definitions
      • Language
      • Template ID
      • Count (how often its being used)
      • Installed or missing
    • Used and missing assemblies
    • Missing ghosted(ghostable) files
    • Custom Receiver Assemblies
      • In use
      • Installed or missing
      • Where are they being used
    • Features
      • In use
      • where
      • installed or missing
  • Feature Upgrade Capabilities: This allows you to create new versions of your features and indicate whether you want to upgraded these features, where they are being used, to their newer respective versions. I suspect this can be a bit tricky… but if it works well, its a fantastic improvement.
  • Visual Upgrade: I mentioned this in one of my earlier posts.. fantastic idea. The product ships with 2007 versions of most of the site definitions (that’s right… most) that run on 2010. This means that you can upgrade now, and worry about the impact changing the look and feel will have later. Of course its important to note that this may not work with custom site definitions (although I hope its supported if we create their 2010 equivalents.)
    • By default, sites are upgraded with the 2007 look and feel
    • Can force to the new look and feel when performing the upgrade with the addcontentdb command or PowerShell mount command
    • Web owners can upgrade to the 2010 look and feel on their own when they are ready.
    • The following site definitions do not support Visual Upgrades:
      • My Site Core Site
      • PWA Core Site

Additional things worth noting

  • Central Administration provides great interfaces to help track the status of the upgrade. Giving us a look into the log information including current upgrade step and any errors.
  • Can run multiple upgrade sessions simultaneously and track via central admin.
  • One log per upgrade session
    • Upgrade errors only log
  • Fixed upgrade log schema (easier to report against)
  • Current DB Schema displayed in Central Admin
  • Easily re-run an upgrade that failed in the past.. this is useful if you know what caused the error and were able to fix it.
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Building Solutions with Business Connectivity Services and VS 2010 – SPC 2009 Session Highlights

The demos on this presentation where moving a little too fast for my taste, would have preferred 1 demo covering the topic deeper instead off multiple demos that just felt like they were flying by. That’s not to say that there wasn’t useful information, some of the highlights below:

Solution Types

  • No Code Solutions
    • Everything is managed by the runtime
    • Can connect to:
      • Existing WCF
      • SQL Server Databases
      • .NET Objects
    • SharePoint Designer
    • SharePoint SDK (XML i.e no code)
    • Surface Data in External Lists
      • Connect External Lists to Outlook, SPW
    • Customize InfoPath forms
    • Outlook Taskpane and Ribbon
    • Word Quickparts
    • Web Part Pages
  • Code
    • Visual Studio
    • Reusable
    • Can be incorporated into solutions that require no code
    • Custom Connectivity for data aggregation and transformation
    • Require business logic in code

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Cool SharePoint 2010 Online Resources

Check out the following SharePoint 2010 Online Resources, courtesy of Catapult’s Tony Castronovo (http://twitter.com/tcastronovo) and Microsoft’s Paul McBride:

SharePoint 2010 Resources:

SharePoint 2010 Website – to view SharePoint 2010 in action

SharePoint 2010 forum– for SharePoint 2010 questions

SharePoint 2010 PressPass– for the SPC 2009 keynote video, a Q&A with Jeff Teper, and more

SharePoint 2010 Developer Center – for developer info (MSDN)

http://www.mssharepointitpro.com – for IT Pro information (TechNet)

http://www.microsoft.com/sharepoint – for more SharePoint information

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Developing with SharePoint 2010 Sandboxed Solutions – SPC 2009 Presentation Highlights

This is a really cool concept that’s new in SharePoint 2010. I was going to take a stab at describing it… but the presentation is already starting and I think the abstract is more than adequate:

Partial Abstract

”SharePoint 2010 adds a new deployment model for SharePoint called Sandboxed Solutions. It is a controlled solution packaging format that offers SharePoint Server Farm owners a way to easily mitigate risk that custom code will cause issues for them. It does this by restricting the API’s that can be called and governing resources that can be used…”

Presenter
Scott Hillier

Highlights

  • Creates a balance of stability (for IT admins) and agility (for developers) when developing, implementing, and testing solutions.
  • IT admins can control which servers in the farm will be allowed to run Sandbox Solutions
  • Only access to a Certain Subset through the proxy
    • No access to enterprise class objects
  • Code Access Security Limits
    • SharePointPermission.ObjectModel
    • SecurityPermission.Execution
    • AspNetHostingPermission.Level = Minimal
  • Can create a “fully-trusted proxy” that will allow us to reach outside the boundaries
  • Sandbox solutions deployed at the Site Collection Level
    • Site Collection Admins determine which Sandbox solutions run in their site
  • From Central Admin Can
    • Block Solutions
    • Quota Templates
    • Resource Monitoring
  • When deploying from Visual Studio 2010 will have to options to deploy solutions
    • Deploy as Sandbox Solution (selected by default… hint hint.. this is the way they want us to go)
    • Deploy as Farm Solution
  • VS adds and removes the Partially Trusted Callers based on Boolean value of the project properties which specifies if this is a Sandbox solution or not.

 image_thumb

  • Full Trust Proxy
    • Create a class that inherits from SPProxyOperationArgs
      • Class only passes arguments (Get and Set)
    • Create another class that inherits from SPProxyOperations
      • Override Execute Method
        • Your logic goes here
      • Takes in the SPProxyOperationsArgs class
    • The Full Trust Proxys must be registered on the farm via code (at least that is what he demoed… not sure if there is another way.)
    • Can execute the the full trust proxy code by calling SPUtility.ExecuteRegisteredProxyOperation from the Sand Box solution class.
  • Supports Load Balancing across specific servers on the farm
  • Can monitor and set limits on:
    • CPU, Memory, SQL, Exceptions, Critical Errors, Handles, Threads, etc..
    • Can allocate “Resource Points” to solutions that if consumed by a specific resource will not allow that solution to run for the rest of the day. (I’m sure there will be plenty of arguments over this)
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SharePoint 2010 Administration Part 1 – SPC 2009 Presentation Highlights

Presented By: Todd Klindt and Shane Young.

  • SharePoint Containment Hierarchy (Self Proclaimed Worlds Greatest Slide)
    • Mostly Standard Stuff
      • Site Collection remain in in a single Content Database
      • Service Applications instead of Shared Service Provider
        • More flexible
        • Service Application Databases (per services)

image_hierarchy

  • Pre-req installer
    • Interrogates Systems
    • Checks for things you need
    • Automatically goes to the internet to pull down and install pre-reqs
      • Configurable so that you can point to a specific workstation or server to get the pre-reqs from.
  • Installing bits very similar to 2007 install
    • Farm Passphrase – helps address issues having to do with installation account being deleted.
  • Farm Configuration Wizards in Central Administration (that’s right Wizards as in multiple)
    • Initially one but extensible.. can create more.
  • Managed Accounts
    • Keep Service Accounts secured
    • SharePoint can manage password changes
      • Automatically change based on domain policy or other rules
        • Weekly, Monthly, etc.
      • Cool interface
        • See next time SharePoint will change the password
        • See last time SharePoint set the password
    • Ribbon in Central Admin
      • Changes depending on the object you have selected (i.e Web Apps)
  • Web Applications
    • When creating and specifying databases can specify failover server
      • SQL Mirroring Aware
    • Can specify which services (service connections) a web application is consuming.
    • Very easy to find Anonymous Policy button in ribbon
      • Similar buttons for other web app policies such as “User Policy”
    • Specify Preferred Timer Job Server per web application
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