Understanding the Architecture of SharePoint 2010 : Logical Architecture Components (part 2) - Core Services

11/23/2012 2:40:46 AM

2.6. Core Services

Core services are services that are needed for SharePoint 2010 to function. The following sections provide additional detail about each of these services.

2.6.1. Storage

In SharePoint 2010, storage as a core service primarily involves the storage of information, with a secondary focus on the storage of the data that constitutes that information within the storage providers. Although information may be stored in various back-end systems, such as Microsoft SQL Server or Remote BLOB Storage (RBS), consider how the information is arranged within the application and made available for users. How is a document stored within the system? Where does it go? How is it tracked over time and made useful? How is it backed up and protected from loss? The main aspects of storage as a core service within SharePoint 2010 are

  • Repository

  • Metadata

  • Versioning

  • Backup Repository

SharePoint 2010 presents an information architecture (IA) that allows for the storage of information at various levels. Two primary services provide for the storage of content within SharePoint 2010.

  • Administration service

  • Content service

The administration service is the service under which SharePoint Central Administration runs. The information stored by this service is mostly configuration information; however, other information such as diagnostic logging and health monitoring information are also stored by this service. Administrators access this service through SharePoint Central Administration and Stsadm.exe. The management of both the farm configuration database and the admin content database are performed primarily through this service.

The content service is the service under which user content is stored. When a new site collection, site, list, library, list item, or document is created, it is stored using the content service. The information within the content service is stored in a series of content databases. These databases are the primary storage unit for all content repositories in SharePoint 2010. The content service can run as one or many application pools. 

When implementing a SharePoint site, the site collection administrators and content owners can decide how to best arrange the repositories for information storage within the site. They can create a structure of sites, libraries, and folders for storing information within the system. After this structure of repositories is in place, list items and documents can be stored. When a user stores a document into the system, it is processed by the storage service provider and placed in the content database. In the case of RBS, the binary data may go to a file system, but with or without RBS, the item information, its metadata, and all associated system details are stored in the content database. Metadata

Think of metadata as information about information. Metadata allows users to store additional information about an item stored within the system. This information could be used to classify data or simply add helpful details about the item. The careful application of metadata within a well-considered information architecture can result in increased information value that is generated because the item being stored is not very self-descriptive. Metadata allows users to describe the item in more detail, which greatly affects the value of the information value and the ability to search it.

In SharePoint 2010, the concept of metadata has been significantly expanded through the addition of the Managed Metadata Service and the associated field types. The Managed Metadata Service allows enterprise metadata structures to be defined and consumed from within multiple site collections. This means that metadata can be managed both inside and outside the site collection boundary, something not possible in prior versions. Versioning

Versioning lets users track the storage history of an item or document. When enabled, versioning stores an additional referenced item in the storage system with every save operation. These items are linked together and presented as a single item to users. When users view the version history of an item or document, they can see what changes have occurred over time, when the changes were made, and who made them. A user can also revert a document to a prior version.

When used in conjunction with document check-in and check-out, versioning provides a robust way for multiple users to collaborate on a single document while preserving changes and avoiding save conflicts. Versioning can be configured to save only major versions, or it can be set to save both major and minor versions. When only major versions are stored, each saved copy of a document is available to all users with reader rights. When both major and minor versions are used, each save results in either a minor version or a major (published) version, depending on the selection option chosen at the time of the save.

While a document is in a minor version state (not published as a major version), it is considered a draft item; consequently, it can be viewed only by users with draft items visibility. When it is checked out, the document can be edited only by the user who checked it out. This ensures that no other user can make changes to the document while it is being edited by the user who checked it out.

Improvements included with Microsoft Word 2010 provide new capabilities to accommodate multiple users working together on a document simultaneously. Lists in SharePoint 2010 include new features that make it easier for list administrators to manage documents that are checked out to other users. Backup

The information stored within SharePoint 2010 is stored in various places and brought together by the application for presentation to the user. SharePoint 2010 includes a robust set of options for backing up, restoring, and protecting this information from accidental deletion. SharePoint 2010 provides three primary facilities for keeping your information safe from loss.

  • Farm backup

  • Granular backup

  • Recycle Bin

Farm backup provides a way for you to simply back up everything in the farm. This includes the farm configuration database, content databases, indexes, and configured Web applications. This provides an easy, integrated way to protect all of the information in the farm. Figure 2 shows a partial view of the components you can select when configuring a farm backup. You can schedule and monitor backup jobs, and you also can choose the number of process threads to use while performing backup and restore operations, as well specify a network file share for backup storage.

Figure 2. An example of the selection of components available when configuring a farm backup

Granular backup is new in SharePoint 2010, and it allows you to back up and restore information all the way down to the list level. You select a specific site collection to back up and have that backup saved to a network location. You can also export a site or list for import at a later time or in a different place. You can restore a site from unattached content databases, and you can monitor the progress of granular backup jobs and operations.

The Recycle Bin was introduced in SharePoint Server 2007 because users often delete information from lists and libraries only to realize later that they needed the information after all. The SharePoint Recycle Bin has two stages: The site level Recycle Bin is available to users of the site, and the site collection Recycle Bin is available only to site collection administrators. When users delete content from a list or library, the content is retained in the site level Recycle Bin for a number of days—the amount of time it is held is defined by the farm administrator. If a user decides he deleted the information by accident, he can restore that information by selecting it from the site Recycle Bin to restore it. Both lists and items can be restored from the site level Recycle Bin.

After the specified number of days for retention in the site level Recycle Bin pass, or if that content is deleted from the site level Recycle Bin by the user, the content is then stored in the site collection level Recycle Bin. The site collection level Recycle Bin is available only to site collection administrators, and it is limited to a percent of the live site quota for second-stage deleted items, as specified by the farm administrator. The two Recycle Bins provide a level of protection from accidental deletion of information by end users and thereby reduce the number of administrative backups that need to be performed for this purpose.

2.6.2. Security

Security services within SharePoint 2010 are multifaceted and full featured. These security services are explained in the following sections.

  • Rights and roles

  • Rights trimming

  • Pluggable authentication

  • Claims-based authentication Rights and Roles

Information access within SharePoint 2010 sites and lists is permitted through the application of rights and roles on either individual users or groups. To gain access to information within the system, an individual user or group must be added to a specific resource, such as a site, list, library, list item, or document. When adding the user or group, the administrator must select either individual rights for assignment or a role.

  • Rights refer to individual permissions such as adding new content, viewing content, and removing or deleting content. Each of these operations would be associated with a specific right or permission within the system.

  • Roles, or permissions levels, provide an array of specified rights that have been grouped together as a level. When granting permissions to a resource within the system, users can be added to an existing group or granted permissions directly through a permission level.

Additionally, groups may be associated with one or more permissions levels, thereby granting their members permissions to perform specific activities within the system. Groups, rights, and roles (permissions levels) provide a very granular way to control who can access specific resources and what they can do with those resources.

The application of security either can be inherited from the parent object/resource (this is called security inheritance) or defined individually for a specific object/resource. SharePoint 2010 includes new features that make it easier for site or list administrators to monitor and manage information within a container (site or list) that is individually secured. Rights Trimming

Rights trimming is based on the concept that users should only be able to see information they have access to. Because information access at the site collection level and below is only granted and never denied, rights trimming ensures that users are not able to see information for which they have not been granted access. This reduces or eliminates the occurrence of access denied errors and protects information from being disclosed simply by making the existence of such information known or by allowing unauthorized users to view its associated metadata. Pluggable Authentication

With a pluggable authentication architecture, you can grant access to information within SharePoint 2010 through any authentication service. Whereas the default authentication provider for SharePoint 2010 is Windows Authentication, pluggable authentication allows you to use other single sign-on (SSO) providers that are already implemented within your organization as well as forms-based authentication or even your own custom provider. Claims-Based Authentication

Claims-based authentication is centered on the concept that applications can be identity aware. Claims-based authentication supports existing identity infrastructures such as Active Directory, Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), Structured Query Language (SQL), Federation Gateways, or WebSSO. Claims-based authentication enables automatic, secure identity delegations in addition to providing a consistent API to develop SharePoint solutions. Claims-based authentication takes pluggable authentication to the next level—it allows individual claims about user attribute information to be validated and compared when providing access to specific information. It also extends authentication mechanisms to other systems and to Office client applications.

2.6.3. Management

SharePoint 2010 provides a variety of avenues for managing the system’s configuration options and settings. The administration service is the primary gateway for interacting with the configuration database. Collectively, the management services in SharePoint 2010 provide ubiquitous access to settings and configuration using either the administrative user interface or Windows PowerShell 2.0. In the following sections, you will learn about the various elements of the management service in detail, including

  • Administrative user experience

  • Delegation

  • Provisioning

  • Monitoring

  • Multi-tenancy

  • Windows PowerShell Administrative User Experience

The administrative user experience in SharePoint 2010 has been significantly simplified in comparison to prior versions. The idea behind these changes is that systems administrators need access to more settings with less clutter. SharePoint Central Administration provides access to many of the settings and configuration areas need to set up and maintain the farm and Web applications. Table 2 lists the areas available within SharePoint Central Administration and includes a summary of the settings available within each.

Table 2. SharePoint Central Administration Areas
Application ManagementManage Web applications, content databases, service applications, and site collections
System SettingsManage servers, services, farm features, alternate access mappings, and e-mail and text messaging options.
MonitoringReview health problems and solutions, check timer job status, and view Web analytics reports.
Backup and RestorePerform a farm backup, a site collection backup, or manage and monitor backup jobs.
SecurityManage the farm administrators group, service accounts, Web application policy, and information management policy.
Upgrade and MigrationConvert farm license type, enable enterprise features, enable features on existing sites, and check product, patch, upgrade, and database status.
General Application SettingsManage external service connections, InfoPath form services, site directory, SharePoint Designer settings, search, and content deployment.
Configuration WizardsAccess configuration wizards such as the Farm Configuration Wizard. Delegation

Delegated administrators are provided with contribute permissions to SharePoint Central Administration. The concept behind delegated administrators is that specific individuals will have access to a streamlined, trimmed-down version of Central Administration. Provisioning

SharePoint 2010 includes the ability to provision new site collections, sites, lists, and pages automatically based on predefined templates. This allows for the consistent creation of new elements within the system. The definition of each underlying element is stored either on the file system, within the content database, or a combination of the two. For example, the base document library template is included on the system disk as part of the “14 hive,” whereas a user-created library template will be based on that underlying definition but will be stored in the site templates gallery. When a new library is created based on the end user template, the underlying file system–based definition is created, and the overlay of the settings and content stored within the end user template is applied.

Although new site collections can be created using the SharePoint Central Administration website, SharePoint 2010 also allows users to self-provision new site collections. Monitoring

SharePoint 2010 includes new monitoring capabilities for reviewing problems and solutions. A health analyzer feature lets you set defined rules that can be checked at specified intervals; you can even select to have problems repaired automatically. Additionally, monitoring provides the ability to manage and maintain time service jobs and definitions. Web analytics provide usage information for sites and content. Information management policy usage reports include details on the application of policy, and audit reports provide information on user access to information. Finally, diagnostic logging gives administrators the ability to collect information about warnings and errors that have occurred during process execution. Multi-Tenancy

SharePoint 2010 includes new capabilities for providing hosting services and delegated administrative access for customers. These features are expressed in the form of multi-tenancy within SharePoint 2010. Multi-tenancy is centered on the concept of the subscriber—the customer or tenant who owns or manages the site collections in the tenancy. Multi-tenancy also allows for data partitioned service applications to be associated with a subscriber. This lets multiple tenants share a single instance of a service application while keeping their data separate and secure.

Tenant administrators can manage the service application as though they were the only tenant using it, while other tenants do the same. Feature packs provide a way to group a set of features together and assign them to a subscriber. This ensures that the subscriber can use only those features that have been assigned. Feature packs also allow you to create different packaged offerings that can be made available to subscribers. Windows PowerShell

SharePoint 2010 includes the new SharePoint 2010 Management Shell, an enhanced Windows PowerShell prompt with access to more than 500 cmdlets that you can use to manage almost every aspect of your SharePoint 2010 implementation. By making the administrative interfaces available through Windows PowerShell, SharePoint 2010 becomes easier to implement and maintain through the use of scripts, a favorite tool among administrators.

2.6.4. Topology

The topology services provide administrators with the ability to manage SharePoint 2010 server farms, servers, and the overall physical deployment. There are many ways to arrange the service architecture and underlying hardware infrastructure to accomplish your implementation design goals. The topology services provide you with the flexibility to configure and reconfigure your servers and services without disturbing the underlying logical software architecture. SharePoint Central Administration includes settings pages that allow administrators to view and manage the list of servers that are members of the farm, as well as determine which services are running on each server. Although all of the services are installed on each Web application server, only the appropriate services you need to fulfill a given server’s role in the defined topology should be running.

Topology services allow for the seamless upgrade of software components on servers in the farm and also let you scale up or out as needed though the adjustment of server services or the addition of new servers to the farm. You can also configure multiple servers in each role to provide redundancy and fault tolerance, thereby allowing you to take individual servers offline for maintenance while minimizing the effect on users.

2.6.5. Site Model

The site model provided by SharePoint 2010 ensures the consistent provisioning of sites, lists, and pages in a clear way that can be leveraged by developers and administrators alike. The site model includes the container hierarchy of site collection, sites, and lists, as well as rendering, templates, navigation, and the presentation of page elements.

The container hierarchy within the site model provides a consistent structure for the creation and presentation of content. The top-level container in the site model is the site collection. Think of the site collection as a boundary for configuration and security management. Within the site collection boundary is an associated collection of sites (or Webs). These Webs are arranged in a hierarchy, and the top of the structure is the top-level site (TLS). Within each Web is a collection of lists. These lists are arranges as siblings, with the Web as the parent of each list. Within each list there is a hidden folder called the root folder. Users can create many folders in a traditional folder hierarchy within each list. Each folder can store multiple items. These items are siblings, and the parent of each item is the folder in which it is stored. Understanding this containment hierarchy gives developers and designers a clear picture they can use to make design and implementation decisions.

Templates provide a way for site administrators to save sites and lists for later use. The implementation of templates within SharePoint 2010 has changed slightly, compared to prior versions of the product. The .STP files have been replaced with .WSP files in the form of user solutions. Site and list templates can be used to create new sites and/or lists based on the template. Templates can include content, but item level security is not maintained, so you don’t want to include content in a template if you have private content stored within the site.

Navigation is largely provided through ASP.NET 3.5, but it leverages the site model described previously in that it provides the left navigation, the quick launch, the top navigation, and the breadcrumb navigation.

2.6.6. APIs

SharePoint 2010 provides a standard application programming interface (API) to go along with its site model, service architecture, and provider framework. This API allows developers to create new list types, site definitions, and Web Parts that can be leveraged in the system as though they were native objects. Fields and Forms

The entry of metadata information is made easier through forms and fields that are rendered for each list within the system. For example, when users upload new documents, they are presented with a form for the entry of information relating to each document. These forms are customizable within SharePoint Designer, or within Visual Studio in the case of a custom list definition. Each form consists of a series of fields (or field types). These fields provide the individual entry capability needed to capture information entered into the form. In addition to modifying the forms, developers can create their own custom field types that include special functionality or validation to ensure that the appropriate information is captured in the appropriate way. Web Services

SharePoint 2010 includes a set of Web services that you can use to interact with the farm, sites, or lists. In the most common scenario, you would use these Web services within the context of a site to provide access to list data and the manipulation of site settings. These Web services can be found under the _vti_bin directory of a site. For a complete list of Web services available, consult the SharePoint Server SDK. Client Object Model

A new feature in SharePoint 2010 is the client object model, which provides developers with a way to consume services from the server side while programming on the client site. This allows you to interact with list data dynamically using client site technologies such as JavaScript, AJAX, or Windows form applications that are running remotely. Operations are batched and sent to the client object model service when it is time for processing. Features and Solutions

SharePoint 2010 includes a deployment framework that provides for the consistent deployment of capabilities across multiple Web front-end (WFE) servers. This deployment framework is made up of two primary elements: features and solutions.

SharePoint features are definitions files that describe implementable functionality, which can be instantiated at various levels within the system. Features exist as XML files within the file system of each WFE. For example, if a developer creates a new list definition and wants to make it available for creation within a site, that list definition can be delivered through a feature. When it is installed and deployed, the new feature appears within the Manage Site Features Settings page in the Site Settings area. This allows the site administrator to enable or disable this new functionality within her site.

So, how do these files get deployed to the file system of each WFE? Solution (.WSP) files provide a deployment framework for new files and features that need to be deployed to the content applications to make them available for use within the system. Solutions are stored within the farm solution store and deployed to content applications. After they are deployed, all of the included files are then copied to each WFE server and are appropriately registered. A solution file can include assemblies, resource files, images, pages, and a variety of well-defined XML files that are used for the creation of new objects within the system, such as sites and lists.

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