Understanding the Capabilities of SharePoint 2010

1/14/2011 5:48:01 PM
Answering the question “What is SharePoint 2010?” is not an easy task. This is primarily because, unlike many of the other Microsoft tools on the market, SharePoint is designed to be a platform that can be molded and shaped to fit the needs of virtually any organization. One SharePoint environment may look drastically different than another SharePoint environment and may be used for completely different tasks.

Indeed, SharePoint is designed to be customized to solve individual business problems and to satisfy specific organizational needs. It is built to serve as a full-fledged document management solution, collaboration portal, team site workspace, public-facing website, extranet partner collaboration environment, or all these things at the same time.

SharePoint 2010 has evolved over the years from a disparate set of small-scale tools into a complex and capable tool in use at a large proportion of organizations in the world. But where did SharePoint 2010 come from? Before understanding what this version is, it is first important to gain a better understanding of the history of SharePoint products and technologies and how we got where we are today.

Exploring the SharePoint 1.0 Wave: SharePoint Team Services and SharePoint Portal Server 2001

SharePoint as we know it today had its roots in two distinct products developed by two different teams at Microsoft. These products overlapped in many areas, but during the development phases, they were seen as completely different products and were expected to have different names upon release. It was only as the release date approached that Microsoft decided to give each the name SharePoint, even though they were different in many ways.

The first of these two products became SharePoint Team Services and was seen as a team collaboration product with limited document management functionality. This product was released as an add-on to the FrontPage media, which is how many administrators stumbled upon it eventually. Although unique in approach, it wasn’t very scalable and was limited in functionality. The letters STS still can be found in today’s product line, such as in the STSADM tool.

The second product developed by Microsoft eventually became SharePoint Portal Server (SPS) 2001 and was seen as an extension to public folder functionality in Microsoft Exchange Server. The storage engine for SPS 2001 was the Microsoft Exchange jet engine database, which was completely different than the SQL Server based back-end of SharePoint Team Services.

Although innovative and providing some interesting and powerful features, these two versions of SharePoint did not see too much use in most organizations, aside for the occasional team site put together by scattered departments and an occasional portal.

Exploring the SharePoint 2.0 Wave: Windows SharePoint Services 2.0 and SharePoint Portal Server 2003

Microsoft’s first real attempt to marry these two tools into a single product line and create a true collaboration environment was born out of the second wave of SharePoint technologies, SharePoint 2003, as shown in Figure 1. SharePoint Team Services was rebranded as Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) 2.0, and the portal product became SharePoint Portal Server 2003. Both products were built on the same SQL Server database engine, and Microsoft positioned the features to be an extension of each other. WSS was the “free” product, available with every license of Windows Server, whereas the SPS 2003 product became the fully featured portal that incorporated WSS sites into its topology.

Figure 1. Viewing a legacy SharePoint 2003 environment.

Although it was a great effort, and a much more mature product than the 2001 line of SharePoint products, growing pains were still visible in the software. For many people, it wasn’t quite clear whether to use SPS 2003 Areas or WSS Sites, and the integration was loose. This wave saw the first strong adoption of SharePoint, however, as many organizations deployed it for the first time.

Exploring the SharePoint 3.0 Wave: Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007

The point at which Microsoft SharePoint products and technologies really took off was the 3.0 wave. This wave saw the tightest integration between the new versions of the two products. WSS became WSS 3.0, and SPS 2003 was renamed Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007. In addition, Microsoft combined its Content Management Server product with SharePoint, integrating it into MOSS 2007.

MOSS 2007 and WSS 3.0, as shown in Figure 2, saw massive adoption across the board, and many organizations started to deploy for collaboration, document management, intranets, and extranets. In addition, major industry websites started to move to SharePoint 2007, with tens of thousands of public-facing sites deployed on SharePoint within the first few years. This version saw true comprehensive document management, enterprise search, and collaboration capabilities as well, and many organizations deployed it to improve their efficiency and communications capabilities.

Figure 2. Viewing a legacy SharePoint 2007 environment.

SharePoint 2007’s success was one of its disadvantages as well, unfortunately, as the growth of SharePoint sites led in some cases to a proliferation of siloed SharePoint farms and sites in many spots across organizations. There was a general lack of governance of the SharePoint environments, and this ended up hurting many companies as it created redundancy of data and inefficiencies. In addition, there were certain features that were asked for that were not part of the product, and other annoyances that people complained about that Microsoft sought to fix. Organizations looked to Microsoft to further improve its product, and Microsoft busily gathered information on what people liked and didn’t like to include those new features in the next release of the product.

Exploring the Latest SharePoint 4.0 Wave: SharePoint Foundation Server and Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010

Early in 2010, Microsoft released its next wave of SharePoint products: SharePoint 2010. WSS was renamed once again, this time to SharePoint Foundation Server, and the Office in MOSS was dropped, with the product simply renamed Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010. A significant number of new features found their way into these two products, as will be demonstrated in this book. Organizations looking to effectively leverage the capabilities of SharePoint should first gain a good understanding of what those features are and understand how they can be matched to address specific business needs within their organization.

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