Outlining Improvements in SharePoint 2010

1/14/2011 5:51:37 PM
Microsoft has spent considerable time gathering input from customers on previous versions of SharePoint. This input was directly used by the development team to create new functionality and features in this version of SharePoint. The product team delivered a huge range of services and functionality. For SharePoint administrators familiar with SharePoint 2007, it is important to gain a better understanding of what those changes are and how they can be used to build a better collaboration environment for your organization.

Understanding the Scalable Service Application Model in SharePoint 2010

One of the most significant architectural changes in SharePoint 2010 is the change to a service application architecture from the shared services provider architecture of SharePoint 2007. Service applications in SharePoint 2010 are independent services that can be shared across web applications or across farms.

Service applications in SharePoint 2010 include the Business Data Connectivity Service, which allows for connection to an external data source, the Managed Metadata Service, which enforces common metadata across a farm, and the Search Service, which is critical for Enterprise Search functionality. In total, there are more than a dozen service applications available out-of-the-box in SharePoint 2010, and Microsoft enables third-party service applications to be created as well.

Service applications enable a SharePoint 2010 environment to be more scalable because they can be easily shared across multiple servers. SharePoint architects can define which servers run which service applications, and which service applications apply to what farms. By separating the functionality in SharePoint onto this highly flexible service application tier, it becomes easier to scale up the environment with the needs of the individual environment. For example, Figure 1.3 illustrates a very large farm with multiple servers running individual service applications. Although most organizations will be served by smaller farms, it shows the scalability of the service application model.

Figure 1. Viewing a large distributed SharePoint 2010 farm.

Outlining Search Improvements in SharePoint 2010

Another area of significant improvement in SharePoint 2010 is SharePoint’s built-in Enterprise Search functionality. Rebuilt as a service application, SharePoint’s native search tool has been rearchitected to enable the following:

  • Redundant index functionality, now providing for index redundancy and high availability, something not possible in SharePoint 2007.

  • Content sources can now be divided among multiple index partitions, such as what is illustrated in Figure 1.3. This allows for a greater load to be distributed between multiple servers.

  • Improved search relevancy.

In addition to improvements in SharePoint 2010’s native search, Microsoft also offers a different tool for SharePoint search: FAST Search Server 2010. FAST Search has all of the improvements available with the native SharePoint 2010 search but adds additional features, such as thumbnail previews, click-through relevance, and automatic metadata tagging.

Accessing the Improved Administration, Monitoring, and Backup Tools

There are two major improvements in the area of administration for SharePoint. The first comes in a revamped SharePoint Central Administration tool, shown in Figure 2. The second comes with the addition of Microsoft PowerShell as a scripting administration interface.

Figure 2. Examining the revamped SharePoint Central Administration tool.

Administrators familiar with SharePoint 2007 will recall the SharePoint Central Admin tool, a web-based interface used to administer SharePoint functionality. SharePoint 2010 greatly improves this interface, organizing functional tasks within specific pages, adding support for the SharePoint Ribbon to make tasks easier to perform and adding new functionality that previously was unavailable.

The addition of Microsoft PowerShell as a SharePoint administration tool enables administrators to have a robust and comprehensive scripting interface that allows for automation of manual tasks, scripted installations, and remote administration support. Microsoft created more than 500 commandlets for PowerShell specific to SharePoint, some of which are shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Using PowerShell for SharePoint 2010 Administration.

Using the Improved Backup and Restore Tools

Backup and Restore in the SharePoint admin interfaces in SharePoint 2010, shown in Figure 4, has been improved over SharePoint 2007’s available out-of-the-box options. New improvements include progress bar indicators, granular site recovery options, and the capability to recover data out of unattached content databases.

Figure 4. Using SharePoint Central Admin’s improved backup interface.

Although these tools improve the administration available in SharePoint 2010, they do not necessarily provide comprehensive enterprise backup and restore capabilities. In certain cases, it may become necessary to use a third-party product or an enhanced Microsoft tool such as System Center Data Protection Manager.

Gaining Storage Flexibility with the Remote BLOB Storage Option

SharePoint 2010 now has the capability to natively support the storage of database BLOBs (binary large objects)—essentially the actual documents in the database, outside of the SharePoint content database, using a concept known as Remote BLOB Storage (RBS). Because the space consumed within SharePoint content database is approximately 80 percent BLOB content, using RBS can have a significant effect on the size and maintenance of content databases.

Using the Improved Interface and Ribbon Integration

The Office Ribbon, introduced with the Office 2007 client tools, presented a completely different way of working with Office documents, placing commonly used tasks across a tabular ribbon that remained at the top of the product. The success of this Ribbon meant that it found its way into SharePoint and is an integrated part of the SharePoint Web Experience, even at the top of the SharePoint Central Admin tool in some interfaces, as shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5. Viewing the SharePoint 2010 Ribbon.

By integrating the Ribbon into the out-of-the-box experience in SharePoint 2010, Microsoft made it easier to perform common tasks. By integrating the Ribbon within the SharePoint Central Admin tool, it makes administration tasks easier and more intuitive to perform.

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