Collaborating Within an Exchange Server Environment Using Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 : Understanding the History of SharePoint Technologies

2/26/2011 4:03:48 PM
SharePoint technologies have a somewhat complicated history. Multiple attempts at rebranding the applications and packaging them with other Microsoft programs has further confused administrators and users alike. Consequently, a greater understanding of what the SharePoint products are and how they were constructed is required.

WSS’s Predecessor: SharePoint Team Services

In late 1999, Microsoft announced the digital dashboard concept as the first step in its knowledge management strategy, releasing the Digital Dashboard Starter Kit, the Outlook 2000 Team Folder Wizard, and the Team Productivity Update for BackOffice 4.5. These tools leveraged existing Microsoft technologies, so customers and developers could build solutions without purchasing additional products. These tools, and the solutions developed using them, formed the basis for what became known as SharePoint Team Services (STS), the predecessor of Windows SharePoint Services (WSS).

With the launch of Office XP, SharePoint Team Services was propelled into the limelight as the wave of the future, providing a tool for non-IT personnel to easily create websites for team collaboration and information sharing. Team Services, included with Office XP, came into being through Office Server Extensions and FrontPage Server Extensions. The original server extensions were built around a web server and provide a blank default web page. The second generation of server extensions provided a web authoring tool, such as FrontPage, for designing web pages. Team Services was a third-generation server extension product, with which a website could be created directly out of the box.

Understanding the Original MOSS Application

Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007 is the enterprise-level entry of the SharePoint product, building on top of the base Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 functionality. MOSS 2007 further extends the capabilities of WSS, allowing for multiple WSS sites to be indexed and managed centrally.

In 2001, Microsoft released the predecessor to MOSS 2007, SharePoint Portal Server 2001. The intent was to provide a customizable portal environment focused on collaboration, document management, and knowledge sharing. The product carried the “Digital Dashboard” Web Part technology a step further to provide an out-of-the-box solution. SharePoint Portal Server was the product that could link together the team-based websites that were springing up.

Microsoft’s initial SharePoint Portal product included a document management system that provided document check-in/check-out capabilities, as well as version control and approval routing. These features were not available in SharePoint Team Services. SharePoint Portal also included the capability to search not only document libraries, but also external sources such as other websites and Exchange Server public folders.

Because the majority of the information accessed through the portal was unstructured, the Web Storage System was the means selected for storing the data, as opposed to a more structured database product such as Structured Query Language (SQL), which was being used for SharePoint Team Services. The Web Storage System, incidentally, is the same technology that is used by Microsoft Exchange Server. Further SharePoint implementations use the same SQL database as WSS does, however.

Differences Between the Two SharePoint Products

As SharePoint Team Services was available at no extra charge to Office XP/FrontPage users, many organizations took advantage of this “free” technology to experiment with portal usage. STS’s simplicity made it easy to install and put into operation. Although functionality was not as robust as a full SharePoint Portal Server solution, knowledge workers were seeing the benefits of being able to collaborate with team members.

Adaptation of SharePoint Portal Server progressed at a slower rate. In a tight economy, organizations were not yet ready to make a monetary commitment to a whole new way of collaborating, even if it provided efficiency in operations. In addition, the SharePoint Portal interface was not intuitive or consistent, which made it difficult to use.

Having two separate products with similar names confused many people. “SharePoint” was often discussed in a generic manner, and people weren’t sure whether the topic was SharePoint Portal or SharePoint Team Services, or the two technologies together. Even if the full application name was mentioned, there was confusion regarding the differences between the two products, and about when each was appropriate to use. People wondered why SharePoint Team Services used the SQL data engine for its information store, whereas SharePoint Portal Server used the Web Storage System. It appeared as though there was not a clear strategy for the product’s direction.

Examining Microsoft’s Next-Generation SharePoint Products: SPS 2003 and WSS 2.0

Microsoft took a close look at what was happening with regard to collaboration in the marketplace and used this information to drive its SharePoint technologies. Microsoft believed that in the world of online technology and collaboration, people need to think differently about how they work. The focus was to develop a suite of products to better handle this collaboration.

In addition to looking closer at how people collaborate, Microsoft also analyzed what had transpired with its SharePoint products. The end result was that Microsoft modified its knowledge management and collaboration strategy. Microsoft began talking about its “SharePoint technology,” with a key emphasis on building this technology into the .NET Framework, and, thus, natively supporting XML Web Services.

In 2003, Microsoft released the 2.0 generation of SharePoint Products. SharePoint Team Services was rebranded as Windows SharePoint Services 2.0, the engine for the team-collaboration environment. Windows SharePoint Services included many new and enhanced features, some of which were previously part of SharePoint Portal Server. Windows SharePoint Services was also included as an optional component to the Windows Server 2003 operating system at the same time.

SharePoint Portal Server 2001 was released as Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003. It built on the Windows SharePoint Services technology and continued to be the enterprise solution for connecting internal and external sources of information. SharePoint Portal Server allowed for searching across sites, and enabled the integration of business applications into the portal.

Unveiling the Third Wave of SharePoint: MOSS 2007 and WSS 3.0

As adoption of SharePoint technologies increased, Microsoft put more and more emphasis on the product line as collaboration functionality became increasingly important for organizations. Organizations were increasingly excited about the 2003 product line, but there were some functional disadvantages to the platform, which held many organizations back from a full deployment of the product or forced them to purchase third-party add-ons to the suite. Workflow, navigation components, and administration were all weaker than many organizations needed, and Microsoft began work on the 3.0 generation of SharePoint products.

Along with the new generation came another rebranding of the product. SharePoint Portal Server became Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007. Windows SharePoint Services retained the same name and simply incremented the version number to 3.0.

MOSS 2007 and WSS 3.0 introduced several functional enhancements to SharePoint, including the following:

  • Integrated business process and Business Intelligence— A significant portion of the development time for SharePoint was spent focused on improving the business workflow functionality of SharePoint. MOSS 2007 introduces a multitude of business process and Business Intelligence improvements that allow organizations to increase the efficiencies in their tasks.

  • Consolidated administrative tools— Previous versions of SharePoint proved to be a headache to administer, as administrative tools and interfaces were scattered throughout the product. MOSS 2007 consolidates these admin interfaces into a single location, and provides for additional administrative tools as well.

  • Improved Office integration— MOSS 2007 has further improved the tight integration between Office and SharePoint by allowing for advanced functionality, such as direct editing from Microsoft Excel, and offline capabilities in Microsoft Outlook and Groove.

  • Extranet and single sign on enhancements— SharePoint 2007 allows for more secure and functional extranet deployment scenarios, so that internal MOSS sites can be utilized from the Internet without compromising safety or violating governmental regulations.

Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010

The tightest integration with Exchange Server 2010 and the 2010 line of Office products can be found within the SharePoint Server 2010 wave of SharePoint products and technologies. Some features of this new line of SharePoint products has been announced, however, and includes the following improvements:

  • 64-bit only infrastructure, both on SharePoint and on the database back-end

  • Inclusion of the Office ribbon for performing common Office tasks from within the browser

  • Improved and consolidated administration from SharePoint Central Admin

  • Improvements in business data tools

  • Many other improvements to the platform, most of which will be announced in the near future

Look for subsequent versions of this book to include more information on SharePoint Server 2010, or refer to the upcoming book by SAMS, SharePoint 2010 Unleashed.

  •  Business Intelligence in SharePoint 2010 with PerformancePoint Services : PerformancePoint Services Overview
  •  SharePoint 2010 : Upgrading an Existing Extranet Solution from SharePoint 2007
  •  Exchange Server 2010 : SIP Protocol
  •  Exchange Server 2010 : Unified Messaging Shell Commands
  •  Exchange Server 2010 : Monitoring and Troubleshooting Unified Messaging
  •  Microsoft Content Management Server Development : Managing Channels and Postings with the PAPI - Moving Postings
  •  Microsoft Content Management Server Development : Managing Channels and Postings with the PAPI - Copying Postings
  •  Hosting a Multi-Tenant Application on Windows Azure : Selecting a Single-Tenant or Multi-Tenant Architecture
  •  SharePoint 2010 :Implementing a Partner Extranet Solution (part 2) - Configuring Authentication Providers
  •  SharePoint 2010 :Implementing a Partner Extranet Solution (part 1) - Creating the Extranet Web Application & Creating an Extranet Site Collection
  •  SharePoint 2010 : Implementing Authentication Scenarios
  •  Designing and Configuring Unified Messaging in Exchange Server 2010 : Unified Messaging Installation (part 3)
  •  Designing and Configuring Unified Messaging in Exchange Server 2010 : Unified Messaging Installation (part 2)
  •  Designing and Configuring Unified Messaging in Exchange Server 2010 : Unified Messaging Installation (part 1)
  •  Hosting a Multi-Tenant Application on Windows Azure : Single-Tenant vs. Multi-Tenant & Multi-Tenancy Architecture in Azure
  •  Understanding SharePoint 2010 Extranet Security
  •  Sharepoint 2010 : Outlining Common Extranet Scenarios and Topologies
  •  Sharepoint 2010 : Virtual Machine Management with System Center Virtual Machine Manager
  •  Designing and Configuring Unified Messaging in Exchange Server 2010 : Unified Messaging Architecture (part 3)
  •  Designing and Configuring Unified Messaging in Exchange Server 2010 : Unified Messaging Architecture (part 2)
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