It had been my intention to write daily blog posts from SPC09, but honestly there was just too much going, and I was tweeting all day anyway. I thought I would, however, post a summary of the things I saw and learned at the conference (well, the SharePoint things, not the “people acting silly” things 🙂 ). It was a great conference, well organized, and with lots of information – too much information actually, so much that I could not see all the sessions I wanted to and will have to wait for the videos to be posted.
There is a lot of new stuff coming in SharePoint 2010, and a lot of improvements to existing features. Before I get into my thoughts on the conference and SharePoint 2010 in general, I would like to recommend looking at this post. Tony Byrne makes some good points. For me, it can all be condensed down into one statement: No matter what the hype, no matter what fancy new features are there, always, ALWAYS, keep business needs front of mind – upgrade when there is a clear business reason, and not before. All of the features in the world will not help you if you do not know what you are building and why.
So, on to the good stuff! There are many things I saw at the conference which really make me excited about SharePoint 2010. The things that caught my interest can be broken down into the following groups:
- General SharePoint features
- Service Architecture
- Office services
- Development support and tools
I am not going to dwell too much on the general SharePoint features, as I am sure there will be lots of articles covering them. Obviously there are considerable user interface enhancements (though the design experts out there will no doubt crap on the overall UI). The ribbon interface is pretty impressive for things like editing pages, working with lists, and similar activities. I am not sure how well it applies in a more generic “web” world, and how it can be made to be non-intrusive in a highly customized deployment.
It is also nice to see a considerable amount of AJAX-like behaviour in the UI, thus greatly reducing the number of post backs and screen refreshes. This includes the new dialog framework – many of the actions which previously sent the user to a second page to collect information, and back again when the action was completed, are now done through layered dialogs (which are also customizable for consistency with your desired look and feel).
There have also been significant improvements to the capacity and scalability of SharePoint lists and document libraries.
Finally, it is nice to see SharePoint moving towards compliance with standards such as WCAG, XHTML, and CMIS.
Services Application Architecture
A major change in SharePoint 2010 is architectural – the introduction of the Service Application Architecture. This is a replacement for the Shared Service Providers (SSPs) in SharePoint 2007. SSPs hosted such things as the User Profile Service, Search Services, and BDC Services. There were a number of deployment, scaling and manageability issues with SSPS, however.
Service Applications are a far more flexible approach. A Service Application can consist of a package of assemblies, databases, and other components which are deployed to a SharePoint App Server. The service is exposed via a proxy deployed to the WFE. This proxy knows how to talk to a custom WCF service on the App Server. The client (for example a Web Part) talk calls the proxy in order to consume the Service Application, without having to know where the Application Service is deployed – on the same farm or even another farm. The architecture also has built in round-robin load balancing.
Among the services deployed in SharePoint 2010 are various office services:
- Improved Excel Services
- Improved InfoPath Forms Services
- Visio Services
- Access Services
I know there are some great improvements in Excel and Excel Services from the keynote. Excel rendering is improved, as in the interaction experience. Additionally, Excel Services now exposes REST interfaces, making it easier to consume server-based calculations and charts from other pages or web applications.
Something that specifically caught my interest is PowerPivot – which allows Excel to work with huge datasets in an effective way (the keynote showed it working with 100+ million rows – but that of course was a demo). I did not get a chance to go to the PowerPoint sessions, but will definitely have a look at the recordings when they are available. In the meantime, have a look here.
Something new which has been added in SharePoint 2010 are Visio Services allowing for the rendering of Visio diagrams in the browser, with interactivity and data binding. The Visio diagrams are rendered in a SharePoint web part using Silverlight technology. I already have a few ideas for how this could be applied to projects on which I am working.
Also added are SharePoint Access Services. This allows the publication of Access Solutions to a SharePoint where they can be centrally managed, and provides multiuser access and distribution difficult to achieve with an Access desktop solution.
There are a lot of improvements for developers in SharePoint 2010 and Visual Studio 2010. So much so that I am going to do a completely separate post to cover them. To summarize:
- Many new and improved templates in VS 2010
- Visual designers in VS2010
- Support for Features and Packaging in VS2010
- Improved APIs (way too much to get into here)
- Developer Dashboard view
- Development support on 64-bit Vista/Windows 7
- Improved tools in SharePoint Designer
I will be posting another write up later today specifically focused on the development improvements.
The Microsoft SharePoint Team Blog has a post summarizing these and many other features I have not gotten into here.