I recently had the good fortune to attend the SharePoint Conference 2009 in Las Vegas, which outlined the new features in SharePoint 2010. Below are some of the things I took away. I think this will be a huge improvement over the current version, and will offer a lot of very compelling new features, and a lot of good reasons to make the upgrade.
The Beta will be released in November. Final product will be released in the first half of 2010.
Microsoft is focusing on making the upgrade and updates easier. You can upgrade the back end, while still keeping the master pages (look and feel of sites) the same. Then you can upgrade the master page at the site level to test and get all of the new features.
Everything is 64 bit. It requires SQL 2005 / 2008 64-bit, and Windows 2008 64-bit. The server must have at least 4 GB of RAM.
A level 1 browser is required for users (IE 7 or 8, or FireFox 3) plus SilverLight for the best experience.
WSS is now called Microsoft SharePoint Foundation, and is still free. SharePoint Designer is still free. SharePoint Server still has Standard and Enterprise CALs.
There’s a limitation on data storage now if you don’t have SQL… The basic install uses SQL Express now (rather than Windows Internal Database in the old version), which has a 4 GB data limit. So we should keep this in mind for small projects, and typically recommend SQL Server.
SharePoint has emerged as an entire platform, and Microsoft believes this will bring ECM to the masses, BI to the masses, etc. Microsoft is also positioning this as a full featured internet-facing platform, as well as an intranet / extranet portal which 2007 was though of.
SharePoint should be evaluated along with Office 2010, since the integration is now extremely tight. SharePoint can be the access point for all of the firm information.
The most impressive things I saw in 2010 were the workflow enhancements in 2010 and the Office web applications. In many instances I couldn’t tell whether they were demoing things in the rich Office client or in the Office web app—the user experience is almost identical in either case!
The interface features a contextual ribbon, similar to all of the Office products, except web based. It allows for running an action on multiple documents, since you can select multiple documents and then perform an action in the ribbon. The interface is AJAX and SilverLight based, so there’s no postbacks and everything is more fluid and visually appealing.
Rich services are now included for Access, PowerPoint, and Visio, in addition to the existing Excel Services. Office web apps can be hosted in SharePoint, and people can co-edit files, such as Word documents and Excel spreadsheets. The Project Server 2010 web editor was very impressive, and looks just like the Project Professional client.
Wiki editing is much improved, with drop down links to choose from when you start to make a wiki link, and easier photo uploading.
You can set up multi-authentication from the same URL now, which is useful for extranets. The user would hit the URL and get a prompt for which type of authentication to use, such as FBA or Windows Authentication.
SharePoint includes a native SilverLight web part, so you can drop rich content into any page. For example, you can drop in the SilverLight mapping web part wherever you need dynamic maps.
Each document is given a unique document ID.
Outlook integration is unchanged. Microsoft is pushing SharePoint WorkSpace for offline access and as the desktop client, but if you want to work from within Outlook (or for email filing) you still need a third-party product.
Document sets are introduced, which let you run actions on multiple documents.
Document libraries now have a “Connect to Office” button, which puts a link to that document library in the Word File -> New menu. Office integration is tighter.
Documents can be worked on in the web app in SharePoint and edited at the same time.
Microsoft has developed SharePoint to meet all eDiscovery guidelines. In Site Actions, there’s a Legal Holds and eDiscovery option. You can enter search terms and find all discovery hits. You can then “Add Hold” and lock down all corresponding content. You can then view a Hold Report, and see an Excel web access report of all items with a legal hold applied.
Records Management has been improved. In the ribbon, you can declare a file as a record. Records can be declared in place wherever they are, so you don’t need to use a records center anymore. You can automate workflows around records in place. You can also define information management and retention policies to each level of documents, and can define multiple levels of retention (i.e. after x amount of time, move here, then delete after another period of time.) You can set up organizer rules based on metadata and content types for where to move the documents.
In SharePoint Designer, you can create workflows that move, copy, or stub and link documents to a record center.
Workflow history is now shown as a visual diagram.
Videos can be uploaded to SharePoint and then streamed over a web page.
Document libraries will scale to tens of millions and archives to hundreds of millions of documents. There’s also an out of the box option for managing data on file shares by storing metadata in SharePoint.
There are many more social features included and MySite now resembles more of a FaceBook type page. MySite includes your status, your information, business relationships, and posts from people you are following.
All content can now be tagged, and allows you to write notes and rate any piece of content on a 5 star rating. SharePoint also includes a tag cloud.
Project Gemini is now broken into SQL PowerPivot for Excel and SharePoint PowerPivot. By installing the addin to Excel, and defining relationships between data sets, Excel can use the analysis services engine to run complex calculations in memory and manipulate millions of cells in seconds.
You can share data between PowerPivot files. The queries use MDX (same as analysis services), so they’re not just Excel documents anymore, they’re entire OLAP BI solutions.
PerformancePoint Services 2010 are included with the Enterprise CAL. It allows you to drill down many levels deep into data analysis. Graphics are updated with SilverLight and you can do some cool things with 3D floating windows and animated time-lapse charts.
You can use SQL Reporting Services web parts along side Excel web access parts for reporting. Reporting Services is the engine for the new Access Services reporting.
There’s native support for reporting on SharePoint lists.
Reporting Services Configuration has been made easier.
Reporting Services uses an AJAX viewer, so no page refreshes, and there’s a full drill through of reports.
There’s support for alternate access mappings, so you can target reports to a zone, such as an internet zone.
SP Designer workflow is no longer tied to a list. It can be created as a site / site collection / content type workflow.
SP Designer workflows can be imported into Visual Studio now.
Approval, Collect Feedback, and Signature workflows are still built in. You can specify rich forms in InfoPath and can now specify due dates and other simple behavior in tasks.
In Site Actions, you can directly open a site into SharePoint Designer.
Association Columns can be defined for a workflow, to create necessary columns in a list if they are not present.
Impersonation Steps can be defined in SharePoint Designer, where you can impersonate the security context of the workflow designer, rather that the person that kicked off the workflow. This is HUGE. We had to do crazy workarounds because of this security context limitation in 2007.
SharePoint workflows can be exported to a template in Visio, and vice versa!! You can create a flow in Visio and then import it into SharePoint Workflow Designer.
You can now do a hierarchy of task assignments, instead of just one after the next.
You can specify task outcomes like yes / no / maybe.
You can specify a process of approvals, such as having it be unanimous from several people, or just one person of several can approve.
SharePoint comes with a basic SharePoint Search which is ok. This can be upgrade to FAST Search for SharePoint, which adds a lot more features. There’s also FAST Search for Internet Business.
Many search-based commercial sites are powered by FAST Search, such as Financial Times, Globrox.com, oodle.com, etc.
FAST lets you index all the information, find patterns in the data, and create refining criteria. FAST search automatically creates the refining criteria for your search, and lets the user further refine based on those relevant categories.
Search can be federated.
Search is more scalable; 10x as many docs searchable.
Partners can enroll in the FAST Partner Program, enroll in the Search Specialization Program, and get training resources at FAST.
Stsadm has basically been replaced with PowerShell. PowerShell is not SharePoint specific, so in many cases it takes multiple commands to accomplish the same thing, but you have a lot more flexibility. SP 2010 will ship with 500 + PowerShell scripts.
Sandbox Solutions can be deployed, like wsp projects, but it allows the administrator to lock down exactly how much of the API and access levels that will be available to the application. So there’s more control over what custom applications can do and interact with.
Visual Studio 2010 has native templates for creating and debugging SharePoint web parts, workflows, and other solutions. Additionally, there are new APIs available for developers, and developers can create SilverLight web parts to drop into and interact with SharePoint content.