Thursday, February 17, 2011

Recap from Houston SharePoint User Group

First I wanted to thank everyone for coming out to the user group last night in Houston. It was great to meet many of you all and I thoroughly enjoyed my time. Discussing integration of SharePoint with an enterprise infrastructure can be quite daunting but I feel like the message got across based on some questions during and after the presentation. I would appreciate any constructive feedback related to my presentation by commenting below.

As a side note, one of the attendees asked a very good question around authorization of multiple SharePoint lists from different SharePoint farms. I wanted to highlight this at the beginning and provide a more complete answer. Because of the nature of mashing SharePoint lists in a different environment such as Presto the security context in SharePoint no longer applies.

Therefore we have security built around the SharePoint lists registered in mashup server which then carry over to mashups created using the SharePoint lists. In doing such the creator of the mashup can setup custom authorization to that SharePoint list. I didn't want the audience to think that we were compromising security in order to simplify access to external SharePoint data. I hope this is clear.

In brief there are three challenges organizations will have to face related to integration when deploying SharePoint as part of their information infrastructure. We have titled them as the "Inside-Inside", "Outside-Inside" and "Inside-Outside" problems.

"Inside-Inside" Problem
With the exponential growth of data within a SharePoint deployment comes the question of how to manage the data as well as consolidating the data in a rapid, yet concise fashion. One example that an individual asked me about last night was being able to bring a contact list from one SharePoint site over to another SharePoint site and allowing users to update the data in the new location. This is a classic example of the types of issues many organizations are facing today. At JackBe we like to use the phrase "Rapid Intelligence"; being able to harvest data, quickly, within SharePoint in order to help the end user make fast, intelligent decisions. Out of the box it is very difficult and tedious to manage SharePoint data stored in lists across multiple site collections. At JackBe we have developed a product that can quickly and easily "mash" SharePoint lists in a manner that can help minimize the SharePoint crawl problem.

"Outside-In" Problem
Within organizations is the challenge of collecting data external to SharePoint and brining it into SharePoint with as little development cost as possible. SharePoint 2007 and 2010 answers this type of problem using the "Composites" piece of the SharePoint pie. More specifically the Business Data Catalog (BDC) in Moss 2007 and Business Connectivity Services (BCS) in SharePoint Foundation 4.0 and SharePoint Server 2010. In my demonstration list night I showed the audience how it is possible to gather data external to SharePoint such as a MS SQL table or a WCF web service and display that data within a SharePoint list using External Content Types; and do this without any code, all within SharePoint designer. I also pointed out that while the SharePoint Designer is capable of such tasks it is still quite limited in the types of LOB systems it can connect to. We are currently working on expanding the ability for the end user to be able to connect to most of the popular data sources and bring them into SharePoint as External Content Types without any custom development involved.

"Inside-Out" Problem
Once data begins to grow within SharePoint, organizations are also looking for ways to pull this data into other external portals or data centers. Currently the only way to accomplish such a task is to custom develop a SOAP client that is able to connect to SharePoint's web services and pull the list data out. At JackBe we have already included this capability within Presto by allowing users to register SharePoint lists and then Mash them together and publish them as Apps to just about any type of portal using simple scripting or even to other SharePoint farms.