Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Huey, GUI and Sushi: Day 2 of SharePoint Conference 2009

I stayed up pretty late to get my previous blog post in while all the info was still fresh in my mind (okay, you got me… before it scrolled off of Twitter), so I purposely slept in a little late.

I also had to clear up some stuff with some colleagues back home, so I hung out in the room a little long, and missed the free breakfast and first session. Coincidentally, @sharepointkevin also got a late start, so I invited him to join me at the House Of Blues for breakfast, which he did! Great guy and a nice chat. Kevin, who I only recently discovered works out in Kansas City for a good customer of my company’s, told me he’s a veteran of 87 SharePoint implementations going back to Tahoe days. Very impressive.

After breakfast, I caught the second session of the day, which for me was the Overview of Microsoft Online Services for SharePoint. (Full Disclosure: My company offers fully managed hosting for SharePoint and other applications that competes in a number of respects with MOS)

I found the session interesting in that MOS clearly defines the problem space the same way I do, but I am fascinated by the way they’ve gone about it. They appear to have quite a few features that they don’t presently offer in this managed hosting or “cloud” model. I honestly am not sure why in most cases, but they do indicate they are working toward feature parity with on-premises deployments eventually. In the meantime, it seems like with Microsoft’s offering, you are forced to give up a few key features to go with their offering.

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I was a little surprised that MOS Dedicated (which is the offering that comes closest to matching my company’s offerings, though theirs is strictly Microsoft apps) is strictly for orgs with 5,000+ seats. Less than that, and they want you to go with MOS in the multi-tenant model.

They do seem to have some nice automatic deployment features in the multi-tenant offering. The biggest paradigm shift I heard was this concept of putting parts of SharePoint into the cloud solution, and keeping parts on-prem. That’s something that didn’t seem very practical in SharePoint 2007, but in 2010 makes a lot of sense.

The most interesting other tidbits from the session were that

  • Microsoft Online Services has over 1 million seats live, after 4.5 years (if I heard correctly) in business. It wasn’t clear though whether that was all SharePoint or some combination of Exchange, OCS and SharePoint or something like that
  • Microsoft Online Services standard (multi-tenant) does support the creation of custom workflows, but won’t support custom workflow activities.

I had made an appointment to speak with a vendor this morning, so I did that quick on the exhibit hall floor, and then moved on to the lunch session that Colligo sponsored. The food was pretty good, but the content and room suffered I think from some challenging circumstances. I like Colligo’s product, but I felt the presentation was not as effective as it could have been. A gentleman from Quest Software who was there (Quest is a Colligo customer) made the funny comment that you should get on the right technology, which is clearly SharePoint, because “Steve Ballmer doesn’t go to the Public Folders conference anymore.”

Next up: The Ultimate Team Site session. While there were a number of fascinating UI enhancements demo’d, what really stuck out for me was the fact that as you work with the ribbon controls in editing your pages, you get much better context focus than you did in MOSS 2007, which means much less navigation hunting and pecking. In other words, when you’re working on a page and perform an operation, the page stays up and a little “lightbox” pop-up shows up on top of a dimmed version of the window you were looking at. When the pop-up closes, you are right back on the page you were editing.

Calendar overlays, a great new feature in SharePoint 2010, were a popular topic at this session, demonstrating again that certain key features like that are the most commonly deployed.

I then moved on to Zach Rosenfield’s session on Multi-Tenancy Capabilities in SharePoint 2010. All I can say is WOW. This one was a mind-blower. You should definitely watch the replay and follow Zach’s blog, which I’ve linked to above (click Zach’s name).

Here are some highlights:

  • Multi-tenancy works with nearly all features, with a few key exceptions, most notably FAST Search and PerformancePoint Services, but also a few others, including mail-enabled lists.
  • You will be able to put multiple tenants on multiple site collections inside a single web app that leverages a partitioned database server. Wow! That’s a whole different… Wow.
  • In a multi-tenant environment, you can manage the set of features available to a tenant, and in so doing you can actually enable SharePoint Foundation (in case you didn’t read my post from Day 1, SharePoint Foundation is the new name for WSS) for one tenant while another tenant on the same infrastructure is running full Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 Enterprise! Read that again if it didn’t sink in the first time.
  • You can actually delegate a subset of Central Admin functionality to the Tenant Admin role. WOW
  • The multi-tenancy model is configured ENTIRELY with PowerShell. There is no GUI.
  • There are some features that help to facilitate charge backs to be managed effectively, so you can handle billing or cost recovery for the resources used by you tenant fairly simply, though there is no charge back feature per se.
  • The site creation provider enforces db organization across the entire farm, and the cmdlet New-SPSite accepts a parameter that enables you to target a specific content database
  • Zach Rosenfield will post some unsupported, unofficial “starter kit” scripts either to MySPC and/or to his blog. In the meantime, a team is at work building an official starter kit for RTM timeframe.
  • You have the ability to limit each tenant to a distinct feature set and you have pretty granular control over which exact features each one gets. Zach also responded to a question and indicated that if you want to limit which site templates a tenant admin can deploy to this environment, you can sort of achieve this by not turning on the appropriate features. If the features that are part of a template are not turned on, then the template will not be available.
  • Multi-tenancy works well with claims based authentication
  • Every transaction carries a tenant tag which enables rich reporting for multi-tenant solutions, though that reporting is not available out of the box. You can go 3rd party or roll your own for that
  • White papers will be coming out shortly that explain how Microsoft Online Services does multi-tenancy, which is not the only way to do it, but is a good example of how you can do it

After having my mind blown by Zach’s presentation, I went down to the Project Management on SharePoint session co-presented by @meetdux and Bamboo Solutions.

@meetdux did a great job as always with his presentation (“use the word dashboard, and I promise you, you’ll get promoted!”), but I thought the presenters who talked about Bamboo’s tools for PM weren’t enthusiastic enough to get me interested all that much. Still, I think it might be something worth checking out if you’re doing PM in SharePoint.

And that wrapped up sessions for the day. I made a quick call to my family back home while walking my bag back to my room. I donned my @jeffbecraft shirt once more, then met @ThunderLizard for a dinner of Chinese food and sushi at the China Grill in Mandalay Bay, P1330270

where we had the good fortune to sit next to a couple of the partners in the company that makes StoragePoint, a product I find very intriguing. Nice guys, too.

And then, it was time for the beach party. Supposedly, this was the biggest party every thrown on the beach at Mandalay Bay. Easily 2/3 of all attendees were there, so well over 5,000 people most likely, though I didn’t hear a headcount.

The party was 80’s themed, and featured people in 80’s costumes, a good selection of meats on sticks, drinks, some 80’s theme items, like keychain Rubik’s cubes, and of course, some great entertainment.

There was a break-dancing troupe who had some amazing moves. They performed their routine once near the beginning of the party, and once more near the end.

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The headliner for the party was Huey Lewis and the News, who sounded fantastic and played just about all of their well-known hits in a tight set. I had actually seen the band play twice back in the 80’s, and I think their sound has held up great.

I got up pretty close to the pool’s edge before I realized that people had thrown off their shoes and waded into the water. P1340593

I stood on the edge a while before a cool lady whose name I didn’t catch told me I needed to get in the water too. So, what the heck. In I went. From that vantage point, I got some great shots of the band, and the show was way more fun to watch and dance to (in the shallow water).

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After Huey Lewis’s set wrapped up…

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fireworks were launched…

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And then those of us standing in the water just kept on dancing

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to a bunch of classic 80’s tunes that were played over the sound system. Eventually, the breakdancers came out again, the dancers in the water kept on going, and things got a little silly (just a little).

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There’s something you don’t see everyday. :-)

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After the beach party wound down, I headed inside, soggy pant legs and all, and discovered as many did that there was a great request band playing near the edge of the casino. I sat down and watched a few songs before the band took a break and I headed upstairs.

I wasn’t sleepy yet so I went down and played slots a few times, at one point deciding to quite while ahead, clearing $5.16 on $5.00 wagered. Winner, winner, chicken dinner!!

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I put the finishing touches on the blog post here, and then bedtime.

Day 3 tomorrow has some more interesting sessions, and the Ask the Experts session in the evening. Stay tuned! http://twitter.com/jeffbecraft

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