Microsoft Gives SharePoint A Facelift

Microsoft today previewed the next generation of its popular SharePoint Server family, which will sport a new user interface, tighter integration capabilities, a cloud-based version and much-needed support for the company's Visual Studio integrated development environment (IDE).

The new release, dubbed SharePoint 2010, will be available for general beta testing in November and should be released to manufacturing in the first half of 2010, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said in the opening keynote address at the SharePoint Conference 2009 in Las Vegas.

During a detailed presentation, Microsoft offered a rundown of SharePoint SKUs and versions. With the 2010 wave, Microsoft is renaming Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) SharePoint Foundation, while the Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) product becomes simply SharePoint Server. The new release will also come with an improved SharePoint Designer, the freely available tool for building custom SharePoint sites and behaviors. Designer will gain the Office Ribbon UI and other enhancements to help end users build mash ups, connect to external data and enable workflows, said Jeff Teper, Microsoft corporate vice president for SharePoint Server, in a blog post.

Microsoft will continue to offer SharePoint Server in both Standard and Enterprise versions, and customers can purchase the FAST Search for SharePoint add-on, which incorporates the advanced enterprise search technology acquired from FAST in January 2008. In addition to traditional on-premise SharePoint Server licensing, Microsoft will offer SharePoint Online in the cloud. Ballmer, in his keynote remarks, said that customers will be able to "mix and match" SharePoint Server and SharePoint Online deployments, across both public facing Web sites and internal intranets.

Ballmer also outlined SharePoint Workspace. "This is the successor to Groove technology that really gives you rich client capabilities to take SharePoint information offline, to work on an airplane or over slow links," Ballmer said.

Developer Picture
For developers, the SharePoint Conference provided plenty of welcome news.  For one, Microsoft used the event to announce the release of the second beta of its next-generation IDE, Visual Studio 2010 and the .NET Framework 4 (see VS2010 and .NET 4 Beta 2 Go Live).

As Microsoft had previously announced, Visual Studio 2010 will add a SharePoint Explorer for accessing SharePoint project templates, as well as a Windows SharePoint Package in the Visual Studio Solutions Explorer. Visual Studio 2010 will also provide one-click deploy and debug capability, as well as a new Map folders feature to allow developers to map image URLs to SharePoint environments. Tom Rizzo, director of SharePoint product management at Microsoft, noted in during the keynote address that developers would no longer need to hand code Web parts and XML.

The integration of SharePoint development within Visual Studio has been a sore subject for SharePoint developers for years -- as Ballmer alluded when he said, "I know that's been an area of a lot of feedback, shall we say."

SharePoint developers will also gain access to the expanded source code and ALM feature set of Visual Studio 2010, which now provides Team Foundation Server (TFS) functionality at all tiers. To take advantage of these new features, developers need Visual Studio 2010 Beta 2, the SharePoint 2010 Designer and SharePoint 2010.

Rizzo confirmed that SharePoint 2010 developers will be able to build solutions on the Windows Vista or Windows 7 client operating systems. The change ends the requirement that developers work on server-hosted instances of SharePoint -- an onerous burden given that Windows developer workstations are almost always running a client OS. The announcement brought a round of applause from the audience.

Developers will also welcome enhanced diagnostics from the SharePoint Developer Dashboard, said Rizzo. He demoed a SharePoint Web part project, showing how the dashboard provides immediate data on response times, stored SQL Server calls and a history of SharePoint calls. The facility should make it much easier for developers to zero in on problem code, Rizzo said.

SharePoint also gains new business connectivity services for Office, SQL Server and Access database services, while the new "sandbox solution" feature will enable safe deployment of custom code and Web parts to shared environments, such as cloud-based SharePoint Online or on-premises deployment. The sandbox allows untrusted code to be deployed, without impacting the integrity of the host environment.

About the Author

Michael Desmond is an editor and writer for 1105 Media's Enterprise Computing Group.

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