The Database Squeeze

It has been well-chronicled how pervasive Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) is becoming in all enterprises.

But for some database developers and administrators -- and in certain cases even higher up in the IT food chain -- SharePoint's rampant growth is a concern, particularly in organizations where data that belongs in SQL Server is finding its way into MOSS.

"You don't have to be a developer to go in there," says Ed Smith, a systems analyst at Tetra Pak, a global supplier of packaging machines. "You can get two secretaries together, they can figure out what they want to do and they can start putting stuff in there."

Independent consultant and Microsoft MVP Don Demsak says this is a common occurrence that is only going to continue to grow problematic, particularly in cases where data that requires referential integrity is put into a SharePoint list instead.

"SharePoint is very successful because you're removing levels of impedance, and a lot of the DBAs hate SharePoint for those same reasons," says Demsak. "Basically, you're storing everything in a BLOB and you can't relate to object relational mapping, and you can't do good entity relationships, you can't do relational models because there's all sorts of problems when people try to extend that SharePoint model past where it's supposed to go."

While SharePoint is popular for storing and sharing documents and other unstructured content, when an individual has data based on rows columns and is trying to join one list to another "that's not what those tools were made for," Demsak says. "When you need a relational database you use a relational database, the way it was supposed to be."

Paul Andrew, Microsoft's technical product manager for the SharePoint developer platform says many are already building custom applications on SharePoint that use a mix of SQL Server schema and tables within MOSS. "Of course, each has its own strengths, and each is better suited in different parts of an application," Andrew says.

One way to avoid the problem is for IT organizations to put controls over who is permitted to commit data to MOSS servers. That's the case for the City of Prince George, BC. "We've locked it down pretty much so that all they can do is put in content directly," says programmer and analyst Rob Woods. "Nobody else really has the option of doing any of this kind of stuff except for the IT staff."

-- Jeffrey Schwartz

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