SharePoint 2010 Emerges as a Developer Platform
The Microsoft SharePoint Conference 2009 held in Las Vegas in October marked an important milestone for Redmond's popular SharePoint collaboration and publishing platform. At the conference keynote, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer discussed extensive user interface and integration improvements to SharePoint, as well as much-needed hooks into the Visual Studio 2010 integrated development environment (IDE). Ballmer said that SharePoint 2010 was expected to be released to manufacturing in the first half of 2010.
With the 2010 wave, Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) has been renamed SharePoint Foundation, while the Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) product becomes simply SharePoint Server. There's also an improved SharePoint Designer, the freely available tool for building custom SharePoint sites and behaviors. Designer gains include the Office Ribbon UI and other enhancements to help end users build mashups, connect to external data and enable workflows, wrote Jeff Teper, Microsoft corporate vice president for SharePoint Server, in a blog post.
SharePoint Server will continue to be offered 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 Search & Transfer in January 2008. In addition to traditional on-premises SharePoint Server licensing, Microsoft will offer SharePoint Online in the cloud. In his keynote remarks, Ballmer said that customers will be able to "mix and match" SharePoint Server and SharePoint Online deployments.
Many SharePoint 2010 enhancements announced at the conference are focused squarely on the dev community. Ballmer discussed enhancements to Visual Studio 2010, currently in beta 2, which add a SharePoint Explorer for accessing SharePoint project templates, as well as a Windows SharePoint Package in the VS Solutions Explorer. VS 2010 will also provide one-click deploy and debug capability and 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 his keynote address that developers would no longer need to hand-code Web parts and XML.
SharePoint developers will also gain access to the expanded source code and ALM feature set of VS 2010, which, starting with VS Professional with an MSDN subscription, now provides Team Foundation Server functionality at all tiers. To take advantage of these new features, developers need VS 2010 beta 2, the SharePoint 2010 Designer and SharePoint 2010.
Arthur Brost, portals and collaboration practice manager for consultancy twentysix New York, gave a presentation at the conference on creating Custom Actions for SharePoint Designer using VS. He says attendees at the show were "very excited about 2010."
"I think people's main complaint would be that they have to wait to get their hands on it," Brost says of SharePoint 2010. "VS 2010 with SharePoint 2010 addresses a lot of problems developers are facing now, and we're anxious to move on to the new tools."
One of those problems has been the inability of SharePoint developers to work on default developer workstations, as SharePoint 2007 requires a server OS to run. With SharePoint 2010, developers can run the platform on the same Windows Vista or Windows 7 client OS hosting the VS IDE.
Also new is the SharePoint Developer Dashboard, which provides immediate data on response times, stored SQL Server calls and a history of SharePoint calls, so developers can zero in on problem code. The improvement, while welcome, will demand close attention as developers get familiar with the extended capabilities of SharePoint 2010. Brost says the supporting documentation for SharePoint 2010 is "much further along" than it was for earlier iterations, but he warns old SharePoint hands to avoid jumping into customizing code.
"Get to know the new built-in functionality before you go off customizing it," Brost says. "There's a lot more built-in functionality, so cases where you would've written custom code in SharePoint 2007 may now be handled with built-in functionality."
Michael Desmond is an editor and writer for 1105 Media's Enterprise Computing Group.