Will SharePoint 2010 stack up?

The much-anticipated release of SharePoint 2010 is due on May 12, but what will this really mean for the information management profession? Anthony Woodward examines what has been revealed with the beta preview.

There are a couple of different ways to look at SharePoint 2010. Although the technology perspective is important, maybe the most critical is how it makes the lives of business users easier.

Microsoft speaks a lot about the vision of “ECM for the Masses” as key underpinning of information management element of SharePoint 2010.

The previous 2007 version of SharePoint (known as Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 or MOSS 2007) was a breakthrough because of its Web 2.0 add-ons, document management capabilities and its simplicity. The 2010 release promises even deeper features and capability.

SharePoint 2010 will benefit greatly from the addition of personal blogs, tagging and activity feeds within its social networking sites, called My Sites. My Sites will also integrate with Microsoft's BCS (Business Connectivity Services), which allows IT to link employees' My Sites profiles to non-SharePoint data, such as information from a human resources system.

Wikis are now greatly improved and are accessed as a content type that can be accessed in most content generation scenarios, as opposed to a specific template type as was the case in 2007. Blogs have been tuned for internal and external audiences.

Community interaction within SharePoint has been given a boost, as My Sites now have a user interface similar to Facebook profile pages.

Metadata Manager

SharePoint 2010 has also added tagging (word labels that describe and help find content) through a centrally managed metadata service, with "tag clouds" that list common tag words so users can find content quicker.
Vocabulary management in SharePoint 2010 has a few approaches each with different levels of control:
Terms: Basic constructs — a word or phrase that can be associated with content. A term can become a managed term or a managed keyword.

Managed Terms: A controlled term that can only be created by those with appropriate permissions. Term sets (think of them as structured taxonomies) are collections of related terms that can be hierarchically structured.
Managed Keywords: User-generated keywords (aka tags) kept in a non-hierarchical list called the keyword set.
What's nice is that you can easily turn a managed keyword into a managed term, which essentially sets up SharePoint 2010 as a decent platform to blend taxonomy and folksonomy approaches.

In addition, SharePoint 2010 is emulating Twitter by bringing microblogging inside your organisation and activity feeds into the fold.

Connecting to line-of-business data

To integrate more business data in SharePoint 2010, Microsoft will rely on its BCS (Business Connectivity Services) suite. BCS helps make SharePoint 2010 the glue between your line of business applications and SharePoint.

This means that simple things like mixing data information from a human resources system into Microsoft Office documents and other parts of SharePoint is a breeze. The previous iteration of BCS, called BDC (Business Data Catalogue), could bring only line-of-business data into SharePoint. BCS will provide both read and write access between business applications and SharePoint 2010.

Search in SharePoint 2010 is superior to previous versions because of "improved scalability, query functionality and index redundancy." In addition, companies that have opted for the high end SharePoint Enterprise CAL (client access licence) will have full access to FAST Search Server 2010, the search technology Microsoft acquired in 2008.

Enterprise Content Management

As for managing business content, Microsoft has removed limitations in MOSS 2007's ECM (enterprise content management) feature. For example, lists in SharePoint now support 1 million items, and document libraries can grow to 200 million items.

There have been clear and major advances in SharePoint 2010. However, based on what has been delivered in Beta 2, SharePoint still does not outperform point solutions on a feature-by-feature basis in the Information Management space, but there is significantly more functionality than was present in the SharePoint 2007.
After all, one significant benefit of SharePoint is precisely that it’s not a point solution, but rather a platform that provides a breadth of solutions common to many organisations. It may not always be the strongest option in each specific area, but the sum of the options that it provides makes it a great value for small offices and enterprises alike.

Anthony Woodward is Engineering and Product Manager for Australia’s RecordPoint, a Microsoft Gold Certified partner providing SharePoint Information Management solutions.