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Review: SharePoint 2010 Gets Overdue Upgrades

The latest version of Microsoft's collaborative platform delivers better business intelligence, new social networking features, and two-way application-integration options.

There are new Search capabilities as well. A new interface, with content- and concept-driven navigation, is nice, but other upgrades are obvious, overdue, or, confusingly, not a part of SharePoint. An obvious add-on is Social Search capabilities that explore the enhanced profiles and tags added in the Communities domain. Any enterprise search product should have wildcard and fuzzy searching (in case your spelling is off ); it's just now added in SharePoint 2010.Microsoft's making much of the "integration" of FAST Search for SharePoint. But watch out: The code's there, but it doesn't get turned on until you buy a separate FAST license.

Those are the most used pieces, but the analysis tools in the Insights domain are quickly gaining adoption. Improvements in SharePoint 2010 include tighter integration of Excel Services and PerformancePoint Services for easier access control and an improved Dashboard Designer that supports one-click publishing of dashboards and scorecards.

A new decomposition tree view helps users break down broad measures, such as margins, to spot key dimensions such as products, regions or transactions driving change. Scorecards now include KPI ownership, date stamp, and threshold details that make goals clearer and processes more transparent. New Visio Services give you process monitoring capabilities that bring Visio 2010 diagrams to life with up-to-date information from myriad data sources. Between the PerformancePoint and Visio enhancements, SharePoint is now a better BI- and process-monitoring decision-support tool.

Another rising star in the SharePoint portfolio is the Composites application-development domain. The big story here is line-of-business application and data connectivity via Business Connectivity Services. BCS integrates external data sources so that, for example, product data managed in an ERP system could be associated with content in a site or portal through the SharePoint list construct. With read-write connection, changes executed in SharePoint can update third-party sources systems.

More Control, More Complexity

Despite the sizzle of some of these features, one of the biggest changes in SharePoint 2010 is in IT management and development controls, which go unseen by end users. SharePoint 2010 has a new IT admin architecture that deconstructs the monolithic Shared Services in SharePoint 2007, replacing it with atomic service applications that can be exposed and controlled independently.

The upshot is IT can centrally control, mix-and-match, and bundle service applications -- great for delegating management and administration to people who manage discrete SharePoint applications. Unfortunately, this granular control adds considerable complexity, says Shawn Shell, principal of consultancy Consejo and an analyst with Real Story Group. As an example, every service application has its own database file, whereas 2007 had a singular Shared Services database. "DBAs were already complaining about the number of databases inside SharePoint, and in 2010 it's going to get worse," Shell says.

That's IT's problem. End users are going to like a lot of what they see in the new SharePoint.

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