SharePoint is of increasing importance to developers because of the opportunities it offers in creating custom solutions, and SharePoint 2010 has interesting additions that make development even easier. Our preview of this month's European conference, SharePoint Connections, highlights recent developments that are of global interest.
If you’re developing using SharePoint, this year’s SharePoint Connections conference in Amsterdam in November has plenty to interest you, with topics such as SharePoint Search, working with SharePoint online including Office 365, and working with social media with SharePoint all receiving in-depth coverage. This year has seen improvements to SharePoint 2010 in terms of scalability, enterprise search, and administration, and all three areas receive plenty of coverage at this year’s conference.
The keynote session on SharePoint Governance is being given by SharePoint Server MVP of the year, Dan Holme, and will show how to use SharePoint policies, roles and processes to make your SharePoint systems work for your business users while making sure the governance and management side of the equation works equally well.
Making Search Work
SharePoint Search is one of the most popular topics, for the good reason that for many users being able to find documents is the whole point of using SharePoint. This means that as developers, you have to make sure your business users can actually find the document they want from the many thousands or even millions stored in a SharePoint system.
SharePoint Connections 2011 has several sessions on successful use of Search, ranging from an examination of Fast Search, through searching with SharePoint Online, to Beyond the Search Center - Application or Solution? Agnes Molnar is giving this session, and told us her session is designed to get beyond the fashionable expression “Search Driven Application” to look at what users really need. “People have to understand that the emphasis on the Application. A business user doesn’t need to know they’re actually searching. They have to do their job and the technology has to help them in doing this better and better. If the technology behind the scenes is the Search they don’t need to know about this. They don’t ‘search’ they ‘work’ and Search will do the work for them.” Agnes says that in the session she’ll show how Search Services really work, why the properties coming from your content sources are so important, and how you can create the most effective Search Solutions. Delegates will be shown tools and techniques for customization, and configuration and coding techniques that can be used to tailor search to give users an easy way to work.
As developers, you do need to know which version of Search to use and how best to use it. There has, of course, been a standard searching option in all versions of SharePoint, but SharePoint 2010 added Fast Search, and if you need more there’s also Enterprise Search. Fast Search gives you the means to take into account specific user needs, to push important results so users see them first, to present visible best bets and to create your own custom Google like search experience. Arno Flapper’s session on Searching within SharePoint shows how to do this, along with how to improve your website using search and tagging.
Enterprise Search adds another level of sophistication to the options you can offer your users. SharePoint’s Enterprise Search lets you index data from multiple systems, not just SharePoint sites but files in file shares, Web pages elsewhere on the net, and application specific systems such as CRM databases. The idea is that no matter where the data is, the user starts searching from SharePoint and they’ll see the relevant results. The results should also be ranked to show the most relevant information at the top, with less relevant details lower in the list. The final aim of Enterprise Search is harder to achieve, but potentially useful; to let someone who’s searching for information on a topic find people within their organization who are experts on that topic. The idea is that Enterprise Search uses data sources such as email and content repositories to build user profiles that can then be used to work out who would be a good source of info in a particular area.
SharePoint Server 2010’s Enterprise Search has a connector framework that lets the crawler index files, metadata, and other types of data from the content repositories that are available. It also has an indexing engine that stores the crawled data in index files. You can then make use of the indexes from query servers and via the query object models in your code. You can also make use of relevance ranking features to provide (hopefully) relevant results for searches over enterprise content and data. Agnes Molnar’s session covers Enterprise Search, and demonstrates how Search Services really work, why crawled and managed properties are important, and how you can build a bridge across content silos.
PowerShell in SharePoint
Another group of sessions looks at using PowerShell to administer SharePoint, with sessions for both non-programmers and programmers. SharePoint 2010 added a snap-in that means you can make use of PowerShell, and it ships with around 500 SharePoint-specific cmdlets that you can use to control nearly every aspect of SharePoint 2010. You can build on this with your own scripts in PowerShell to make it easy to administer sites in an automated way. Dan Holme starts from the basics with his session “Practical Jump Start to Administering SharePoint with Windows PowerShell”, while Practical Powershell with Matthew Hughes goes from making use of the cmdlets through to creating a full site structure using cmdlets, loops and arrays.
Some of the sessions are designed to show you how developing apps in SharePoint isn’t just about code. For example, Asif Rehmani is giving a talk on creating SharePoint Library forms using InfoPath 2010, showing how to build electronic forms with data validation and conditional logic using InfoPath, alongside the techniques for looking up data from various sources and populating it in your electronic forms.
Dan Holme’s session “To BLOB or Not to BLOB? Storage Optimization Demystified” takes a balanced view of when it makes sense to store your BLOBs externally from SharePoint and SQL Server, and when you should avoid it. The session looks at the performance impact, scalability implications, and critical considerations for backup and restore, high availability, and disaster recovery.
Real World SharePoint
SharePoint 2010 Developer’s Mythbusters is another session aimed at developers, but rather than focusing on a specific technique or solution, it looks at how to avoid pitfalls caused by common misconceptions – the situation where ‘everyone’ tells you ‘this is how it works’, but when you try it you discover that ‘everyone’ is wrong. Mirjam van Olst who’s giving the session will point out gotchas, provide some best practices and also look more deeply into some of the IT Pro side aspects that you need to know about in order to be able to build solid SharePoint solutions.
Another look at the real world of SharePoint development comes with Dan Holme’s session “Wish I’d Have Known That Sooner! SharePoint Insanity Demystified”. Dan goes through the most common problem situations he sees in SharePoint systems, and looks at the best ways around them.
Once the hard work is over, the conference organizers have again organized a SharePint evening. This has become something of a tradition at SharePoint Connections, and is an informal drinks and snacks session where you can chat about SharePoint (or not) while enjoying the beverage of your choice. On the other hand, if you feel an evening of SharePoint would be too much of a good thing, the conference centre is next to a tram line, so the thriving bars and restaurants of central Amsterdam are within easy reach.
The conference is being held at the Meervaart Theatre Amsterdam on November 22nd and 23rd, with the majority of the sessions being given in English.
The full price for the two day conference is €499.00, but readers of I Programmer can take advantage of an exclusive discount to bring the price down to just Є399.20.
To register for SharePoint Connections click on the banner at the top of this page or go to:
and use the code (GAO7UYT).