See what the new version brings to the table for IT pros and end users
Within a few weeks, SharePoint 2010 should be released to manufacturing (RTM), and the SharePoint 2010 revolution will begin. It's not just the business and your customers—internal and external—that will benefit from enhancements to SharePoint 2010. With more enterprises storing more mission-critical data in SharePoint, Microsoft was compelled to bring to the table significant improvements to the administration, management, security, scalability, deployment, and governance of SharePoint implementations. What Microsoft has created in the three years since the release of SharePoint 2007 is impressive. In this article, I'll explore the changes to SharePoint that impact you, the IT pro.
Of course, work at Microsoft is ongoing between the time of this writing and RTM, and I'll be covering all the latest developments at www.sharepointproconnections.com. Be sure to check there for the latest changes.
SharePoint 2010 raises the stakes—significantly—for your infrastructure. Gone are the days of 32-bit servers and of virtual machines (VMs) hosted on 4GB laptops for developers. It requires 64-bit hardware for each server in the farm, including your database server, and therefore requires 64-bit versions of Windows and Microsoft SQL Server. Windows Server 2008 is the minimum OS version for production servers; Windows Server 2008 R2 is highly recommended. You need SQL Server 2008 R2, SQL Server 2008, or SQL Server 2005 to support SharePoint 2010. And with each of these products, you must have the latest service packs and updates. The specifics are changing regularly in the run up to RTM, and will continue to change as products such as SQL Server 2008 R2 are released, so you should consult TechNet for the latest information about SharePoint 2010 hardware and software requirements.
SharePoint 2010 can be installed with slightly lower memory requirements—4GB of RAM—for development and evaluation. Developers also can install SharePoint 2010 on 64-bit Windows 7 or Windows Vista clients—a welcome change from the previous requirement to develop on a server platform.
The 64-bit requirement for SharePoint 2010 isn't premature, given the fact that it's been difficult to buy a 32-bit–only server for many years now. And the performance benefit of 64-bit code is significant. However, many organizations, particularly small businesses and enterprises in developing nations, are struggling to provision hardware that meets SharePoint 2010's standards. The 64-bit requirement is likely to be the top reason cited for delays in migrating from previous versions of SharePoint to SharePoint 2010.
SharePoint Foundation and SharePoint Server
Microsoft continues to offer a free version of SharePoint, SharePoint Foundation 2010, which replaces Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) 3.0. Like its predecessor, SharePoint Foundation 2010 supports many collaboration scenarios through features such as lists, libraries, and team sites. SharePoint Foundation continues to provide core functionality, including administration, management, authentication, and Office client integration. SharePoint Foundation 2010 incorporates some of the platform functionality formerly provided by Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007, most importantly service applications, which I'll discuss later.
I've spent a lot of time explaining to clients that they don't need MOSS on every farm—WSS supports collaboration scenarios quite effectively and therefore lets you place multiple, decentralized WSS collaboration farms in remote sites and maintain a centralized MOSS farm for intranet, search, My Sites, and other MOSS services. Many people have swallowed Microsoft's marketing message whole and believe they need MOSS for every scenario. That just isn't the case.
The same situation holds true with SharePoint 2010. I expect Microsoft will push SharePoint Server hard, but it's not the only answer. SharePoint Foundation could be the answer for many collaboration requirements. Be sure you need SharePoint Server before you pay for it.
However, SharePoint Server brings a lot more chips to the table, such as enterprise search and social networking features. The Enterprise license adds full-strength business intelligence, including Excel Services and connectivity to back-end data sources. In addition, InfoPath forms, Visio Services, FAST Search, Access Web Services, and the Office Web Applications are compelling capabilities of the Enterprise version. I believe that Access Web Services and Office Web Applications are the killer aps for the Enterprise edition that will be major drivers toward full-blown SharePoint Server 2010 farms in the next few years.
Of course, SharePoint 2010 will be offered as a hosted service as well, continuing Microsoft's drive for Software Plus Services. You can read about that option in the sidebar, "What SharePoint 2010 Offers Online."
After you ensure that your infrastructure meets the SharePoint 2010 prerequisites and decide on your mix of SharePoint Server and SharePoint Foundation, and on-premises and hosted services, you're ready to start thinking about upgrading your current SharePoint implementation. When you upgrade to SharePoint 2010, you might also need to upgrade to 64-bit hardware, and potentially upgrade your Windows and SQL Server versions as well. It's important that you do each prerequisite upgrade before upgrading SharePoint itself. You can combine upgrades of the prerequisites—for example, upgrading from 32-bit Windows Server 2003 to 64-bit Windows Server 2008 R2. Make the upgrade from a previous SharePoint version to SharePoint 2010 the last step.
You have two upgrade paths to SharePoint 2010. The first, an in-place upgrade, involves installing SharePoint 2010 (Foundation or Server) on an existing SharePoint 2007 farm. An in-place upgrade requires downtime for the farm, but it preserves farm settings and customizations. Alternatively, you can perform a database attach upgrade, in which you attach an existing SharePoint 2007 content database (either MOSS or WSS) to a SharePoint 2010 farm, and upgrade the content database in the process. This method can be faster than an in-place upgrade because SharePoint can upgrade multiple content databases concurrently, but it requires a separate SharePoint 2010 farm and therefore requires you to manually configure farm settings and customizations. There are also hybrid upgrade paths that combine these two approaches. You can find more about upgrade options in the TechNet article "Upgrading to SharePoint Server 2010."
The upgrade to SharePoint 2010 preserves the UI of MOSS 2007 and WSS 3.0, letting you leverage the new platform management and administration capabilities while letting business owners retain control over when to unleash the new UI, including the Ribbon, and the new user features. For each upgraded site, you can preview the new UI and its impact on the site by using a new feature called Visual Upgrade. While a site is in preview state, you can continue to make changes to it, but only changes that are compatible with the earlier version of SharePoint. You can switch between the SharePoint 2010 preview mode and the legacy SharePoint compatibility mode. When you're ready to commit to the new UI and features, you can update the UI and enable SharePoint 2010 features.