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Brief History of the SharePoint Products

The present versions of SharePoint listed in Table 1.1 are version 3 products. So what were the version 1 and 2 products?

Table 1.1. Development over Time of the CMS and SPS Products

2001–2002

2003

2007

CMS 2002

CMS 2003

Main path: MOSS 2007

Enterprise

Sub path: MOSS 2007

Standard

SPS 2001

SPS 2003

Main path: MOSS 2007

Standard

Sub path: MOSS 2007

Enterprise

Version 1 SharePoint Products

SharePoint version 1 started with a product called SharePoint Portal Server 2001 (SPS 2001).

SPS 2001

SPS 2001 was an internal effort using the same kind of data storage as Exchange, and Microsoft allocated it to the intranet category when it bought a company that made expensive Internet software. Microsoft then renamed that company’s product Content Management Server (CMS 2002).

However, the hardware and software costs for CMS 2002 were so high that companies believed that using that for the “unimportant” intranet was overkill, and so they were interested in something less expensive. This was where Microsoft positioned their SPS 2001 product.

SPS 2001, as well as being cheaper than CMS 2002, still ran best when it used numerous servers. However, it didn’t need those staging servers, and it didn’t need such powerful servers, especially if each major service (such as indexing) was given its own server in the farm.

SPS 2001 didn’t need staging servers—not because it wouldn’t have been a good design, but because the design assumed that, in an intranet, you could make anything live and then remove it if it was wrong. (At least that’s my assumption of how it was regarded.)

Suffice to say, SPS 2001 was cheaper, so many companies ran both CMS 2002 and SPS 2001.

Now, neither CMS 2002 or SPS 2001—for the Internet and intranet, respectively—have that much to do with the present products in SharePoint 2007. However, some of their best ideas have trickled down. Table 1.1 shows how CMS and SPS products developed over time.

It looks clear-cut, doesn’t it? In fact, Table 1.1 gives a false impression because the product that both versions (MOSS 2007 and WSS 3.0) came from was an internal Microsoft effort that was never intended to become a Microsoft product! It was just supposed to provide services that would be useful to a team.

SharePoint Team Services (STS)

Members of an Office team decided that in a web-based age, there must be a better way of interteam communications than email.

What they decided to write—based on, but adding to, Front Page Server Extensions—were various services. These services included such things as the ability to store and access documents in an easier way than that offered by the file system; to have online discussions (simple and thus nothing like Notes, which was prevalent outside Microsoft at the time); to have a place to announce key meetings (or, who knows, maybe team parties); a calendar; and so on. When those standard things weren’t enough, they included the ability to note ad-hoc information and make it easily accessible by team members.

They were concerned with quick results and something they could use immediately. Therefore, there was no major architectural effort: The documents were just stored in the file system, and links to them were stored in a simple table.

But then, other teams wanted it, too. And then teams outside the Office part of Microsoft wanted it. In no time (and with no sales effort), it was being used throughout Microsoft (reputedly by several thousand teams).

I imagine what happened then was that a visiting customer saw it and wanted it, and there was a sudden stop.

This was before CodePlex and other Microsoft initiatives to get unsupported code into the public domain, so someone probably needed to make a choice, and they chose that Microsoft release the code (suitably tidied up, no doubt) as a product.

The Internet and intranet areas were already catered for with CMS 2002 and SPS 2001, respectively, so deciding to make this product for “teams” was an obvious choice.

The Teams Services part of the name was natural, and using SharePoint in the name was equally obvious a marketing person keen on creating “families” from completely different products.

So, the name SharePoint Team Services (STS) was coined, and that is what the present SharePoint 2007 products descend from.

Both these 2001 SharePoint products were virtually unknown except for in a few markets where keen Microsoft people were pushing them. This all changed with the 2003 versions, where version 2 of both the SPS and the STS products were closely tied to the Office 2003 beta process. Via this tie in, the 2003 versions managed to get the attention of Microsoft people in local offices. When the Office 2003 betas became public betas, these people started talking about both SPS 2003 and WSS 2.0.

Version 2 SharePoint Products

Windows SharePoint Services 2.0 (or just WSS with no 2.0, because it was the only WSS at the time) became the new name for SharePoint Team Services 2.0. The STS name was abandoned midway through the private beta process when WSS 2.0 became free to use, provided you had a Windows Server 2003 license.

This connection to a Windows Server 2003 license led to the use of Windows in the name and, incidentally, to some confusion at Microsoft. WSS 2.0 was regarded as a (Microsoft) Server division product, but the developers were still part of the Office division. Some duplication of effort occurred in documentation, and often each division seemingly expected the other one to do things, such as provide a support web page.

SPS 2003 was an attempt to retain most of what had been in SPS 2001 while using the WSS 2.0 platform. Therefore, it was two separate layers: a WSS layer and a SPS layer. It was messy, but because SPS 2003 was pricey and WSS 2.0 was, in effect, free, Microsoft people naturally described SPS 2003. However, the key product was WSS 2.0 because that was where the main changes had been made.

With WSS 2.0, nearly everything was stored in the database (thus putting an end to the synchronization problems that had often troubled STS users).

Also, WSS 2.0 used ASP.NET. This meant that the “web part” technology became available both in the form of third-party add-ins you could get for free, buy from small companies, or write them yourself. It also meant that you could use the SharePoint subset of ASP.NET to program other additions to your out-of-the-box SharePoint product.

Figure 1.1 shows the move from the version 1 SharePoint products to the version 2 SharePoint products to MOSS 2007.

Figure 1.1

Figure 1.1 Move from STS and SPS 2001 to MOSS 2007.

There was still only one installation routine for SPS 2003. If you watched that installation routine carefully, however, you saw that it first installed WSS 2.0 before seamlessly installing the additional SPS 2003 bits.

Version 3 SharePoint Products

This combination of SPS 2003 and WSS 2.0’s code bases wasn’t satisfactory. Therefore, when the 2007 versions were being developed (as part of the Office 2007 beta process), the SPS parts—called Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS 2007)—provided WSS 3.0 with additional functionality.

The main change in WSS 3.0, and thus in MOSS 2007, is the move to pure ASP.NET 2.0, which meant that now ASP.NET 2.0 developers could write code that adds functionality to the SharePoint products.

Some other changes within WSS 3.0 filled the gaps found in earlier versions:

  • You can recover data without restoring an entire earlier copy on a spare server.
  • You can have a tree view showing the structure of your site without using a third-party product.
  • You can have a menu line showing where you were in the structure, and thus allowing you to jump back to an earlier level without needing to hit your browser’s Back button.
  • Views are in alphabetic order.
  • Folders are improved (but still not that great in some purists’ opinions).

So now, we have WSS 3.0: the main foundation product and two main versions of MOSS 2007—Standard and Enterprise. Each version has different levels of additional packaged functionality.

Whenever Microsoft demonstrates SharePoint 2007, its representative invariably mentions all the possible functions of the (top-of-the-line) Enterprise version. Rarely does he clarify that he’s describing Enterprise-only functions.

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