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The Many Faces of SharePoint 2010

The Many Faces of SharePoint 2010

Microsoft SharePoint is a browser-based collaboration platform for intranets or the Internet, whose primary components are lists and documents stored in a SQL Server database instance. Like Access, SharePoint emphasizes self-service design of sharable objects by teams or groups within small businesses to large enterprises. SharePoint has been a remarkable success story. According to a 2009 Microsoft press release, "SharePoint Server is one of the fastest-growing products in Microsoft's history, with over $1.3 billion in revenue." [1] A May 2010 presentation by Microsoft developer-evangelist Lynn Langit claims that there are 650,000 SharePoint developers, and that more than 100 million SharePoint licenses have been sold. [2]

SharePoint lists are similar in many respects to Access tables, but don't fully support RDBMS features such as primary-key/foreign-key relationships, joins between tables, and referential integrity. Lookups let you emulate simple one:many and many:many relationships between lists.

SharePoint 2010 adds the capability to restrict list columns to unique values and enables data validation at the list and column levels. Access 2010 lets you export tables to, link tables from, and synchronize tables with SharePoint 2010 (and earlier) lists. SharePoint security allows you to assign users to groups; the default groups (roles) and their permissions are as follows:

  • Visitors (data read-only)
  • Members (data read-write)
  • Designers (design and data read-write)
  • Owners (full control of all owned objects).

SharePoint 2010 is available in two versions:

  • Formerly called Windows SharePoint Services (WSS), SharePoint Foundation 2010 (SPF) is a no-charge version that runs under the 64-bit edition of Windows Server 2008 or 2008 R2 and uses SQL Server 2008 Express as its database. This version supports exporting, importing, and synchronizing lists with Access 2007 and 2010 tables. [3]
  • Originally named Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS), SharePoint Server 2010 (SPS) is a paid version that runs under the 64-bit edition of Windows Server 2008, 2008 R2, or (for development only) 64-bit Windows Vista or Windows 7. SPS 2010 comes in Standard and Enterprise Editions, which have intranet and Internet connectivity choices and require Client Access Licenses (CALs). Enterprise features require Standard and Enterprise CALs. [4] [5] [6] The Enterprise Edition includes Access Services, which enables Access 2010 to publish browser-accessible Web databases (including Web forms and Web reports) to SharePoint Server 2010 sites. [7]

Both SPF and SPS 2010 require a 64-bit processor with four cores and 4GB RAM for development/evaluation, or 8GB for production single-server and multiple-server farm configurations. Licensing SPS 2010 Enterprise for 200 intranet users with an Open Volume license at Volume Level C carries an estimated retail price of $40,564, plus $20,282 for Software Assurance (SA). Single CALs for an intranet user are $82 (Enterprise) plus $93 (Standard); $122 plus $139 with SA. (An SPS 2010 Standard CAL is included in a Core CAL Suite. [8]) FAST Search Server 2010 is another extra-cost option.

The cost of licensing a significant number of new Access users probably will preclude on-premises deployment of Azure Web databases by most small and many medium-sized organizations. Most large U.S. corporations already have MOSS 2007 Enterprise licenses; those that upgrade to SPS 2010 must replace 32-bit servers, if any, with 64-bit CPUs and operating systems. According to a "Directions on Microsoft" research report, SPS 2010 Enterprise licenses and CALs will cost 10% more than the MOSS 2007 versions. [9] SharePoint Server 2010 Enterprise Edition's high entry cost for Internet sites will cause many potential producers of publicly accessible Web databases to search for potential online sources of Access Services—such as SharePoint Online, which currently offers MOSS 2007 Standard to a minimum of five users for $5.25/month each. [10]

Microsoft is holding its SharePoint Online cards close to the vest. In response to my question, "When will SharePoint 2010 be available online from Microsoft?" (posed during the May 12, 2010 Office/SharePoint 2010 launch event), a member of Microsoft's Online team replied, "It will be available to our largest online customers this year, and we will continue rolling out the 2010 technology to our broad base of online customers, with updates coming every 90 days. You can expect to see a preview of these capabilities later this year." Asking "Will SharePoint 2010 Online offer the Enterprise Edition or at least Access Services to support Web databases?" elicited this response: "We have not disclosed the specific features that will be available in SharePoint Online at this time, but you can expect most of the Enterprise Edition features to be available. Stay tuned for more details in the coming months." [11]

Microsoft's failure to mention SharePoint 2010 Online plans at the launch event drew derisive comments from a host of computer industry pundits and journalists. According to "All About Microsoft" blogger Mary Jo Foley, Microsoft disclosed in a pair of November 2009 PowerPoint slides entitled "SharePoint Online Detail Comparison" that Access Services will be included with SharePoint 2010 Online Dedicated (on-premises) and Standard (Microsoft-hosted) versions.

Don't want to wait until the end of 2010 to find out if and when SharePoint Online with Access Services will be available from Microsoft? Access Hosting offers a pay-as-you-go, cloud-based (hosted) alternative to deploying SPS 2010 Enterprise on-premises. This Internet-accessible SPS 2010 implementation has been specially tuned for the hosting of Access databases and Access Web applications. The $79 monthly charge includes Standard and Enterprise CALs for the first user, deployment of up to 1GB of Access Web databases , daily backup with three-set rotation, and FTP access to all backup sets. Additional storage costs $25 per GB per month. Each additional user requires SPS 2010 Standard and Enterprise CALs, for which the customer can pay Access Hosting $7.50 per month; alternatively, the customer can acquire the CAL from Microsoft or an authorized reseller for about $175. The $79 per month charge is similar to that for a Windows Azure account running the simplest possible Web application in the cloud. [12, 13] Of course, consumers of Azure Web apps don't need CALs to run the apps in their browsers, but the app's owner is responsible for paying data storage and bandwidth charges.

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