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I'm currently the CTO for Hedgehog Technology a business dedicated to delivering Cloud based productivity solutions in Logistics

Friday, October 23, 2009

Day 3&4 @SPC2009

It was a bit tough getting started Wednesday morning in Las Vegas after the Beach Party Microsoft threw us at the Mandelay Bay Hotel but after a slow start it was all about my favorite topics. I concentrated on OBA's and the really cool BCS features they are introducing for 2010. First of all there is the good news that we longer have to wrestle with XML or complex tools to define our Business Entities. This is now all the domain of SharePoint Designer 2010 and all done through a mature UI and Wizards. Just create External lists and configure things like the crud options and off you go. This is all extremely powerful and allows for far more rapid development of OBA's. Great news is that the basic infrastructure and functionality is part of the SharePoint Foundation (formally known as WSS) so there's nothing stopping us from making full use of these possibilities. We'll also see some demo's and articles around IBF like scenario's now available through using SPD and XML (I'll endeavor to post on this as well). What is probably the highlight of SPC2009 for me is a much better understanding how things like 'Connect to Outlook' or 'Sync with SharePoint Workspace' works, it made me realize that there a full data cache sitting in the local user store and again, more good news, Office comes with documented API's to make full use of that for OBA's. There are different assemblies for use with WPF, Silverlight or Java script, for those interested, when the beta comes out, check out the Microsoft.Office.Businessdata Namespace.

Day 4 started with some useful guidance on how to approach Load testing and it's good to see Microsoft is now sharing best practices that were developed based on their internal load testing processes and results. Next Mike Ammerlaan presented on Architecture best practices for 2010 based on what's new or has changed as a result of better insight on how organizations have been using SharePoint and the road blocks they ran into. Obviously this is one of the 'you should have been there' type of sessions, one thing I'd like to point to especially because of my enthusiasm about BCS and External lists is to keep in mind that the new REST interfaces and SPLinq do not work on External lists, certainly something to keep in mind when architecting solutions. Lastly I attended a session on SSIS and SharePoint and the important take away there was that there is a connector for SharePoint lists available on Codeplex.

That's it from Las Vegas, now going for some shopping before wasting the weekend travelling back home ;-)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Day 2 @SPC2009

Today we got into lots of details, no more generic overviews, it was all down to the juicy code samples. I selected mostly Developer oriented sessions today. I knew the potential of Visio Services, by having looked at it during the early visits to Redmond this year, but now that the bits are pretty much backed, we got to see some of the finished very impressive demos. I have to say Visio 2010 and Visio Services in SharePoint 2010 continues to amaze me. The Dynamic Data Driven scenarios we can start implementing in 2010 are mindboggling. I urge the interested readers to make their way over to the Visio Team blog to get as excited as I am!

Another interesting session today presented by Zeyad Rajabi was around the new Word Automation Services announced here at SPC 2009. No longer do we need to rely on running lengthy processes through (illegally) installing Word on the server. We can now simply write an event handler or workflow action that performs a range of typically operations, like save as PDF or XPS, at lightning speed. Combine that with the power of the Open XML SDK 2.0 and it opens up so many scenarios for updating and generating documents. I'll throw in another plug for a blog here, so you can go and read all about that on MSDN.

Those of you that know me, know how passionate I am about both these topics, so expect some posts and presentations from me before the year's over.

After lunch time things got slightly more technical (makes you wonder if we'll survive the Wednesday, and keep in mind the beach party is tonight :-) ), the first afternoon session by Paul Stubbs was focused on the new Client Object Model, you heard it right, in 2010 you no longer have to resort to Web Services to access SharePoint Data. From WPF, JavaScript or Silverlight you now have Client Side libraries available that give you 'direct' access to your lists and libraries. There are some things you need to be aware of, like when you actually call to the server to do the work, and that JavaScript and Silverlight do things asynchronously but still this delivers a very powerful model for Client side programming. The next session I attended was by Eric Shupps around the improved Business Connectivity Services (BCS, formally known as BDC), Eric delivered a great session that provide a lot of confidence for me when it comes to using SharePoint as the Application Delivery and Development platform. The day ended on a high when the Patterns and Practices guys gave us the insight around Development best practices in 2007 and how they apply to 2010 as well as what the new testing capabilities in VS 2010 combined with TFS can deliver to provide a good end to end Application Lifecycle Management process.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Day 1 @SPC2009

Today was the day the SharePoint community finally got to see what SharePoint 2010 is really going to be about. Microsoft, in its keynote note session didn't make a big deal out of it. But for a large number of community members, the SharePoint MVP's in particular it was like liberation day. Finally the NDA is lifted; we can freely talk about SharePoint 2010! And it was really good to see how slick the demo's went, I must admit I was nervous, the build they gave us in July was great to get your feet wet but also had a lot of rough edges. I go on record having been very positive about the ribbon in the Office Client applications but not feeling all that pumped about the ribbon in SharePoint through the browser. After today, I feel much more comfortable, I still have to get my hands on a recent build (did not have time for any hands-on labs yet) but what I've seen so far looks really slick and performs great.

This morning's keynote was largely about taking the covers off and the sessions today were all overviews on a high level, tomorrow we'll get into the real details. I'm sure the net by now has plenty fo news around 2010, but here's a few announcements that caught my attention.

I'm not sure how to interpret it just yet, but Steve Balmer put a lot of focus on SharePoint 2010 for Internet sites, which according to him would be at an attractive price point next year, it will be interesting to see how that pans out. Windows SharePoint Services is now longer named as such as an SKU but is now called SharePoint Foundation and remains part of Windows Server, 'for free'. What also stood out is the impressive effort that's been put into the Developer story in Visual Studio 2010 which is released today as beta 2. We'll have to wait a few weeks until we can use it with SharePoint though, the public beta, with which the beta 2 bits of Visual Studio will work from a SharePoint perspective will be available in November.

Another great improvement is the End User customisation story, after seeing so many clients and users struggle with simple things like putting images on their homepage or laying out their Web Parts the way they want it, it is good to see that the default homepage for sites is actually a WiKi page. The functionality WiKi pages deliver now allow for very easy customisations, like drag, drop and resize a picture from anywhere, easy editing and just adding lists and views precisely where you need them without the need for Web Part zones or SharePoint Designer. Very cool stuff! What also interesting to note is that there's full REST access to lists, list items and Office documents. So adding a chart from an excel sheet on your team site homepage is as easy as copy and pasting a hyperlink in the middle of your text how's that for ease of use. I'll see if I can find some time in the few weeks to post some examples of that type thing.

Anyway, I'm off to enjoy the Las Vegas nightlife and to prepare for another session packed day tomorrow.