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IT wish list for SharePoint 2010: Keep it simple

IT pros hope Microsoft focuses on bread-and-butter admin/management instead of feature creep in SharePoint 2010.

As Microsoft gears up the next of its patented product pushes, IT admins and those supporting them have one overarching request when it comes to SharePoint 2010: Make it simple to manage and maintain.

The current SharePoint 2007 and earlier releases are popular and widely deployed. Some experts have said that they can be extremely complicated and hard to manage. So much so that many IT departments just won't support the SharePoint installations running in their own shops. That leads to their SharePoint 2010 wish list, which has on it simply simplicity.

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One Boston-area IT professional runs a ton of SharePoint, but not happily. "This software's been around ten years and they keep cramming more stuff into it, so now it's too complicated," he said. "There are some people who get ferocious benefit out of it but there are a lot of other people where it's like the VCR flashing 12:00 all day. They don't know what to do with it so they don't do anything. In my view, SharePoint is great, but only if you don't get fancy with it."

In the past few years, Microsoft folded content management, business intelligence and other features that were once separate offerings into SharePoint Server. That made it a big and flexible -- or unwieldy -- toolset, depending on the user's point of view.

What he'd like to see in the new release is a firming up of existing features and functions rather than a raft of new ones. "They need to work on the workflow and some other things, but I would beg them not to put anything more in."

One IT admin said that even what should be simple tasks are sometimes remarkably convoluted. "Just to do forms authentication, you have to modify security groups to make sure a shared service provider is part of a local security group. Well, damn, that should be very easy. I guess Microsoft might say this encourages partners to develop tools to automate this kind of stuff, but for administrators, it's a hairball."

Richard Warren, CEO of North Carolina Technologies, a VAR that does a lot of Microsoft Project Server and related SharePoint work, agreed.

"At this point, [SharePoint Server's] a considerable house of cards. They have piled on an awful lot of stuff that is not easily administered and made it incredibly complex to do the simplest things," he said.

What's in store for SharePoint 2010

The vendor has heard that kind of feedback in the two and a half years since SharePoint 2007 released, said Christian Finn, SharePoint Director. "When we went from 2003 to 2007, there were lots of new features and functions added. From 2007 to 2010, there will be deeper and broader implementation of what we're already doing…. SharePoint does collaboration, social computing, content management and business intelligence. It will continue to do all those things, but we won't be adding big new workload types."

Microsoft has said little about SharePoint 2010 other than it will be 64-bit only and that it will integrate Microsoft's FAST Search technology. It is unclear whether SharePoint will retain its current search, although most expect it to support both search technologies going forward. The Groove client, renamed SharePoint Workspace will go into a new ProPlus SKU.

The vendor also revved up its positioning of SharePoint Server as a social networking foundation. Finn spoke at the recent Enterprise 2.0 show to emphasize those perks. Facebook is all the rage, but SharePoint's MySites has had that ability for years, he said.

The company is also dumping the Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) branding for Microsoft SharePoint Server. And there will be some re-packaging of Windows SharePoint Services as well, although it's unclear exactly what's happening on that front. These basic collaboration services are now sold as part of Windows Server.

Microsoft Technology Adoption Program members have early code of SharePoint 2010 now. A private beta is set for release around the Worldwide Partner Conference in mid-July, with a public beta to follow in the fall. Microsoft has promised broad availability for the first half of 2010.

Joel Hurford, principal of IT consulting firm Mitsis LLC in Dumfries, Va., uses and administers his own SharePoint and sets up for others. He agreed that SharePoint use in many business and government sites is done without tacit IT support. "In the last agency I was in, IT uses SharePoint internally but refuses to let other groups run it until they're funded enough to support it."

Robert Shear, principal of Greystone Solutions Inc., an IT consultant in Boston who uses and works with SharePoint, summed it up: "SharePoint is a wonderful, powerful tool that gets a lot of stuff done. But if users don't restrain themselves, they end up in trouble. It's like going to ADAP Autoparts and saying 'let's buy a car.'"

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