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02.4.13

#ESPC13: Upgrade SharePoint 2010 to 2013 (Part 1) – Requirements Overview

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mindmap notes

 

I just got out of the all-day Tutorial “Real Time Upgrade SharePoint 2010 to 2013” conducted by Eric Harlan (@ericharlan) at the European SharePoint Conference in Copenhagen (#ESPC13). I thought it’d be wise to post my thoughts and share my notes with anyone that’s interested while the information is still fresh in my head. Since this was a 9-hour session, this post contains my notes only on the software and hardware requirements for conducting an upgrade.

The figure above is a MindMap diagram created during the session for anyone who prefers visual notes instead :)

Hardware Requirements (minimum)

  • 4-8 cores: 4 is the – absolute minimum. For the servers with a resource-igntensive role such a search/index server its my be wise to have 8 cores. All depends on the complexity of the farm.
  • 12 gigs RAM: Web-Front-Ends. That’s changed from the 8 gig recommendation in SP2010.
  • 16+ gigs RAM: SQL Server.
  • 8-16 gigs RAM: Search/Index Servers
  • 8-16 gigs RAM: Distributed Cache (or AppFabric). This is now one of the pre-requisites to installing SP2013 and is basically used for activity stream content and workflows. Consider it a caching service for ad-hoc content that’s consumed in near real-time or short-term.
  • 80 gigs additional HD space for SP2013 installation. Keep in mind this the minimum and could vary depending on how long you retain your ULS/IIS logs and the size of your index.

Software Requirements

  • .NET Framework 4.5 and 3.5. Important to note that 3.5 is separate from and not combined in 4.5. Therefore both need to be present.
  • Windows Server 2012 or 2008 R2 SP1
  • SQL Server Native Client
  • Workflow Manager Client
  • Windows Management Framework v3.0
  • WCF Data Services v5.0
  • Information Protection and Control Client (MSIPC)
  • Sync Framework Runtime v1.0 SP1
  • AppFabric 1.1 + CU Update 1
  • Windows Identity Foundation 1.0 & Microsoft Identity Extensions

Other Key changes relevant to upgrades

  • Stretch Farms no longer supported. These are farms that contain geographically-dispersed servers. I suppose the reason for not supporting this topology is that its difficult to ensure a low-latency(> 1 ms) between servers in Stretch Farms.
  • Claims-based authentication will be the new default in SP2013. The Windows Classic authentication will be deprecated. For many this will require upgrading web applications to Claims prior to upgrading or directly after (Eric recommends the latter).
  • Web Analytics Service Application will be deprecated. Since FAST is apparently now fully integrated in SharePoint the Analytics module with be available from there. From an upgrade perspective then, its important to note that after the upgrade, all past web analytics data will not to available via any interface.
  • In-place upgrade are not possible (or not supported). The only supported upgrade scenario is SQL-based.
  • Finally, at least for now, there is no direct upgrade path from SP2007 to SP2013. At least nothing provided by Microsoft. According to MS, you’ll need to first upgrade to SP2010 before making the final upgrade. I’m really surprised about this point adds another layer of complexity to the upgrade process, not to mention, costs for setting up an “interim” SP2010 farm.

 

One my next post, I’ll share notes on new and improved features relevant to Upgrade scenarios.

 

 

 

10.27.09

Sharepoint 2010 unveiled:What’s Exciting and What’s Not.

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A large part of the global SharePoint community descended upon Las Vegas last week to attend the SharePoint Conference 2009.  The unveiling of new SharePoint 2010 platform was, undoubtedly, the highlight and core focus of the event and Twitter was hammered all week with tweets containing #spc09 and #sp2010 hashtags.

So for all of you (like me) who missed this massive event the good news is there is plenty of information trickling in already and lots more to be pouring out over the next few weeks.

Even more good news…expect SharePoint 2010 betato be finally released and available sometime in November. We can assume that the early adopters can expect to have a RTM version early in the summer of 2010.

Here are a few SP 2010 features that I’m getting excited about:

  1. The Office Ribbon will now be integrated into SharePoint UI. I like this enhancement as it should provide users with better acess to tools and menu options as well as making it more consistent with the Office Suite interface.
  2. AJAX is natively enabled. This means no more postbacks when authoring pages  and modifying web parts! A huge improvement in my opinion, one which is long overdue. Plus Sharepoint 2010 is also XHTML compliant which will improve accessibility and cross-browser usability (Firefox, Safari, Opera)
  3. No more tables in SharePoint code ( almost entirely all CSS\DIV based). This means cleaner, sharper and faster loading pages.
  4. Big improvements in Search through the integration of FAST providing aspects such as:
    • Faceted Search modules standard out of the box
    • Query completion, spell checking and true wild card searching
    • Document thumbnails as an alternative to file-type icons
  5. Stsadm command-line will be most likely replaced by a new Powershell Admin to enable faster, simpler and more extensive scripting of administrative tasks.
  6. The central admin UI gets a much needed face-lift.
  7. Groove is replaced by an integrated SharePoint Workspaces to provided a more seamless and consistent experience with Office (2010 of course).
  8. Tagging and tag clouds will be OOTBas well as RSS feeds on tags. Well, this is a no-brainer and should have already been introduced in the current version.
  9. Finally, Microsoft is promising that this version is a lot more “social” and community-driven. I’ve heard a lot of buzz already over this, but I’ll just wait and see for myself hopefully in November.

What I’m not looking forward to is: 

  • MOSS 2007 has basically 2 versions – Standard and Enterprise. It looks like 2010 will have at least 8 different standard and enterprise flavorsof SharePoint targeting Intranet, Internet and Fast Search separately. Plus there are 2 additional SharePoint Online versions. No doubt, a licensing nightmare for everyone.
  •  All these 2010 editions are offered in 64-bit version only.  What’s required is Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2008 R2.  Recommended memory is a minimum of 8 GB. It also requires SQL Server 2005 SP3 with CU (Cumulative Update) 3 or SQL Server 2008 SP1. This is good news in terms of application performance and extensibility, but  it will also induce a lot of pains and add  heavy costs in upgrade and migration plans. By far the majority of implementations out there are 32-bit versions running on Windows 2003.

Here are some good resources if your interested in learning more:

If you attended the conference, I’d love to hear your comments and feedback as well!

09.24.09

Sharp SEO Tools for Sharepoint

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This week, we progressed in making our SharePoint-based company website  more “search engine optimized”. For those of you who don’t already know, search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving your site ranking within internet search results. The higher the ranking, the quicker a user can get to your website, therefore, potentially increasing the volume and traffic to your website.

Google provides an excellent SEO Starter Guide for webmasters and site owners which documents these optimization best practices.

So how straightforward is it to “optimize” a public-facing SharePoint site, you might ask?

Not so straightforward in my opinion.

What we learnt fairly quickly was that there are either, built-in mechanisms that hinder some SEOs or, SharePoint doesn’t provide auto-mechanisms to accomplish other SEOs leaving you with the laborious task of making manual changes.
 
The aspects of our website that we wanted to focus on were:
  • Page names and titles
  • Page descriptions and keywords
  • XML-based SiteMap 
SEO best practice: Create unique and revelant page titles
 
Creating site, page or article content titles that are accurate, unique and relevant  is one of the more essential SEO tips documented. Moreover, for the pages to be accurately and consistently indexed, these titles should also appear in the browser title.  
Up to a point, assuming that content writers are creating meaningful titles, this can be accomplished fairly simply in SharePoint by ensuring that the HTML title attribute in a sites page layout or associated master page is being populated with dynamic user-generated content. Avner Kashtan provides a pretty good example of it in his article about customizing MOSS page titles.
But how is the page title used when formatting the site URL?
This is where things get icky in Sharepoint.
  
Its important to note that when creating a publishing page with a title like, “Cool tools in CodePlex”, standard sharePoint automatically generates  and appends to the URL the page name (or slug) as “cooltoolsincodeplex.aspx”. Besides being ugly and difficult to read, a url containing this sort of page name is also difficult for search engines to decipher and accurately index, decreasing the chances for the page to receive a high ranking in search results.
Its true that  a content writer can overwrite this auto-generated page name before submitting the new page, but most of the time, in reality this doesn’t happen.
 
The solution: Imtech SharePoint Slug Feature 
I was overjoyed, therefore, to find that Waldek Mastykarz created a simple and very effective feature that overcomes this Sharepoint annoyance. In a nutshell Waldeks feature, once activated hooks into the Create Page module and not only separates all the words by hyphens(-) but also removes unneccessary noise words.
 
A slug like cooltoolsincodeplex.aspx is automatically substituted for  cool-tools-codeplex.aspx providing simplicity to both the user and search engines.
 
SEO best practice: Use meta tags for page descriptions and keywords
 
Creating rich and meaningful descriptions meta tags is another recommendation that search engines emphasize. In fact creating unique descriptions for each page within your site is the best way to go.
 
SharePoint does enable users to create unique descriptions for each separate site page. Unfortunately, though, there is no standard feature available to include these descriptions in the page meta-data attributes, making it seemingly worthless for external search engines.
 
The solution: Metatagger Feature by David San Filippo
This solution took me a little bit longer to stumble upon but certainly brought a smile on my face after installing and testing. David has built a feature that leverages a cool SharePoint Delegate control to insert various different meta-data tags at runtime.  The source of these tags are the corresponding custom field properties such as description, keywords or author which can easily be populated by content owners while creating the page. David has provided a smart and useful feature for SharePoint users which is surely lacking in the standard SharePoint product.
 
SEO best practice: Create an XML Sitemap for your website
 
A XML SiteMap is similar to an html sitemap you provide to users that displays all the page links that exist on your site. Except, the XML-based file is the standard format used by internet search engines to discover pages, structure and hiearchy of your site.  Additionally, a SiteMap also helps search engines define the frequency of page content updates and rates the importance of a page in relation to other pages within your site.
It was disappointing to see that default SharePoint platform doesn’t provision any mechanism for creating and maintaining an XML SiteMap.
 
The solution: Sharepoint SiteMap Generators
 I found several SiteMap generators out there but the following two solutions stood out in my opinion as the best ones since they are created specifically for SharePoint and they automatically keep the SiteMap updated with dynamic, newly generated content.
 
Sharepoint SiteMap Generator – by Tim Dobrinski and Chris Prime
Imtech XML SiteMap – by Waldek Mastykarz
  

 Conclusion:

It’s great to see that there is an open, active and generous SharePoint developers community that offers  valuable extensions and features such as these. I can only hope that Microsoft learns and absorbs some of this creativity to provide a more enriching platform in the future. 

09.17.09

4 conversation search engines worthy of some chatter

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Google is still the top, most visited site and search engine in the world. By far without a doubt.

I’m curious to know how many users globally have set their browser homepage to Google? I wouldn’t be surprised if it was close to 50% (no way of really knowing, I suppose).

Nevertheless, what the top search engines including Google are not useful for are searching through the millions of new conversations, comments, chats and tweets that are being pumped into cyber-universe every hour. Its hard to fathom the volume of content thats generated every day through the growing number of social networking sites. Is the content being indexed? How frequently? How soon can someone find a comment I posted just 5 seconds ago?

This mass of largely untapped content is certainly a goldmine for any search company including the big 3. Google is busy preparing for its own microblogging search and Bing from Microsoft are also trying hard not to go unnoticed in this arena

There are several smaller players out there who have made some headway already, in my opinion, in providing a “real-time” or “conversation” search engine. Over the months, I’ve found myself using some of these search sites more frequently and feel they are worthy of some attention.

Collecta

CollectaCollecta seems to be pretty damn close to a real-time search engine. It enables you to scour the web for current, at-this-moment information on any topic. When using Collecta it takes a few seconds to generate results from your query and continously runs the query.  The best thing about the site is that you can choose to pause the query or even start up and run mulitple searches simultaneously.

Collecta uses information from Twitter, RSS feeds, and social media and allows the user to also filter results (while the query still runs) on blog stories/comments, status updates, photos (Flickr) or video (YouTube)

The interface is simple,straight-forward and very easy to use. At this point, with Collecta though, I don’t see much else you can do with the search results found besides scrolling through them individually or sharing your find on some other social network. There is no way of capturing the results or gathering any useful analytics data.

Backtype

BacktypeBacktype is another real-time search engine that also indexing conversations and updates from across the web. More that than though, Backtype does enable users to track or monitor comments or posts through email-based alerts and subscriptions. I’ve never been a huge fan of email notifications though (much prefer RSS) and I’m wondering how widely used these servicea are. Some other features included allowing users to track all comments and posts relating to a particular website and also receive recommendations on who to follow based on your own twitter profile. Advanced search and an Trends interface are both currently being developed so I expect more to come.

Social Mention

SocialMentionSocial Mention is probably my favorite conversation search site that I’ve used so far. Its also one of the more advanced ones offering trends, metrics and analytics data associated with your search terms. Moreover users can subscribe to a search query via RSS or email and even simply export the results and any of the key metrics data to a spreadsheet. Social Mention  is very handy search site for companies interested in tracking their brand as you are presented with informaton on sentiment,  top hashtags, top keywords. This site is also very useful  if  you need tangible data that they can easily use for their own reporting, analytics or presentation needs.

The interface allows the users to query their search term on various types of social media by presenting a tabbed menu. This enables you to easily organize the results between blogs, microblogs, bookmark sites, photos or videos

UberVU
 
uberVU is a relative newcomer in this space and still in beta. It offers much of the same features as the other 3 sites mentioned here but I found uberVU stands out in its speed in generating search results. Plus, I like the nice little pie chart displaying the search results distribution percentage across the major social media platforms. UberVU also provides some additional tools such as a Firefox plugin that extends and adds more functionality to Google Reader.
 
Conclusion
 
As social media is, unquestionably, generating the most relevant source of information on the internet,  conversation and real-time search engines are becoming absolute neccessities for social network addicts, bloggers and individuals grooming their own personal brand. Moreover, companies and market brands are already overwhelmed and demanding for better ways of tracking what is being commented about them.  More importantly, just how far  have those comments circulated?
 
There are dozens of other search sites besides these and although, Google is encroaching and keen on dominating this search space, I’m certain they’ll be facing  innovative challengers and very healthy competition. 

09.4.09

Green, fat & happy (and not pressed for words)

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The title of my post indicates how I feel (not how I look, I’ve been assured) after finally having my own blog.

For those of you keen on learning how to start your own blog, there are naturally scores of online articles at your disposal. Nevertheless, I have the urge to share a bit of my own experience.

Lets assume you’ve passed the stage of answering the all-important questions of  “what do I write about?”  and  “who do I target?” and are ready to choose a blogging platform.

Almost immediately I found Problogger.net as the site having, by far, the most useful information on all things relating to blogging. The sites main focus is to help people successfully earn a living through blogging.

 In my opinion, what better community to get advice from than the professionals?

My main question was:

 “Which is the most widely used platform amongst the ProBlogger community?”

Turns out that WordPress.org has been their number 1 platform for the past 3 years (click on the image to go to the article).

Problogger.net 2007 Poll Results

Problogger.net 2007 Poll Results

Rather than wasting more time in comparisons (I’ve already procrastinated long enough) I moved on to the next aspect of web hosting.

Again, there are thousands of hosting providers out there and hundreds that are good in terms of:

  • Price
  • Reliability
  • Capacity
  • Uptime Speed
  • Ease of use

I wanted to find a reliable host that was also “Green” – one that either generates all its hosting needs directly from renewable energy or, is at least offsetting its electricity use by purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates, planting trees or donating revenues to green initiatives.

I narrowed my choice down to 3 which I believe are all in the latter (offestting) category:

Think Host Think Host
Fat Cow Fat Cow
Host Papa Host Papa

I chose Fat Cow simply because they were the cheapest  ($3.6/month) and their branding appealed to me the most. Twenty minutes after choosing my domain and paying, I had access to the Fat Cow Domain control panel.

Within a few clicks I installed my WordPress blog through Fat Cow’s automated InstallCentral scripting engine without a glitch!