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Cracking Open the SharePoint Fortress 275

Posted by timothy
from the file-formats-rule-the-world dept.
dreemteem writes with this excerpt from ComputerWorld UK:"SharePoint is a brilliant success, for a couple of reasons. In a way, it's Microsoft's answer to GNU/Linux: cheap and simple enough for departments to install without needing to ask permission, it has proliferated almost unnoticed through enterprises to such an extent that last year SharePoint Sales were $1.3 billion. But as well as being one of Microsoft's few new billion-dollar hits, it has one other key characteristic, hinted at in the Wikipedia entry above: it offers an effortless way for people to put content into the system, but makes it very hard to get it out because of its proprietary lock-in. This makes it a very real threat to open source. For example, all of the gains made in the field of open document standards — notably with ODF — are nullified if a company's content is trapped inside SharePoint." The article offers a slice of hope for getting around that, though, in the form of a new API for Google Sites which can slurp the data back out.
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Cracking Open the SharePoint Fortress

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  • bah, sharepoint. (Score:5, Informative)

    by gbjbaanb (229885) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @09:53AM (#29579723)

    Its great news if *anything* can rescue us from the horror that is Sharepoint.

    I've never used a worse CMS system (which is what everyone pretends it is) when really its an online document repository. Don't even start me of Infopath documents being put in there to pretend to give it a forms engine. Its hell.

    Thing is, I'm not entirely sure why all the myriad sharepoint sites that have sprung up at our company are so useless, I think its because its so easy to drop another document into another list that you end up with a sprawl of almost-related data, that's then impossible to find. Our admin did try to say that he'd put the search functionality on so it should be easier to find things... but when I searched for one document I received several thousand hits back!

    Alternatively it could be because every department has their own sharepoint site, that no-one knows which one to look in for data, so they don't bother using it.

    In any case, all the sharepoints here are crap, even the one the admin spent a lot of time on to give it a good sense of organisation.

  • Sharepoint is cheap? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew@noSPam.gmail.com> on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @09:54AM (#29579747) Homepage Journal

    It requires considerably more iron to run it than Wiki software, and the software licenses are very expensive.

    We invested initially in Sharepoint, but can't afford to roll it out for the entire company.

    Cheap is the last word I'd use to describe Sharepoint.

    Depending on how and what you use Sharepoint for, companies should consider looking at MediaWiki and/or Alfresco for document storage, indexing, processing, sharing, etc.

  • Uhm... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice.gmail@com> on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @09:54AM (#29579753)
    Getting content out of SharePoint is blindingly trivial - the web services provided allow you to access all saved versions of documents in document libraries (including wiki pages et al), all user information and all list items.

    Grab the information from the web services and do whatever you wish with the resulting data - its neither hard nor hidden, so this story is pointless.
  • by queazocotal (915608) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @09:55AM (#29579761)

    It's actually quite trivial - and getting more so to move your data out of google apps.

    See the recent 'data liberation' things they've been doing.

  • by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @10:01AM (#29579845) Journal

    Gmail supports imap. Google Calender supports iCal. Google Docs exports natively to OpenDocument. GTalk uses Jabber and Jingle. Google Chrome is open source, as is Google Wave, Android, and plenty of other things I can't remember offhand.

    I haven't really seen that much in terms of lock-in from Google, beyond the fact that they often provide the best implementation -- for example, I don't see how you could lock someone into a search engine, yet Google Search remains dominant because it's actually good.

    Can you give me your reason for believing Google would lock people in? Any evidence to back that up?

  • by Disgruntled Goats (1635745) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @10:02AM (#29579855)

    Why are you so quick to jump to Microsofts defense?

    So if you don't gush over Google that means you're jumping to Microsoft's defense?

    Bottom line is: avoid proprietary lock-in.

    So then why are you using Google's proprietary products then?

  • How hard is it? (Score:5, Informative)

    by mcmonkey (96054) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @10:05AM (#29579887) Homepage

    What is this lock in? I RTFA and skimmed the linked wikipedia article, and couldn't find any details.

    Everything in SharePoint is a list in the database. A calendar is just a list of events with start and end times. A address book is a list of contacts. All you need is some basic SQL, and your information is free.

    Documents are also in the database as binary objects. Pulling them out and saving to the local file system can be an exercise for your intern or first year programmer.

    The API for SharePoint is fairly well documented. If you wanted to migrate a site from SharePoint to another platform, recreating the look and feel may be a challenge--likely depending on your design skills--but getting your data out will not be.

  • by packman (156280) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @10:05AM (#29579897) Homepage

    Can only say one thing to this: http://www.dataliberation.org/ [dataliberation.org]

  • Re:Uhm... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @10:09AM (#29579955)

    Exactly. How do you think Google was able to access the supposed FORTRESS of data that was locked inside of Sharepoint? They read the manuals!! http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepoint

    I'd be curious how soon Google will allow you to extract your documents from Google Docs back into your Wiki...which, btw, is it's own form of fortress depending on which vendor you go with.

  • Re:Just wondering... (Score:4, Informative)

    by brainstem (519778) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @10:10AM (#29579971)
    It's an MS web based document management system with CMS capabilties (among other things). Most organizations use it for intranet type sites, but there are many companies that use it to manage their public facing websites as well.
  • Reverse Engineer (Score:5, Informative)

    by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @10:12AM (#29579993)

    Not that hard to reverse engineer the schema.

    This fellow has open sourced a tool to crack it open:

    http://blog.dreamdevil.com/index.php/2007/03/13/sharepoint_2003_database_exporter/ [dreamdevil.com]

  • by fast turtle (1118037) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @10:22AM (#29580109) Journal

    The impression I got from just the crap summary was that Sharepoint is idiot easy to install without any planning. This means depending on the individual who sets it up, it'll either work wonderfully for you by enforcing proper tagging and indexing rules or it'll become a pit that simply costs money because you can't find anything important with it.

    This is a classic example of Pick any two:

    • cheap
    • fast
    • works
  • by LizardKing (5245) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @10:33AM (#29580273)

    Remember, *parts* of each of these things are open source, not all, due to apache license.

    They are completely open source and Open Source - OSI certified, and GPLv3 compatible. They're just not completely "Free Software" (which is just a particularly restrictive form of open source and therefore less free in the dictionary sense than Apache licensed code).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @10:40AM (#29580381)

    Or at least *copy* the data out of google apps, which is still way better than a lock-in, of course.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @10:42AM (#29580409)
    Slashdot is just doing its part to publish astroturfing. MS Sharepoint is a failure [boycottnovell.com] wherever it is deployed. Here are the CRM packages MS is trying out shout:

    O3Spaces [o3spaces.org]

    Lenya [apache.org]

    SugardCRM [sugarforge.org]

    Alfresco [alfresco.com]

    Main pyrus [mainpyrus.org]

    Nuxeo [nuxeo.com]

  • by Lulfas (1140109) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:22AM (#29580957)
    There's an actual Read/Write API. It isn't hard. There is no story. Don't be dumb.
  • Re:Just wondering... (Score:5, Informative)

    by ByOhTek (1181381) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:25AM (#29580997) Journal

    Sharepoint is a piece of collaboration based software that Microsoft developed. People can jointly work on documents or data stored on the server, and manage the security within their own niches. The design is primarily to give groups or projects their own space, and then give a lot of control over what happens there to the group leader.

    While CMS features were mentioned by another user, they are almost an afterthought or byproduct of the other features, rather than the main purpose of this software. It also happens to SUCK for content management, and it's recommended you get another back end content server to store your Sharepoint managed or created data long term.

  • Abombination, but... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:59AM (#29581457) Journal

    While I agree Sharepoint is an abombination, when I've had the misfortune to interact with it (usually, I've needed to do so with various scripts), I found you can actually NET USE Sharepoint as if it were just a normal CIFS drive, and access everything as files.

    I don't see what's difficult about getting your documents out again in bulk.

  • by westlake (615356) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @12:01PM (#29581483)

    im not even going to bother googling the stats on that one, but since ive never heard of SharePoint before...

    The SharePoint primer for the clueless and lazy:

    Microsoft has sold more than 100 million seat licenses since 2001
    and is on track to generate $1 billion in SharePoint-related revenue this year.


    Ask CIOs about their collaboration strategy, and a good number will start rattling off SharePoint projects. The software's Swiss Army knife approach helps companies create more useful intranets, set up document sharing, offer blogs and wikis, and build a richer online company directory. This boundary-blurring nature is part of its appeal, and can even help in budgeting: IT teams that might not get the nod for document management software have been known to slip SharePoint into the Microsoft Office budget.


    General Mills, a longtime SharePoint user, is replacing all its file sharing systems with SharePoint and has begun using it for blogs and wikis, and to automate some workflows. The maker of Cheerios, Häagen-Dazs, and 100 other food brands counts 20,000 active SharePoint users, with more than 1,500 people contributing content on a regular basis.

    Can Microsoft Keep SharePoint Rolling? [informationweek.com] [Nov 1, 2008]

  • Re:How hard is it? (Score:4, Informative)

    by iamhigh (1252742) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @12:40PM (#29582085)
    Thank you... apparently the GP got modded up by people that have never used SPS/MOSS. If they had, and had tried to access the DB to run a sql query, they would see that it is not a simple task to query that db and get proper results... it's not documented and uses some sort of id system to find things that you will not understand. I have moved into positions and was able to understand the DB and work at that level (with confidence, on production systems far more complicated than what SPS should be) in weeks... sharepoint would take years.

    If you work on web services all day, CAML and XML are second nature to you, and you have quite a bit of experience with MS api's, you might be able to make sharepoint usable from other applications... but many of us in smaller businesses have better stuff to do and would be better served using something open source, or at least where you can reasonably access your data. I wish the management understood that. However the ability to setup sections for each department, and have a project page for every project in a month (but they were all unconnected sites, with no integrity, then users were given access to create their own sites/pages) was too much "Oooh, neat and shiny" for the execs to handle... oh what a mess.
  • Re:bah, sharepoint. (Score:3, Informative)

    by gbjbaanb (229885) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @01:25PM (#29582737)

    Obviously, you have a hundred ideas of how to make a better CMS than Sharepoint, so let's see you plop that money down where your mouth is and do it

    Na, its already been done.

    http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1385851&cid=29580409 [slashdot.org]

    But those companies won't buy them because they're "not microsoft", not because of any technical reasons to do it, in fact, many of these don't even get evaluated because Sharepoint just hangs on the coat-tails of existing Office purchases.

  • by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @01:46PM (#29583047) Journal

    to talk all about how great Google is because of a few token open source gestures

    "Token"?

    Chrome, and v8, forced browsers to start looking at Javascript performance, the way Firefox forced people to start innovating beyond IE6, and at least trying to support standards.

    It also forced browsers to start going multiprocess, and stop crashing the entire browser when something goes wrong with a single tab -- not to mention that this, too, is a performance enhancement.

    I'm actually surprised now when people talk about Slashdot's Javascript being slow, or slower than the HTML version, because that's not the case on my Chromium nightly.

    And that's just one example.

    Now, the actual motivation may be profit-driven -- in this case, Google's core revenue-base is based on the Web, so anything Google can do to improve the Web, or increase the utility of those services (for example, providing ads in Gmail, and Gmail is better on a faster browser), directly benefits Google.

    But you know what? I don't care. It means Google's interests are aligned with mine and with the open source community, and it means the potential for deception is lower, since the most likely ulterior motive is right out there in the open. It's not that there's a hidden greedy agenda -- there's a very open greedy agenda, that happens to improve the Web for everyone.

    And of course,

    to talk all about how great Google is because of a few token open source gestures...

    ...and support for open standards.

    And data portability.

    And actual, working code behind their ideas.

    And a complete lack of vendor lock-in.

    My point was, Google isn't likely to lock things in, because they haven't done so in the past. They have, indeed, been about interoperability -- open standards, and often open source. The things they've kept proprietary often operate via open standards -- even Google Earth uses KML, which is supported by things like KDE Marble.

    The only exception I can think of is Google Maps, and it's not as though you have data in there that would need to be ported. About the most proprietary thing they have is YouTube, and they're experimenting with providing that via HTML5.

  • by awitod (453754) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @02:01PM (#29583259)

    Bottom line is: avoid proprietary lock-in.

    So then why are you using Google's proprietary products then?

    Google makes it easy to extract your data and put it somewhere else. Sharepoint does not.

    The only problem I can see with your statement is that it is completely wrong.

    Getting data or files out of SharePoint is dead simple. Aside from a large number of client choices including Windows Explorer, Outlook, Excel, Access, and SharePoint Designer you can create custom interfaces. If you want to create your own interfaces, there is a well documented Web Services API, a well documented RPC API, and over course a set of components if the custom code is running on the server.

    The Office apps cost money, but Windows Explorer is Windows, SharePoint Designer is free, and the only things that would stop you from using the programmatic interfaces would be a decision to them to harden security or a lack of knowledge.

  • by IllForgetMyNickSoonA (748496) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @02:12PM (#29583405)
    Our glorious IT department, guys who just happen to jump to ANYTHING Microsoft releases, moved our intranet to Sharepoint some 6-7 months ago. We are a 1000 man high tech company, producing our own safety critical hardware and software used in civilian and military applications. We have a full-time, large IT department, so we are not just a mom&dad shop who don't know how to turn on the computer.

    Here is our experience with Sharepoint:

    - It's SLOW AS HELL. It is mind-blowingly, unbelievably slow. I have NEVER seen such a slow system in my life!
    - The search function is un-useable, except for poking fun at results. Rating hits in some xls Documents higher than hits on wiki pages - COME ON, MICROSOFT, EVEN YOU CAN'T BE THAT STUPID!
    - Collaboration? Yeah, right - 2 guys from my department worked with 2 other guys in 2 other departments on a document. After 3 days, the damn thing just swallowed the document! No way to roll back, no way to find it (IT also gave up after a few hours of search). It's GONE!
    - The WIKI functionality (editor) is awful. Just awful. It changes the spacing between lines at its' liking. No way to fix it, short of turning to HTML mode and repairing it manually, just to see it f*** up again after the next update!

    I could go on forever, but I guess you get the picture. MS sure does have some fine products, although I despise their business practice. Sharepoint, however, is NOT one of those fine ones!

    OK, I calmed down. Now I go back to work... :-)
  • Re:Just wondering... (Score:3, Informative)

    by ByOhTek (1181381) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @03:18PM (#29584275) Journal

    we use Sharepoint with non-ms products, it's just not offered out of the box. It's not hard to get set up though.

  • by binford2k (142561) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @03:56PM (#29584731) Homepage Journal

    I don't know about your sharepoint comments, but you're wrong about most everything you said about Drupal. You should have asked me for help.

    http://drupal.org/project/webdav [drupal.org]
    http://drupal.org/project/notify [drupal.org]

    Also, I don't know what you mean by

    as manifested by the fact that you cannot edit things were they are seen by users but rather must work through a back panel.

    You click the edit tab, which gives you direct access to edit the page. I don't know how much more direct you want. It's kind of a logical fallacy to say "edit things [as] seen by users". Users cannot edit, therefore you cannot edit *and* see things the way the user would.

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