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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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  • Just wondering... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by msh104 (620136) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @09:46AM (#29579649)

    How is this story "hardware" related.

  • by msh104 (620136) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @09:51AM (#29579711)

    So... in order to break the microsoft lockin you use an api that is only availible to google users only.
    Sound a bit like "Free, More Free and Locked in... Again..." to me...

  • by Nerdposeur (910128) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @09:53AM (#29579735) Journal

    It's also good news if you like competition. Now you've at least got an option to switch, which puts some pressure on Microsoft. And if Google can do this, someone else could, too.

    This isn't "good vs evil." It's "choice vs no choice." And it looks like choice just scored a point.

  • by noundi (1044080) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @09:55AM (#29579771)

    This is great news if you believe that Microsoft is pure evil and Google is goodness and light. I suspect that google will have their own lock-in however.

    Why are you so quick to jump to Microsofts defense? Bottom line is: avoid proprietary lock-in. The reason: when that solution is no longer the best/most painless/cheapest you will have a hell trying to change it. It's about risk and assessment, and you can put whatever label you want on it, be it Google, Microsoft or Joe's Software. There are other options. Options that try to keep you as a customer by being the best, instead of holding your data hostage. How is this difficult to anyone?

  • by Iamthecheese (1264298) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @09:56AM (#29579793)
    Even if google were only being proposed as a bridge to other formats it's just too much trust to ask for sensitive and classified documents to be moved through servers at a company we don't control.
  • by Penguinisto (415985) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @10:02AM (#29579849) Journal

    Not really... at least once you shake it out into Google, you can then move it one more hop into something usable and open.

    Google's API is merely the means, not the end.

  • by Penguinisto (415985) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @10:10AM (#29579973) Journal

    Don't even start me of Infopath documents being put in there to pretend to give it a forms engine. Its hell.

    Worse than hell, really... and not very secure. Our purchase req's at work use it, and I doubt the doc author would know what I was talking about if I asked her whether she sanitized her inputs or not (for example, I can give my own PR's authorization all the way to the VP of finance if I wanted to... and they rely on the damned thing now).

    As for the rest? Dude, I'd give it every mod point I'd ever see for the next year if I could. I'm guessing it's your latter reason (too much diaspora, with little to hold it together) that explains why few people use it. A good web designer can overcome that very easily, but unfortunately? A good web designer and a good SharePoint developer are apparently almost never the same human being (hell, our SP "developer" gets lost in an Event Log... how am I supposed to help explain the basics of CSS to the guy?)

    PS: The search function is pure hell to get working right, if at all. The consultant who put ours together actually knew what he was doing, and SP search still works only half-assed, so don't feel too badly about it.

  • by msuarezalvarez (667058) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @10:14AM (#29580021)
    But none of those products introduce even the possibility of vendor lock-in...
  • by ElSupreme (1217088) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @10:21AM (#29580097)
    Yeah but google gets to read it after you extract it. I would rather have my company trade secrets in my company.
  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @10:25AM (#29580145) Journal

    Bottom line is: avoid proprietary lock-in.

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

    There's a difference between using proprietary products and being locked in to proprietary products. If you use a proprietary mail server (for example) that stores its spools in maildir format and implements IMAP and SMTP, then you are not locked in because you can replace it with an (open or proprietary) alternative easily.

    Google makes it easy to extract your data and put it somewhere else. Sharepoint does not. That means that you are not locked in to Google's products if you choose to use them, while you are if you use Sharepoint. It's not about Microsoft being intrinsically evil and Google being intrinsically good, it's about the relative difficulty in ditching either of them in the future.

  • by cdrudge (68377) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @10:27AM (#29580177) Homepage

    I think it depends on what flavor of SharePoint you are using. Windows Sharepoint Services (WSS) is licensed as part of Windows Server, so you aren't paying extra for something that you may already have. Microsoft Office Sharepoint Systems (MOSS) is licensed separately can the costs can very rapidly grow to very large numbers for larger enterprises depending on what features are desired or how the farm is laid out.

  • by gorfie (700458) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @10:28AM (#29580191)
    Having worked with SharePoint for many years, I do not see how the data is locked in. The documents can be accessed much like a network share. The list data (including the meta data associated with documents) can be exported to Excel or even accessed through web services or through the object model itself.

    And I don't see how it is an explicit threat to ODF because end users can easily store any document type in SharePoint. The only threat is that SharePoint offers integration with Office - but that doesn't prevent people from using ODF, it just encourages usage of Office.

    I'm not suggesting that SharePoint is a good platform, but let's not bash it for locking users in and locking out competing products when it is merely retaining users by being just good enough to keep them content.
  • by vinn (4370) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @10:47AM (#29580499) Homepage Journal
    You know, I thought the community would have picked up on this about three years ago when Sharepoint was first getting attention. Microsoft has done something brilliant with Sharepoint: they've managed to tie each of their server and client pieces together in such a way that Sharepoint is the conduit for the information exchange. Want to share MS Project files? Get Sharepoint. Want to have BI reporting or workflows in Dynamics GP? Get Sharepoint. Want to have a Microsoft CRM dashboard? Get Sharepoint. All of this is functionality that should be built into the core products, not a centralized system requiring separate licensing. Sharepoint is the evil glue that is starting to hold things together. I think other proprietary vendors need to wake up and seriously consider whether or not it's worth integrating with this evil beast. Sharepoint locks you very tightly to Microsoft's platforms and it also sets you on a road toward having upgrade difficulties due to how tightly the software is coupled. All in all, it may be too little, too late. Sharepoint is very quickly gaining traction.
  • Re:How hard is it? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SenFo (761716) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:01AM (#29580673) Homepage

    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.

    Complete nonsense. Sure, SharePoint stores List content inside of a database, but it's stored as XML, making parsing a royal pain, not to mention it makes referential integrity among Lists impossible. Lookup lists have very loosely been implemented. Nobody in their right mind would work with SharePoint directly at the database level. Nor is it supported by MS. This is why a public API has been exposed.

  • by ByOhTek (1181381) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:20AM (#29580929) Journal

    FUD.

    Choice is a point it already had with Sharepoint. I work a lot with content management systems (sadly), many reports (particularly Gartner) suggest using SharePoint as a front end and something else as the back end for your content storage - and strongly recommend AGAINST using Sharepoint for a content server/storage role. I know where I work (and several other places) use Oracle Universal Content Server to store the data, and SharePoint only when working on it (you could probably integrate just as easily with Drupal or some other content storage system). Getting the content out of these is often easy. In Oracle Universal Content Server, I can use the archiving tool to generate an archive, and then write a simple script in most scripting languages to toss the files into a directory structure that is more end-user friendly, or parse the data for use in importing into another content server.

    If you don't know how to use your product, then don't complain about it lacking a feature that it actually has.

  • by Nickodeimus (1263214) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:41AM (#29581229)
    Yeah, because moving away from an area where you've already invested in talent saves money.... during a recession, no less. That's great business planning by people who clearly do not know the the costs of HR and the new hire process specifically.
  • by ElSupreme (1217088) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @12:07PM (#29581561)
    I highly doubt Google deletes your stuff when you remove it. I bet they keep it around till they have a chance to look it over. And there is no way to know if they ever get rid of your/their data.

    And well I am not talking super duper trade secrets. But stuff you don't want people finding out. Like how much you wasted on x project that never got going. Stuff that ends up in email, but you would rather not have people see.
  • by AP31R0N (723649) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @12:09PM (#29581591)

    otoH, if you are in a Windows environment, you likely have IE installed. And if you're on a domain with Exchange... SharePoint is fantastically powerful and flexible.

    For the typical /.er that's all bad news, but for the rest of the working world, it's pretty damn awesome. i work at a major university that is moving TO SharePoint, despite many of the dev and manager types here being mac fanbois and linux fans.

    Most of your post is saying "but if you're left handed and wear a blind fold cars suck because the stick shift is at your right hand and you need to see the road and other cars". Take off the blind fold and get an automatic.

  • by chocomilko (1544541) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @12:31PM (#29581923)

    SharePoint is, by far, the most hideous platform I know of. It makes me long for the days of hacking HTML to make it render correctly in IE6.

    Haha. I recently quit a job where we were being pushed towards using SharePoint as a WCMS -- yes, SharePoint for public-facing websites. The API is trash, and it's extremely, EXTREMELY difficult to make a master page without being forced to use tables at least once or twice. Really annoying if you're trying to only use DIVs, and the first thing one of your controls renders out is a tag.

  • Re:Uhm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sylver Dragon (445237) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @12:33PM (#29581961) Journal
    Thank you, I was beginning to think I was the only one here who had ever tried to pull data out of SharePoint. While I'll agree with many of the posters in this thread that SharePoint can be as much trouble as a help, the idea that it is some vendor lock-in fortress is just stupid.
    Hell, you can drag and drop your files out of a document library using Windows Explorer, this is hard? Or, for single items, left-click the down arrow, click Send To, click Download a copy, fuck this is hard! BTW, this even works in FireFox, though you do have to disable NoScript, which I guess can be hard if you have a room temperature IQ.

    Oh ya, and as someone else has already pointed out, you could always dig into the SDK [microsoft.com] and write programs against it to move data in and out.

    But yes, SharePoint is a fortress which eats your data, pollutes the environment, and kicks puppy dogs.



    Come on guys, MS's software has enough problems, without us making shit up.
  • by bastion_xx (233612) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @01:07PM (#29582435)
    Easy spin for Microsoft. SharePoint, or Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) comes with each Server 2003 license/CAL. I guess Microsoft could say they've also sold 1.3B in DFS, 1.3B in LDAP/Kerberos authentication, etc. :)
  • by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @01:38PM (#29582927) Journal

    Except that they still have to pay the people who work on Chrome. It doesn't make sense for it to be motivated purely by money.

  • Re:No Lock In (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WED Fan (911325) <akahige@@@trashmail...net> on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @02:15PM (#29583437) Homepage Journal

    If you go default on SharePoint, then it is very easy to find what you want in the SharePoint contentdb. It's in SQL and very accessable. It's very easy to pull it out of SP and shove it into something else, including XML. You can go raw, not recommended, but very doable and discoverable, you can go through the object model, very easy, or you can go through the web services. So, I have a real problem with the term "Lock In".

    If you have a SQL programmer or a .net programmer or a programmer that can do web services, you don't have lock in.

  • by Necroloth (1512791) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @04:44PM (#29585281)
    Will it cost more to outsource your IT on a dependable company, reduce your own IT staff and infrastructure?

    Google have made it easy to transfer mailboxes etc from Outlook and we will no longer require to have as many IT staff, Exchange licenses for every user etc... in effect, we're reducing staff in non automotive department, so how does the comment "moving away from an area where you've already invested in talent saves money" apply when we're focusing on our business - automotive engineering?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 30, 2009 @02:00AM (#29589739)

    I don't think you understand lock in. It doesn't mean "data is locked in and unaccessable" it means "forced to use one vendors product".

    "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 ..."

    Surprise, all these you mention are Microsoft products => lock in.

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