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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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  • by Necroloth (1512791) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @09:47AM (#29579661)
    I work for a well known automotive company and as you all know, this industry has been pretty well battered during the recession. Auto companies have looked at all sorts of possibilities to reduce costs and mine has decided to move to Google and migrate away from Exchange, Sharepoint etc.

    In times of financial troubles, companies look to alternatives but they need to be trusted known brands

  • Editing? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @09:47AM (#29579673)

    Uhh, which Wikipedia entry above?

  • by hansamurai (907719) <hansamurai@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @09:54AM (#29579751) Homepage Journal
    This is such an awful piece of software, especially for people who use a non-IE browser, essentially making this even more worthless for non Windows desktops.  I'm asked for my security credentials every other click or so, and even when it is correct, sometimes it will just keep asking and asking (and yes, in Firefox I added the url to my network.automatic-ntlm-auth.trusted-uris).  The wiki software is just atrocious with the syntax being completely unintuitive.  The only way to really use the wiki is... yep, to use IE and the built in rich text editor.  Just check out some of the code generated from it:

    <div class=ExternalClassD18714056AE54C4288E018C6231AEF4A>
    <div align=center><strong><font size=4>Welcome to&nbsp;My Group&nbsp;wiki site!</font></strong></div><strong><font size=3></font></strong></div>
    <div class=ExternalClassD18714056AE54C4288E018C6231AEF4A><strong><font size=3></font></strong>&nbsp;</div>
    <div class=ExternalClassD18714056AE54C4288E018C6231AEF4A>
    <div align=left><font size=3></font><font size=2>Welcome to the Department Wiki. Remember, this is your wiki, so please don't hesitate to add and/or enhance existing pages, and fix mistakes or errors.</font></div><font size=2></font></div><br>
    <h1><font size=5>Starting Points</font></h1>
  • by leetrout (855221) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @09:58AM (#29579807) Journal
    We have Share Point here at my office but my team doesn't use it because it is so hard to navigate. It is extremely difficult to figure out where you just posted something if you happen to stumble back to the main landing page. I'm shocked to hear that anyone considers that package a "success". I, for one, will not be giving up on any OS tools / apps for SP.
  • Re:bah, sharepoint. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @10:04AM (#29579875)

    The Search is one of the biggest and most important features of SharePoint. If your admin had a clue, he/she would have set it up in the beginning with appropriate IFilters for all of the documents being uploaded. With that and proper meta tagging rules for document uploads, it really doesn't matter where it is inside SharePoint, as long as it's there. There are also 3rd party add-ins (BA Insight's Longitude, for example) that expand the capabilities of search.

    The problems at your organization sound like bad planning on the part of whoever oversaw the implementation. The tools are there (and believe it or not, they are good tools, which is one of the reasons why SP is so popular), it's just easy to end up with a mess when the people setting it up have no idea what they're doing.

  • by smartin (942) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @10:12AM (#29579989)

    I'll second that. Give me a mediawiki for collaboration and content, and a subversion repository for document storage and i'm happy. Shitepoint is just another crappy M$ product that is a pain to use and tries to lock you to their other crappy products.

  • by Zombie Ryushu (803103) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @10:15AM (#29580025)

    Back in the day before Sharepoint, as a school assignment for one of my higher level CIS Classes I was tasked with making a CMS where as people could upload (Word) documents to the CMS in the form of Articles.

    The closest I was ever able to get is with an an application called GeekLog. But there was absolutely no automation. I tinkered with the HTML export aspect of Word, it was an absolute abortion. Useless with Geeklog.

    Now that we have linkable libraries for everything under the sun in Linux, I always wondered the following: Why could it not be setup such that so long as an Acceptable format was uploaded (DOC, ODT, WPD, etc) could be parsed into an XHTML 1.0 Compliant article.

    I never could lick that problem.

    Then another problem came up. I needed a way to Authenticate Geeklog against LDAP, and later single sign on with Kerberos.

    I was thinking this all the way back in 2003 and 2004.

    Then, low and behold, I start hearing about the abomination that is: Sharepoint.

    After I heard about I was like "oh damn it. They got write what all these LAMP Stack PHP applications couldn't think of: LDAP, Kerberos, and the ability to turn binary documents into readable searchable articles."

    It was like my worst nightmare come true. GeekLog was a prime example of how Linux developers could have stopped the sharepoint nightmare before it started.

  • by ElSupreme (1217088) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @10:18AM (#29580061)
    Well your data may be liberated, but it is also scanned over by google and their servers. I would probably rather have my data in a propritery locked box, than seen by random people and advertisments sent to me.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @10:23AM (#29580121)

    sounds like your install of sharepoint is your problem. We have thosands of users, have no problems with permissions, finding data with search, and it works great in firefox. It was easy to implement and cheap given that users needed almost zero training and the hardware it required was very low (For a server which is all that is ever allowed in our datacenters)

  • Re:How hard is it? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by IsaacD (1376213) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @10:30AM (#29580217)
    Yes, some of the templates are almost useless, but I've found success with a few of them. Though I must admit that the development tools for it are quite the headache. Nonetheless, SharePoint really shines with collaboration and integration. Being able to use a (versioned) SharePoint list as a Windows directory is incredibly useful. I recently even helped someone with a project that involved porting an Access database to SharePoint. It was a few clicks and it was finished.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @10:34AM (#29580289)

    I find that if firefox keeps asking for authentication, toggling the network.negotiate-auth.allow-proxies value to false will stop them. My uni proxy would cause authentication windows to pop up all the time, but toggling this value causes them to only show one authentication dialog on first open

  • by Slicker (102588) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @10:45AM (#29580471)

    Uhm.. Seriously? You are really kidding me.. I mean REALLY? It is not any of those things boasted--not remotely close. I worked with Sharepoint for the last two years, installing, administering, and using for a state university. It is absolutely the most unrecommendable software product I have EVER worked with. It has worked reasonably well (not great) only for one purpose for us: a document repository. Version control only really works when using Microsoft Office 2007. Otherwise, it'll wipe out your version histories.

    (1) Ease of installation -- It's highly complex. You really do need to read the 700 page book Microsoft has to know how to install it. This is because numerous options at install time cannot be changed later except by re-installation. And I mean many numerous options that are very difficult to understand how each relates to the other.. We reinstalled so many times, paid for expensive consulting both with Microsoft and with an outside firm. We still couldn't get it right. The nuances are many and hit you repeatedly often with the only fix being a reinstallation.... and usually rebuilding of content, along with it.

    AND users almost universally hate it. Management fights hard against the wishes of users to implement Sharepoint--not only at our organisation but also at every other organisation I've had to privilege to ask their sysadmins about. Management usually hails its success but on the ground, it's almost universally hated and a disaster. Oh, yes.. Our universities library system also had a successful use of a simple trouble ticket management system... so there were two exceptions. It's also easier to install and administer as a single server than as a farm, but still not so easy and no easier on users.

    I cannot stress enough--the problem with Sharepoint are the many many MANY critical nuances.

    (2) Inexpensive -- No. It's very expensive. The learning curve is quite high so training is really required. In our case, the expense was bundled in with a variety of other software licenses such as that for Exchange. Alone, the license is very expensive--particularly if you want to open it up to outside your organisation's intranet.

    But the real expense is in administration. Both training costs, immense amounts of time spent with it, and dealing with problems ongoing are the highest costs I've ever seen for a server application. Upgrades are also a huge difficulty. They present as opportunities to resolve some former configuration problems but taking advantage thereof often means your data is not restorable.

    Of all the alternative applications I've worked with, "Typo 3" is the most Sharepoint-like, functionally. It is, however, far easier to learn and it is reliable. Sharepoint is reliable only in the sense that its processes keep running--that doesn't mean it doesn't break regularly. The best general purpose CMS I have worked with is definitely Drupal. Drupal lacks some of the capabilities of Sharepoint (presuming those capabilities were actually usable in Sharepoint in any meaningful sense) but has many others.

    The problem is that Sharepoint is not exactly a CMS. It is (and I am speaking in theory--not practice in practical terms) a collaboration environment. There really is a difference. Drupal itself has a learning curve that I don't like. It's more administrator focused and not user focused, as manifested by the fact that you cannot edit things were they are seen by users but rather must work through a back panel. Drupal also lacks a WebDAV document repository and the ability to do things like email in documents and other kinds of content and get email notifications of content or documents modified.

    Drupal is about setting up a classical website for users to use and administrators to administer. Sharepoint (in theory) is about providing a service where users can create their own sites, document and data repositories and means of presenting and sharing the same (via tags and filters). It's about working together within an or

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @10:48AM (#29580525) Homepage

    I saw it in a Fortune 100 company. Didn't see it anywhere in another Fortune 500 company.

    Wouldn't expect smaller companies to use it.

    It seems like the perfect thing for companies so large with such
    a crushing beaurocracy that all effectiveness and productivity is
    also crushed.

  • Re:bah, sharepoint. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SenFo (761716) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @10:50AM (#29580555) Homepage

    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.

    You couldn't have been more accurate. 49 out of every 50 SharePoint "developers" I have talked to or interviewed are far from designers or software engineers. It's as if they were attracted to SharePoint because they were unable to make it in the real software development world. Not that this would necessarily be a problem, but SharePoint is one of the most difficult platforms I have ever had the unfortunate experience to program against. While these "developers" are busy building InfoPath forms and exposing tons of meaningless columns to interface with the workflow engine (they often use WF to overcome the fact that InfoPath is NOT a development platform), it's my job to interface the pile of mess with other COTS products by building convoluted ETL processes. The unfortunate truth of the whole situation is that the senior technical staff (e.g., CTO) fails to see the flaws that SharePoint brings. They focus their energy entirely on common CMS features, such as how easy it is to enable search and create a new page. If you dare suggest an alternative, you'll find yourself amongst the other outcasts --lonely, frustrated and unheard.

    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.

  • Sharepoint lock-in (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:10AM (#29580793)

    If you look at deploying MS-Sharepoint, you'll find that you need to have MS-ActiveDirectory, and hence, MS-Windows PCs and CALs. Sharepoint deployments are usually $25K+ for anything beyond a trivial lab deployment.

    OTOH, http://www.alfresco.com/ [alfresco.com] provides similar DMS and CMS capabilities. You can use the free version very easily or pay a $3k for support. It can connect to any LDAP for authentication and authorization. There are no CALs. Alfresco was created by former EMC/Documentum people - they understand document management.

    I'm just a CIO that deployed the free Alfresco in our company over a year ago. Besides that, I have no other affiliation.

  • Re:bah, sharepoint. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:11AM (#29580807)

    The Search is one of the biggest and most important features of SharePoint. If your admin had a clue, he/she would have set it up in the beginning with appropriate IFilters for all of the documents being uploaded.

    If by adding appropriate iFilters you mean adding the PDF one, I think most admins get to that. If you mean actually supporting all the file types in use today (especially in an office that is not just using Microsoft products) I'd like to ask "are there such things and how much do they cost?" Last time I looked, there wasn't even an iFilter for MS Publisher, let alone anything from Adobe other than PDF. No Lotus or EPS or Quark or Framemaker or really anything useful. I don't think there were even OpenOffice plug-ins.

    The problems at your organization sound like bad planning on the part of whoever oversaw the implementation.

    Planning to implement SharePoint sounds like bad planning from all my experiences. It's a single vendor system with less capabilities than even freeware CMS's. You don't want any system designed and implemented by people who "have no idea what they're doing" as you put it. So if you have a manager evaluating options presented by a contractor or internal IT people and they say, "let's go with SharePoint" first ask them to show you their work where they compared it to Drupal. Then fire them and don't provide a recommendation unless it's to a competitor you want to harm.

  • Huh? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mpapet (761907) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:35AM (#29581129) Homepage

    After I heard about I was like "oh damn it. They got write what all these LAMP Stack PHP applications couldn't think of: LDAP, Kerberos, and the ability to turn binary documents into readable searchable articles."

    My gut feeling is there are some details missing. LDAP and Kerberos are not interdependent. Especially for web applications. However, in Microsoft's world, it is.

    This suggests you were trying, like *many* before and after you, to connect a LAMP stack with a Microsoft identity stack. Microsoft makes this intentionally difficult, so there should be little surprise that it's an epic fail.

    GeekLog was a prime example of how Linux developers could have stopped the sharepoint nightmare before it started.
    If it was that simple, Microsoft would have been in the has-been ranks populated by Novell a long time ago.

    Microsoft drowns out competing platforms and even their own developer-base when the market is big enough roughly in this order.
    1. They bring consistently inferior product to market, then spend their way into the market segment. The disconnect here is that their core market is where the purchasing manager is totally disconnected from IT. That is most big IT shops.
    2. Microsoft AND the executive class who bought the license blames IT for bungling the deployment.

    Microsoft wins!

  • No Lock In (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WED Fan (911325) <akahige@NOSpaM.trashmail.net> on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:56AM (#29581429) Homepage Journal

    Yes, SharePoint integrates with office. Surprise! But, you aren't locked in. No, SharePoint doesn't trap anything. SharePoint out-of-the-box, is o.k. To make it USEFUL, you extend it with features. Features can be purchased or developed. One such add on is StoragePoint that allows all the BLOB storage to be moved to the file system, other DB's, other CMS, etc.

    The common answer to the lack of a feature in an OSS project is, "Well, write it yourself." If you need a feature in SharePoint that isn't available OOTB, or COTS, you can...surprise, write it yourself.

  • by wwphx (225607) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @12:00PM (#29581467) Homepage
    They wanted to set up an IT wiki for information sharing (procedures, config info, etc) and were told that a LAMP/WAMP stack with Wikimedia was unacceptable because it was insecure. They tried SharePoint and found that it didn't allow structuring documents or anything remotely resembling the flexibility of ?AMP/Wiki and eventually replaced it with a closed-source system requiring annual licensing and a dedicated developer.

    Her boss finally left, a more flexible one came in, and now all of their old servers have been replaced with *nix with a growing rollout of PostgreSQL and life is much happier there.
  • by emaname (1014225) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @12:51PM (#29582219)
    U.S. Bank picks IBM's Lotus platform over Microsoft's SharePoint

    http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9138020/U.S._Bank_picks_IBM_s_Lotus_platform_over_Microsoft_s_SharePoint [computerworld.com]
  • Re:bah, sharepoint. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BlindSpot (512363) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @01:07PM (#29582427)

    Definitely... I do .NET and after one experience with SharePoint I personally won't go near again, and I know several other decent-or-better developers who feel the same way. If it comes up during a job description or even an interview I will immediately stop and say "I'm afraid I don't do Sharepoint" and look for another contract. Even in this economy.

    The worst part is that Sharepoint jobs actually pay a strong premium over standard .NET development because it's such a big mess and because so few people will actually touch it.

  • by cdrudge (68377) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @02:39PM (#29583785) Homepage

    It depends on what version of MOSS you are licensing. The base server license is around $4k. Each user also needs a standard cal at around $95, and optionally an enterprise cal for another $75 to utilize the enterprise services. Alternatively instead of the CAL route, you can license the entire server with Sharepoint for Internet Sites for around $40k which gets you unlimited users on the one server. There are also additional server editions for just search, excel services, and forms server that are less then $40k but have reduced functionality.

    A typical enterprise Sharepoint farm has two load balanced front end servers, plus a back end application and search server. If you had 200 users licensed for enterprise use, it would cost around $46k for the 3-server setup. However if you went the Sharepoint for Internet Sites route, it would be $120,000 for those same 3 servers. Sharepoint for Internet Sites advantage though is that you don't need CALs, so for extranet scenarios or where you don't know specifically how many external users would be authenticating to the server, you are covered.

    To be properly licensed, you'll also need the appropriate license(s) and/or external connectors for Windows Server and SQL server for the internal and external users. Those costs are hard to give estimates as it varies from company to company. If a user already has an existing Server or SQL cal, an additional one may not be required for an installation.

  • by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @03:07PM (#29584143) Journal

    That locked propritary box is MINE. Not Microsoft's, not Googles, MINE.

    Oh, the naivete...

    I don't have to trust Microsoft one bit, unless Microsoft puts spyware into its product.

    WGA isn't spyware?

    Nonetheless, you also have to trust not only that Microsoft hasn't put spyware in there already, but that they won't distribute such spyware as an update, ever.

    Google's 'robots' look at my data.

    So do Microsoft's programs, running inside "your" proprietary box.

    I am sure that Google sends its 'partners' "anonymous" information based on my documents.

    Here's an example [youtube.com] -- scroll just under the video, and click "Statistics & Data".

    That's the kind of information Google, or their partners, actually care about. See that gigantic graph there? Thunderf00t can see a lot of powerful things -- he can see the number of visits, number of comments, number of 5-star ratings, number of 1-star ratings, etc etc.

    But he can't see how you rated him, unless you tell him.

    Can you make a case at all that this is an inappropriate amount of data?

    Google's robots designed for specific advertizers look at my data.

    I wasn't aware Google custom-built them for specific advertisers. I know for a fact that they build general-purpose robots, which then choose from available advertisers.

    And there is no way I can even really say Google doesn't look at my stuff, IT IS WHAT THEY DO! Someone looks at what the 'robots' pick up eventually.

    Citation needed.

    I'm going to say, no, they don't. They can look at large, overall trends. Can you give me a solid technical reason why Google would have to look at your personal data in order to run their robots?

    Or, let me put it this way: Do you really think anyone at Google actually visits each one of the billions (trillions?) of pages they index?

    Google makes money by reading peoples stuff.

    Wrong.

    Google makes money by analyzing people's stuff. They really, really don't care about your ultra-secret corporate document. All they care about is whether that document talks about, say, weight and nutrition, so they can show you an ad for Weight Watchers, and try to spot other correlations -- which documents, when presented with a Weight Watchers ad, actually resulted in a purchase? Still way too much data for a human to analyze, so let the robot find those correlations, and how those documents are different from documents which did not result in a purchase, and fine-tune their advertising algorithms based on that.

    None of this process results in a Google employee, or anyone from another company, having to actually look at the data directly.

    I'm not saying it's impossible that they do look at it. But you're asserting that they do, without evidence, based on what seems to me a misunderstanding of how they work.

    At least Microsoft makes it money by raping you on software prices. You can trust them MORE to not read your stuff, as they can still make money other ways.

    Except Google does have a for-pay service. I'm not sure if it disables ads -- then again, Microsoft is also attempting to make money selling ad space.

    The difference is, as much as we've made fun of Google for "violating" their corporate "Don't be Evil" motto, the evilest things Google has ever done don't come close to what Microsoft has done, and is doing. So no, I have no reason to trust Microsoft more than I trust Google.

    When it comes right down to it, I'll trust neither of them, to the extent that it's practical. But at a certain point, outsourcing parts of your infrastructure is a Good Idea.

  • Re:How hard is it? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mcmonkey (96054) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @04:38PM (#29585213) Homepage

    Whatever. Yes, it's too hard. Years to understand.

    Only I've done it. And it did take weeks, not years. And I'm not that smart.

    Remember, we're not talking about being able to save changes to the SharePoint database. The database is designed to work on through the app and contains no user serviceable parts.

    In just addressing the issue of lock-in and being able to get your data and documents out of SharePoint, between the API and SQL, there isn't anything you can't get out programmatically.

    If CAML and XML are outside of your understanding, then this isn't the job for you.

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