I still remember a MSDN session on SharePoint and was little skeptical about the product when I walked out. After that I worked on several projects in SharePoint product and technologies from SPS 2001 to MOSS 2007 Beta and later MOSS 2007. It has been a great journey with this product to see how it grew from a frustration of developers to a mature, cool product. I attempted to mark some significant timeline for SharePoint in this article.
Codenamed "Platinum", the digital dashboards were introduced as the one which provide knowledge workers with unprecedented access to the "corporate memory" by Bill Gates in his keynote speech back in 1999. As MSDN puts, "digital dashboard is a customized solution for knowledge workers that consolidates personal, team, corporate, and external information and provides single-click access to analytical and collaborative tools".
Digital Dashboards are set of web pages that run embedded within a Microsoft Outlook 2000 frame. The clients of the dashboard can either be a web browser or Outlook 2000. The architecture components of dashboards are ASP, ActiveX controls, SQL Server 7, and Exchange. Dashboards introduced the concept of "nuggets" – boxes of information from various sources. Contemporary technologies from other vendors refer to these items as "portlets".
There were various downsides to this technology. The first being external portal access is simply not possible as the people who are outside the NT domain cannot access the portal. The customization and personalization is very limited and the development was outside the premises of Visual Studio.
SharePoint Portal Server 2001 - SharePoint Team Services
The year 2000 had some remarkable product upgrades from Microsoft – Windows Server 2000, SQL Server 2000, and Exchange Server 2000. Windows Server 2000 introduced "Active Directory". Tahoe Beta 2 was up on it way along with these. Tahoe was finally named as "SharePoint Portal Server 2001" (SPS 2001).
SPS 2001, based on the dashboard technology offers a web-based portal solution with basic document management functions like check-in/check-out, document history, document profiles and document publishing. It also supports enterprise search capabilities. Nuggets are renamed as "web parts". SPS 2001 architecture was built on ASP, ADO/OLEDB, XML, WebDAV, and CDO. Visual Studio has limited support for the developers of SPS 2001.
Microsoft Office brought up a collaboration solution – SharePoint Team Services (STS), a web based solution that provides shared access to information and documents. They are actually a superset of the new FrontPage Server Extensions 2002. This provides the additional features like HTML administration pages, web site management forms, server error tracking, new security features like "roles", server health monitoring, and web site statistics.
SharePoint Portal Server 2003 - Windows SharePoint Services 2.0
Portal Server was upgraded to run on .Net Framework and was called SharePoint Portal Server 2003 (SPS 2003). STS was renamed as Windows SharePoint Services 2.0 (WSS). Microsoft released Office 2003 and brought the SharePoint range within the office system and WSS was included with Windows Server 2003 license. These are collectively called as "SharePoint Product and Technologies". The product is SPS 2003 and the technology is WSS 2.0.
WSS offers a collaboration store and the web parts were built using ASP .Net 1.1. Now, we could use Visual Studio .Net 2003 to develop web parts. SPS 2003 was built on top of WSS and provides search and indexing, personalization, and enhanced management. It also offered more scalability than SPS 2001. Slowly Microsoft sneaked into Gartner's magic quadrant for portals.
Office SharePoint Server 2007 - Windows SharePoint Services 3.0
After 2003, there have been considerable changes in the SharePoint products and technologies. These are brought under Office suite of products and were codenamed as "Office 12". WSS 2.0 integration with ASP .Net 1.1 has resulted in IIS routing requests to WSS 2.0 before ASP .Net. This was problematic in certain situations because WSS takes control of HTTP requests before it was properly initialized within the ASP .Net context. This has been redesigned as WSS 3.0 is built upon ASP .Net 2.0 and hence routing the requests through ASP .Net runtime before WSS. Thus, AJAX got into WSS and ASP .Net has native web parts FrontPage was dropped and SharePoint Designer came up for the ones who work with SharePoint. For the rest of the world, it will be Expression Web.
Web content management is an important arena as the portal market was growing steadily. The Content Management Server (CMS) was merged with SharePoint. One of the backlog items with SharePoint was the workflows. Windows Workflow Foundation (WF) acts as the engine to build workflows and extend workflow services. Like WSS, WF was added to the Windows Server license and is an integral part of .Net Framework 3.0. Offline synchronization was made possible by acquiring Groove. Office Groove 2007 is a collaboration software that helps the team members to work dynamically and effectively, even if team members work for different organizations, work remotely, or work offline.
The list does not end here. Business intelligence is another paradigm to share, control, and reuse business information to make better business decision. Records management, blogs, wikis, RSS, social networking web part, email integration, task coordination, and site analysis reports to name a few are new additions to MOSS 2007.
Gartner's market scope for web content management 2007 says that the WCM has grown in its importance and rates the overall market rating as "Promising". It also states that this industry is enjoying a double-digit growth. Microsoft has been placed in the "Leader" quadrant for enterprise content management (ECM) in 2006 before MOSS 2007 was out. Taking the recent market trends and research, MOSS 2007 has an excellent future ahead with interesting challenges.