Monthly Archives: October 2011

How to Get SharePoint Data Into a Data Warehouse (And Back Again)

With apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien……

Yesterday, as part of the ongoing Panellist Spotlight series for SharePoint Shoptalk, I presented a session on how to move your data from SharePoint, and in to a data warehouse, and then consume the warehoused data directly within SharePoint. These presentations are recorded, and posted online, and if you’re interested, you can view the entire presentation below:

In it, I demonstrate how SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) can be used to extract the data from SharePoint, and to store it in a SQL Server data warehouse. Then I walk through the creation of an external content type, and an external list using SharePoint Designer and SharePoint Business Connectivity Services (BCS). Finally, I create a report using SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) in SharePoint Integrated mode.

Thanks to Jamees Wright for organizing the session, and to my fellow panellist, Laura Rogers.

Why I Love Office 365

OK, so my company is a Microsoft partner, and we’re supposed to like everything that they throw our way right? That’s actually not true. I’ll certainly give most things that they do a fair shot. It’s also true that I’m willing to sacrifice a certain amount of capability for either ease of use, or for the way that Microsoft products work well together, but as I noted in a previous post, I only gave up my BlackBerry when Microsoft came out with a product that was worth using.

My company is small (currently 6 people) and widely distributed. Cloud solutions make perfect sense to us,and we have been using Exchange Online for over 2 years now. Our requirements for SharePoint went beyond what was possible in BPOS’ offering, but since migrating to Office 365 6 months ago, the  new SharePoint online fits the bill, and more and more of our corporate assets live there now.

UnlimitedViz is currently primarily a SharePoint services company focused on Business Intelligence, and a significant portion of those services involve architecting SharePoint environments at a lower level, which involves sizing servers, making resource decisions, etc. I personally love designing solutions and watching them come to life. We are certainly more than capable to maintain our own SharePoint infrastructure, so why would we want to use an admittedly more limited version of the product that is maintained by someone else?

Pretty much because it’s maintained by someone else.

As mentioned above we’re small, and we need to be focused on what we do best, which is providing services to our customers, and building product. Maintaining internal systems, no matter how good we are at it, is a distraction, and a significant cost, both capital and operational. The per user cost of Office 365 is pretty simple to justify from just a cost standpoint, but there are many more benefits that are brought to the table.

No matter what the location of a team member, they can easily access what they need to. Lync brings that down to the voice and IM communication level. No need to mess around with access methods, VPNs, Firewalls, Reverse Proxy servers and the like. We can get to our content easily on site, at home via whatever device we happen to need. Granted, I could set that stuff up on-premise, but now I don’t have to! I also know that my data is safe, and the performance is going to be good. Two months ago, Exchange online suffered an outage for about two hours (the only hiccup I’ve experienced so far). My initial reaction was “what can I do to fix this”, but that was quickly superseded by  “It’s not my problem to fix”, so I just sat back and got other work done.

As we bring more customers onto Office 365, supporting them just gets simpler. A simple client request can be acted upon immediately by launching a browser window, and connecting to their site, seamlessly. With most onsite installations, I need to start a virtual machine, connect through a VPN client, and then hope that the correct tools are installed on the VM, or the client site, depending on the access mechanism. I try to keep a VM image available for every type of VPN client used, which is a hopeless and necessary task due to the incompatibilities between clients. In my opinion, the world will be a better place when VPN clients are eliminated (or at least consolidated”).

Customers using Office 365 don’t need VPN clients, and it makes it that much easier (and cheaper for them) for us to support them.

There a a whole bunch of great features about Office 365 (Shared OneNote files accessed via Windows Phone, browser and client is a good one, not to mention Lync), but the reason that I really like it is that it’s solid, it works, and it lets my business focus on using its tools, not maintaining them.

SharePoint Online Fall 2011 Service Update Starts Oct 20

Today, Microsoft sent out a bulletin to SharePoint Online users notifying them that they would begin rolling out the Fall 2011 Service Update. This is the much vaunted update announced at the SharePoint Conference 2011 that includes BCS services. For those that don’t already subscribe, the list of new features can be found below (copied from the official email).

Feature

Description

Business Connectivity Services (BCS) <WCF Connector> *Enterprise plans only

Enables connecting to external systems via web service based endpoints

External Sharing: Windows LiveID support

Allows Office 365 tenant administrators to invite external users to a site collection. They sign in with a Windows Live ID-based user name and password.

Windows Phone 7 “Mango” (official support and http:// connectivity)

Windows Phone 7.5, codenamed “Mango,” now enables both small business and enterprise Office 365 customers to access SharePoint Online lists and document libraries from their Windows Phone.

Recycle Bin: deleted site self-recovery

Self-service ability to recover sites from a site collection’s recycle bin

Browser support: Internet Explorer 9

Adds official support for the Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) browser

Browser support: Chrome

Adds official support for the Chrome browser


How to Batch Download Videos and Presentations from SharePoint Conference 2011

UPDATE 26/10/2011 – The Files Have been protected

Since originally posting this, the content provider has added the cookie requirement for download of the files. This is in line with Microsoft’s wishes that the videos be downloaded by conference attendees only. In order to batch download the videos, you will need to follow the procedure outlined for the PPTX files below. The addresses of the video files are still the same – only the requirement for an authentication cookie has changed. Thanks to George Winters for pointing this out.

UPDATE 11/10/2011 – The Files Have Moved.

I have updated the post below accordingly. Also note the file names are also different. The new source is significantly faster – thank you MSFT!

I’ve seen a number of questions about this, and I’m in the process of collecting all of the presentations and slide decks from the conference, so I thought that I’d share my process. It’s relatively Straightforward to batch these up.

The videos are all in one location, and the presentations are in another. The base folder for the videos is (now) http://cdn.tri-digital.com/spc/videos/ and the naming format for the files is SPCsessionnumber.wmv.zip, so for session 301, the filename is SPC301.zip. You can simply punch the full URL into a browser and the files will start downloading. In order to batch download a bunch, I am using the open source WGET utility, recommended to me by Ziad Wakim.  I simply created a batch file that calls WGET for all of the presentations that I wanted. Each line in the batch file looks like:

"C:Program Files (x86)GnuWin32binwget.exe" http://cdn.tri-digital.com/spc/videos/SPC261.wmv.zip

The process is the same for the slide decks, but the site base is  http://www.mssharepointconference.com/SessionPresentations and the file name format is identical to the videos with the .zip replaced with .pptx. However, the conference site expects a cookie, so you’ll first need to log into the myspc site. Once done, export the cookie for the site to a text file (In IE use File – Import and Export – Export to a file) that’s available to the WGET command. Once it’s a simple command switch on the end of the WGET command to load in the cookie for each request. If the cookie is exported to a file names cookies.txt, then the command will look something like:

wget http://www.mssharepointconference.com/SessionPresentations/SPC413.pptx  –load-cookies cookies.txt

Another batch file with a line for each slide deck you want, and you can run it and download everything at once. One note – you’ll need to be patient. Given the speeds, I don’t think that I’m the only one who has thought of this….

Hope it helps.

SharePoint Tools for Windows Azure, Visual Studio, jQuery, and HTML5

As I mentioned in my last post, at the recent SharePoint 2011 conference, I attended a number of sessions where Visual Studio played a major role. Andrew Connell articulated design patterns around using SharePoint with Windows Azure, Ted Pattison showed patterns around jQuery, HTML5 and oData, and Eric Shupps used the performance testing tools in VS2010 to show the impact of performance tweaks.

In all of the sessions mentioned above, reference was made to add ins, extensions, or other tools that make working with SharePoint and Azure a great deal easier. I took note of most of them, and in the process of summarizing them, thought that I should amalgamate them with my own current list of dev tools, and post it here. Extensions can and should be installed via the extensions manager in Visual Studio, and I’ll note them below.

Cloudberry Utility for working with Azure BLOB Storage. Makes moving files to/from blob storage simple
Visual Studio 2010 SharePoint Power Tools* Adds a sandboxed Visual Web Part item template and other enhancements.
CKS Development Tools for SharePoint* Community led effort that includes many Tools and templates for SharePoint development
CAML Intellisense for VS2010* Adds Intellisense to VS2010 for those of use still stuck with CAML
Visual Studio 2010 Silverlight Web Part* Project Template for writing Silverlight web parts – both full trust and sandboxed supported
Web Standards Update for Visual Studio 2010 SP1* Adds Intellisense for HTML5 and CSS3 to VS2010
SharePoint Timer Job Item* Supports the creation of administrative timer jobs in SharePoint 2010
SharePoint 2010 and Windows Azure Training Course Training course to get up to speed on working with SharePoint 2010 and Windows Azure
jQuery Libraries Main libraries for working with jQuery
jQuery UI Library  UI controls for use with jQuery
jQuery Templates Add in for the templating of controls in jQuery
Modernizr Open source project to allow older browsers to work with HTML5/CSS3 elements

 

*Available through the Visual Studio Extension Manager