SharePoint Behind the Scenes: An Interview with Microsoft's Kirk Koenigsbauer

Editor Sheila Molnar met with Kirk Koenigsbauer at the Microsoft SharePoint Conference 2009:

At the recent very successful Microsoft SharePoint 2010 conference, Microsoft executive Kirk Koenigsbauer talked over some of the highlights of the new release, the conference, and SharePoint directions. The SharePoint conference was sold out. Koeningsbauer noted that it was the “biggest product-centric conference that Microsoft has done in many years. It’s very humbling. It’s wonderful that in this tight economy people are willing to get on airplanes and come to a conference.”

I asked for the top takeaways that our readers should keep in mind. He wanted to definitely remind folks that Microsoft is on track to deliver the product in the first half of 2010, with a broad beta coming in November for Office, SharePoint, Visio, and Project.

Koenigsbauer reiterated what Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, had said in his conference keynote, that SharePoint is “the biggest release we’ve ever done in terms of the amount of people we’ve had on the project, in terms of the amount of R&D, the amount of capability, and frankly in terms of the aspiration we’re addressing. The product has its roots in being an on-premises application with intranet-oriented capabilities. With this release there’s more collab, BI, more content management. A few key areas are important:

  • “SP is not just an intranet-oriented set of capabilities, but something you can use to run your public customer-facing websites.

     

  • “Also, we’re moving to the cloud more broadly with the work we’re doing with SharePoint Online and Exchange Online. This gives customers choice in how they want to run their deployments—whether they want to move some of these workloads to the cloud or keep some of them on premises or work in a hybrid environment. For number of companies there’s a double paradigm shift—a change in the toolset and a change from on premises to the cloud. We’re well positioned to offer that choice and flexibility. We ship SharePoint Online and Exchange Online simultaneously in an offering called The Business Productivity Online Service.

     

  • “We’ve made investments in the platform itself. Historically people have found value in the out of box SharePoint applications. With this release we’ve done a lot of work around the extensibility of the product. The free SharePoint Designer allows for no code creation of SP applications—workflow, LOB data, etc. This is interesting stuff to a hardcore developer who wants to use Visual Studio. It makes SharePoint a first-class citizen. “Sandbox solutions” allows IT to enable developers in a business unit IT org to write custom solutions and to propagate them but to have that that limited to memory or CPU so if there’s any offending code it can’t bring down the whole infrastructure. It’s a partially trusted model. We’re able to extend that model so that it’s not only on premises but in the cloud.”

     

We talked about how the SharePoint team responds to feedback. There are a lot of challenges in the migrations from SharePoint 2003 to SharePoint 2007.

Here’s how Koenigsbauer responded: “When we went from 2003 to 2007 we made big architectural changes. We took two platforms and brought them together—SharePoint Server and what at the time was called SharePoint Portal. With the 2010 release there isn’t that dramatic a change architecturally. But we’re doing more: for example moving from thousands of items in a list to millions of items in a list.

"Given the faster adoption and deployment of the product than we expected, we needed to do more to help people along the way. Better prescriptive architectural guidance, richer tools for evaluating what a migration might look like, clearer information on what kind of hardware to run.

"One of the things we’ve done this time is the new Visual Upgrade capability. Oftentimes IT will want to do an upgrade for performance reasons or scalability improvements but they’re really nervous to change the UI. They don’t want to screw up their users. They want to take things in stages. In the Visual Upgrade capability you can upgrade a SharePoint site and not change the UI at all. When the organization is ready to make the change, they can preview what it will look like and then if they decide they want to roll it out they can roll it out. We also have an Upgrade Checker.”

I asked Koenigsbauer about the newly announced SQL Server 2008 R2 PowerPivot for Excel 2010 and SharePoint 2010. He noted that “PowerPivot is an in-memory capability to run huge sets of data without having to go build an OLAP cube and to be able to pull them to products like Excel or into SharePoint with the Excel Services capability. So you saw a hundred million rows in Excel which is amazing.

"We think it’s going to be widely popular. This is a SQL Server in memory capability that we’re able to surface within the Excel client. What that can do for business intelligence scenarios will be stunning. They’ll be able to create connections to these LOB sources and pull together information for ad hoc reports which you normally have to be running on a server and could take hours to run.”

Koengisbauer was eager to discuss using SharePoint to create Internet-facing websites. When I asked him what the implications were for developers he replied, “For developers this means a couple of different things. We provide an integrated toolkit of value to help marketers or website operators do digital marketing. So we have content management and publishing processes—staging, social computing, content ratings.

"Our work on websites is focused around creating rich tools to enable developers to keep people there by creating beautiful websites. So we’ve invested in things like multimedia, audio/video support out of the box for SharePoint. Better ways to store that content. There’s a remote blog storage system, an API that’s built into the product now.

"We have a new Silverlight Web Part that can create new rich Silverlight controls. There’s a lot of third-party controls out there too, for things like Flash that can plug into SharePoint. There’s also the ability to have multilingual sites. All this for developers means you don’t have to write so much darn custom code. You can also save time and cost in maintaining the deployment from what we provide inside SharePoint.”

Since SharePoint is experiencing such growth, I asked about it as a career opportunity for developers and IT pros. He noted that there are over 4000 partner organizations. “By the end of the fiscal year we plan to train over 8000 developers, IT professionals, and architects on SharePoint. The ecosystem is blossoming. Our partners complain that they can’t hire fast enough. There’s just a lot of work out there.”

 

 

 

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