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SharePoint Mobile: Architecting Tips

SharePoint Mobile: Architecting Tips

Approaches to working on a SharePoint mobility project.

Mobility is rapidly changing--new devices and features are being released constantly and the growth is tremendous, as are user expectations.

Let’s talk types of architectures now, then walk through a table of tasks and outcomes necessary to a successful SharePoint mobility undertaking. I’ve also created a list of Microsoft sites that will help you with specific areas in your SharePoint mobile learning.

Sample Architectures

Here are some types of architectures you might be thinking about. This will help you decide which direction to take.

Reverse Proxy. A reverse proxy server that supports Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), such as Microsoft Forefront Unified Access Gateway (UAG), and enables you to publish SharePoint sites across the corporate firewall. 

Forefront UAG could provide remote clients with access to SharePoint. With Forefront UAG, you would publish SharePoint Site Collections so you can access them remotely over HTTP or HTTPS.

You can also configure Forefront UAG as a Direct Access server to connect clients directly to SharePoint without requiring a VPN connection. The following diagram in Figure 1 depicts the scenario.

For more information refer to the Further Reading section later in this document.

Direct. The SharePoint site can be placed on the extranet. This method supports only basic authentication. It’s recommended that you utilize a combination of technology, security policy safeguards and controls such as firewalls, SSL, and aggressive monitoring.

With Forefront UAG, you would publish SharePoint Site Collections so you can access them remotely over HTTP or HTTPS. Forefront UAG would be configured for Direct Access to connect clients directly to SharePoint without requiring a VPN connection.

MEAP.  This is a comprehensive suite of products and services that enables development of mobile applications. The term was coined in a Gartner “Magic Quadrant for Mobile Application Development Platforms” referred to later in this document. MEAPs provide infrastructure (Proxy Server), development studio, extensions (e.g., to integrate with SAP, Oracle, SQL Server) and reporting for multiple devices.

Essentially the MEAP server would reside in front of SharePoint and your related applications. Using the development studio, you would “configure” applications using drag and drop (much like with Visual Studio) to create applications that run on multiple platforms. The architecture would be very similar to the reverse proxy example but is vender specific—you work with the vender(s).

Office 365. Utilize Office 365 for mobile access and integrate it with your in-house farm (If you have an existing farm).  With Office 365, there are a few factors to consider, but for the scope of this article, user experience is probably the most important to discuss.

Specifically, if you have an existing farm and are considering Office 365 you will have two farms. As users navigate between them, your goals should generally be to offer users a seamless experience.

To architect this, you will require both environments to be aware of each other. Microsoft refers to this as a bi-directional configuration. The following diagram in Figure 2 depicts the scenario.

In this scenario, both SharePoint Server 2013 and SharePoint Online Search services can query site collections in the other environment and return federated results.

What’s Next?

There are three key tips I recommend to everyone I speak with.

  1. Assemble a team of key stakeholders chaired by an executive stakeholder.
  2. Conduct a feasibility study using a target group (department) identified by the stakeholders (or viable volunteers).
  3. Conduct a proof of concept to substantiate the benefits and familiarize your team with the technology, impacts to infrastructure, existing third-party contracts, process, policy, and staffing.

These key steps aside, you have a lot of work ahead of you to learn more about the mobility requirements of your organization, its impacts, sorting through which technologies best suit your organization’s specific needs, and developing a program.

The following table illustrates a step-by-step approach that will help you and the stakeholders through the process. (Note: Working with leading venders to get through the process can help accelerate your mobility program, but make sure your feasibility study is completed first.)

Mobility Steps: An Approach

Step                 Description                                                       Outcomes

Take a top- down approach

Conduct a feasibility study.

With feasibility of selected user group(s) completed, anticipated benefits are understood. There are clear business benefits.

Establish a new competency

Build a team of stakeholders to help govern the program.

Team of stakeholders assembled and a working model established.

Assess the politics and culture

Learn how to get things done in your organization. Find out who will support you and who is working against you.

The circle of influence, the supporters, and hidden destructive agendas are identified.

Get senior sponsorship

Your team must be chaired by a senior sponsor with budgetary control.

Senior sponsor and ability to allocate budget secured.

Create a strategy

Utilizing the feasibility study results, work with the stakeholders to develop a strategy – how will mobility deliver future value?

Strategy documented and agreed to.

Leverage OOB and COTS

When possible leverage out-of-box (OOB) and commercial, off-the-shelf (COTS) software to avoid risks with in-house developed software.

OOB and COTS assessed and incorporated into program.

Develop plan

Develop a plan for your program with active participation from the stakeholders and senior sponsor.

Roadmap and plan documented, with clearly defined (and achievable) milestones documented, and ownership of tasks assigned and agreed to.

Create proof of concept to market and obtain funding

Deploy a proof of concept to validate expected benefits and impacts. Make use of user groups and keep them focused and engaged.

Proof of concept in place, with aggressive plan to validate benefits and document outcomes.

Useful Microsoft Resources on Mobility and More

The following is some additional reading to help you deepen your skills and knowledge in your areas of choice.

Architecting for Mobility

Successfully architecting for mobility in the enterprise requires an open mind, patience, a politically savvy approach, and willingness to learn. Be open to learning, leveraging your strengths, addressing your weaknesses with the help of team members, and understanding people’s styles and their agendas. This is the difference between someone that can get things done and someone that needs to be told what to do.


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