Home > SharePoint, SharePoint 2013 > SharePoint 2013: Notes from the SharePoint User Group UK multi-session event in London, October 15, 2012

SharePoint 2013: Notes from the SharePoint User Group UK multi-session event in London, October 15, 2012


I was fortunate to be able to attend this great SharePoint User Group UK event hosted at Capgemini in London, which was fully booked out. It was a double session led by MVPs and SharePoint consultants, and focussed entirely on SharePoint 2013.

The speaker line-up was as follows:

  • What’s new for IT Pro – John Timney (MVP)
  • IT Pro Investments (including new User Interface and Search) – Ben Robb (MVP)
  • An overview of the 2013 Social Features – Symon Garfield (MVP)
  • A Dash through SharePoint 2013 Development – Nigel Price
  • An Introduction to the new App Model – Chris O’Brien (MVP)
  • Ask the Experts – all of the above and Penny Coventry (MVP)

Thank you to all those who were involved in organising and speaking at this event.

So much was covered throughout the evening, far more than I could possibly write down! I have listed below a number of bullet points that I managed to capture on the night, and have grouped them where appropriate. I hope you find something useful.

Upgrade

  • SharePoint upgrades now only support the DB Attach method, not the Gradual Upgrade or In-Place Upgrade. Content databases can be upgraded in any order, with the ability to upgrade individual site collections one at a time (although for this to work the SP 2010 environment must be brought up to a certain patch level first).
  • Not all service application databases can be upgraded as they don’t all exist in SP 2013.
  • As Web Analytics is very different for SharePoint 2013, it is necessary to completely uninstall Web Analytics from the SP 2010 environment prior to taking the content database for upgrade otherwise the upgrade will fail.
  • SharePoint 2013 cannot be installed on a server where SharePoint 2010 was previously installed, even if it has since been removed.

Minimum Requirements

  • A SharePoint installation must have at least 2x the disk space remaining compared to the amount of installed RAM.
    Looking into this further, the Health Analyser shows a warning about this, indicating the space is required in case of needing to do a full memory dump while in continuous operation, as well as for use with the virtual memory swap file.
  • It was noted that a SQL Server installation for use with SharePoint has higher minimum requirements than the SQL Server’s own specified minimum requirements. This is another example where it is not really sufficient just to have SQL Server DBAs looking after the database servers, but needs DBAs who also know SharePoint.
  • Some additional recommended server specs were shared. For Search, a server requires 32GB RAM, 8 cores and 800GB disk. However notably for Search for the Internet, 168GB RAM is needed, and must be Physical not Virtual!
  • SQL Server minimum version must be SQL Server 2008 R2 SP1, 64-bit.

Storage, Performance, Scalability and Availability

  • Shredded Storage is new and really powerful. It stores fragments of files which have changes, in many ways like how source code control systems store changes to source code, but also works for Office documents. This has a huge impact on data storage requirements when considering a single document could have many minor and major versions. Previously each version would be stored whole. Now only one document is stored along with the fragments of each change, and network traffic is reduced as only change fragments are transmitted across the network.
  • Always-On DB availability is now supported through clustering in Windows, no longer directly through SQL Server. This simplifies the setup and provides near linear scaling. Database mirroring is deprecated.
  • Distributed Caching is a new feature, which is not the same as BLOB Caching. It is implemented as a service application, and caches security tokens, feeds, my sites, and posts. There is no UI for this, only PowerShell. Due to the large amounts of content involved, this has very high hardware requirements.
  • Request Management is new for SP 2013. It is not a replacement for Network Load Balancing (NLB), but is used to direct traffic to specific servers based on rules, e.g. Search Bots can be directed to a specific server. Some servers can be dedicated to use for specific sites e.g. sites expected to have high CPU usage can be offloaded to higher performance servers.

O/S, Device and Browser Support

  • Browser support now includes Device Channels, although oddly this only applies to Publishing sites, not team sites etc. This supports different master pages based on the device in use.
  • BI reports can now be used on iPad OOTB, as well as iPhone 4 or later, Android 4, and Windows Phone 7.5 with IE9 or above due to use of HTML 5.
  • Browser support was explained and I have provided some more details:
    • Desktop browsers:
      • IE8 and above, 32bit – fully supported.
      • IE8 and above, 64bit – supported with limitations around lack of support for Active X controls.
      • Google Chrome (latest released version) – supported with limitations.
      • Mozilla Firefox (latest released version) – supported with limitations.
      • Apple Safari (latest released version) – supported with limitations.
    • Mobile browsers:
      • Windows Phone 7.5 or later, Internet Explorer Mobile – supported.
      • Windows 7 or later, Internet Explorer – supported.
      • iOS 5.0 or later, Safari – supported.
        Office Web Apps full functionality is supported on iPad versions 2 and 3 using iOS 6.0 or later versions. Limited viewing and editing functionality is also supported on iPad versions 1, 2, 3 using iOS version 5.1.
      • Android 4.0 or later, Android Browser – supported on a smartphone, NOT on a tablet.
    • Note: if a device is NOT Windows, you must have a ‘Companion Device License’ (CDL) in addition to a CAL for each user/device. This has obvious implications for Bring your Own Device!

UI

  • Themes have been revamped again. No longer using PowerPoint themes. Instead a ‘Composed Look’ can be selected via site settings, and is made up of the following assets:
    • Master Page
    • Theme – an XML colour map file (.spcolour file extension) defining the colours to be used.
    • Image – the background image.
    • Font scheme – an XML file defining the fonts to be used.
  • As regards User Interface design, Microsoft recommends to keep it simple. Don’t try to change it too much, keeping it OOTB as much as possible. Try to use Composed Looks rather than making significant changes.
  • SharePoint Designer no longer has a design view or split view. Instead support is given to using your own design tool, and master pages are automatically built based on the designed HTML, where certain placeholder tags can be used to place SharePoint-specific UI components where you choose on the page, and the master page is built automatically based on this. This however was not demonstrated.

Profile / My Sites / Social

  • There is now a work management service which aggregates tasks from SharePoint, Exchange, and Project into My Sites. The status of tasks can now even be updated by a mobile phone.
  • Significant performance improvements to the Profile Service, where e.g. 200,000 user profile imports which may have taken 2 weeks in 2010 can now be performed in 60 hours.
  • Social Features are now dependent upon the Profile Service and the social and profile data is now stored in the My Site database. Therefore My Sites are now a mandatory requirement for social data.
  • Facebook is not directly integrated into SharePoint 2013, however there is now an App available to do this, although this was not demonstrated.

Workflow

  • Azure Workflow Services are based on .Net 4 and are fully declarative with no code, and have many enhancements to .Net 3.5 workflows. Custom actions can still be written using C#. Alternatively the existing .NET 3.5 workflows can still be created in code, and Visual Studio 2012 can be used to create workflows.
  • As the name implies, Azure Workflows require an Azure farm to execute them, potentially increasing the infrastructure investment, or requiring use of Azure in the cloud.
  • SharePoint Designer supports the new workflows fully.
  • The new workflows forms are ASPX pages, not InfoPath Forms.

Search

  • Fast Search and the SP 2010 Enterprise Search as we know them no longer exist, and a whole new search engine has been created using the best bits of each.
  • Search results show document previews using Office Web Apps functionality.
  • Search now has specific handling for videos, where clicking on a search result can even take you direct to a specific point tagged in the video.
  • The SharePoint 2013 Preview’s search crawler Node Runner has a memory leak which can grow memory usage until memory runs out, as well as high CPU usage. Of course at the moment these are still in beta so we hope these will be resolved for RTM. The Hungry Search Service TechNet blog provides the PowerShell and config changes to reduce the number of threads in use and to set a memory usage limit while in a development or test environment on limited hardware.
  • Multi-surfacing of content was also mentioned with regard to dynamic termset-driven navigation, as recently shown in a webcast by Andrew Connell. This functionality is driven using Search.

Communities

  • New site definitions exist for Community Sites and a Communities Portal. Communities are typically used for example with interest groups, where people may not necessarily work together as a team but have a shared interest, e.g. a SharePoint Community within a company have this as a shared interest. A Communities Portal aggregates information from community sites.
  • Community sites can have moderators who can award badges for example based on community involvement, maybe for answering various questions in a forum. Ratings etc are also supported.

Apps

  • Apps can be run on a separate farm or just a separate server.
  • Apps do not run any server-side code using the SharePoint Server-Side Object Model. They instead use JavaScript with the Client-Side Object Model (CSOM). They can use pages that have server-side code hosted externally.
  • As the CSOM is executed in the browser, the SharePoint web services must be exposed through any firewall if applicable for the Apps to work.
  • As Apps can be hosted on other servers, the servers can run server-side code in any language, but cannot interact with elements of the site containing the App. There is a distinct boundary between the actual app and the site hosting the App.
  • App Hosting options include SharePoint, External (as noted above), and Auto-hosted (Office 365 and Azure only).
  • Apps running within SharePoint actually are automatically setup with a unique subdomain, with all App assets contained within the App web application in the subdomain, and the App part is shown within a SharePoint page inside an iFrame. This helps to mitigate Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) attacks for example, and any rogue/defective server-side code cannot bring down the SharePoint farm as they are hosted separately.
  • Due to the separation of Apps from the site using them, Apps cannot apply deep changes to a site, e.g. cannot apply branding changes, site templates, themes, or provide custom field types, timer jobs, etc.
  • Apps cannot create or modify data in the site using them, but can read data from them.
  • Accessing content from within an app web via code is difficult and requires impersonation or other permissions work to get to work.
  • Apps cannot share data between each other.
  • As assets of an App are deployed to the App’s web app, that also means lists and content types are also provisioned to the App’s web app, and therefore not a part of the site which uses the App. This also means left-navigation and top-navigation do not match between the main web app and the App’s web app. Even creating a list in the App’s web app results in you having to guess the URL based on the name of the list.
  • During installation of an App, a set of required permissions are listed for the user to accept before the app will be installed.
  • Apps that have been used in a site can be found within the Site Contents page (previously known as View All Site Contents) along with all other lists etc. that are also displayed as Apps.
  • An organisation can setup their own App Catalog, to restrict which apps are able to be used to those which have been approved. However this does not prevent users from seeing other Apps in the App Store.
  • An App Package contains a WSP solution with the App assets, similar to what we have now, along with an App Manifest XML file.
  • Apps can be developed without a SharePoint server installation but instead can be developed using “Office 365 Developer” for free, with an add-on available to download for Visual Studio 2012.
  • BCS can be used by Apps, scoped to the app.
  • It seems to be a general opinion of the delegates and attendees that Apps require a large learning curve, and have lots of limitations, and in most cases Farm Solutions are likely to be the most suitable solution to most situations. There are of course scenarios whereby Apps are particularly suited, and these tend to be relatively self-contained pieces of functionality that can be slotted in to a site and perhaps displayed using an App part, without too much interaction between the app and the site. Microsoft of course have their own reasons for promoting this, not least to encourage people to adopt SharePoint Online, where this does allow far more flexibility in some ways compared to Sandboxed Solutions of SharePoint 2010, in that they can be hosted externally and written using any language for example, working around limitations of the Sandbox, but introduce new limitations.

Developer Dashboard

  • ULS logs for a request can now be viewed through the Developer Dashboard.
  • The Developer Dashboard now appears in a separate window so as not to affect the page rendering.

Misc

  • Classic Mode Authentication has been deprecated. Claims Based Authentication is now the default.
  • Web Analytics – this is completely new in SP 2013. So much has changed from 2010.
  • Office Web Apps now includes Word, OneNote, Excel and PowerPoint. This is no longer just a service application, but can run also completely independent of SharePoint in its own farm.
  • Translation Services uses the Bing translations over the Internet, and can be used with Variations. It can translate Word, PowerPoint and Excel documents, as well as Pages, Sites, and Managed Metadata Terms.
  • SharePoint 2013 can create and manage team mailboxes directly in Exchange 2013.
  • Workspace sites are no longer used for collaborative meetings. OneNote is to be used instead, via the Office Web Apps, supporting collaboration with multiple users editing the notebook at the same time. Every team site has a OneNote notebook by default.
  • rendering of SharePoint pages.
  • Discovery Centre site to be used for eDiscovery and now supports case management. Includes Discovery Sets, exports, and can incorporate content from within mailboxes.
  • Information Management Policies now support policies for an entire site. These are found in site settings as ‘Site Policies’. It is now possible to apply policies to set an entire site read-only, or closed, meaning it is hidden from search and navigation, as well as the option to run your own workflow, so for example a workflow can be created to archive then delete an entire site as part of the IM policy, e.g. moving the site to cheaper storage.
  • CKSDev by Wes Hackett will be available soon for Visual Studio 2012 and SharePoint 2013.
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  1. November 27, 2012 at 23:03

    There are a lot of questions surrounding the release of SharePoint 2013. This post has some great insights that can be beneficial when it comes time to upgrade.

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