SharePoint Saturday: NYC… maybe?

SharePoint Saturday New YorkI’ve submitted to speak at SharePoint Saturday in NYC – we’ll see if they accept my submission on the topic of Requirements Driving Logical Architecture Design.

What’s that? You don’t know about SharePoint Saturday?

It’s a grassroots organization that’s planning SharePoint events across the country. Check out their homepage for resources and for an event near you!

http://www.sharepointsaturday.org

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If you’re in the greater Mid-Atlantic area, you should consider attending – space is limited though so register now if you’re definitely going.  And who knows, maybe there will even be an impromptu SharePint Event to meet others in the SharePoint community…

Have you clustered your users yet?

Yes, you read the title correctly.  I’m not referring to clustering SQL servers, nor am I referring to your clustered ISA servers, or Microsoft Clustering Services.  Rather I’m talking about clustering your users to see what their permissions are and if they’re similar to the permissions of anyone else in your farm.

What are you talking about?

AvePoint has released as a part of their DocAve suite, a free tool that “clusters” your users with like permissions into a visualization to provide you with the ability to look at a user and see users with similar permissions.  It’s proper title – “User Clustering Web Part for SharePoint”.

This is definitely different than what other companies have put together in terms of permissions related capabilities in tool suites like Barracuda Tool’s DeliverPoint or iDevFactory’s Universal SharePoint Manager 2007, and actually could be very helpful.  One of the things mentioned in the demonstration video is the ability to see the outliers.  This could be very beneficial in situations where you have someone that has far more permissions than you meant for them to have.

I’ve yet to pull down a copy for myself and try it out, but I thought it was a neat idea nonetheless… I’m curious if it shows permissions of users that have access to sites that are in web application level security groups… something to find out.

Contextual Considerations of Technical Planning

On 10 January 2009, I attended the SharePoint Saturday – Virginia Beach event with a friend of mine, looking to see SharePoint from a different angle and take in new perspectives and perhaps learn a thing or two while being refreshed by others in the "community".  It was great to meet Paul Galvin, Dan Lewis, Becky Isserman and John Miller.

The first session that I attended was led by Dean Halsted of Microsoft. Dean’s session was entitled, "Technical Best Practices". I cringed. Why did I cringe? Primarily because I’ve learned that the words we use unintentionally influence the thoughts of those that we’re speaking to significantly. If we mention the buzz words "best practice" then regardless of what is said down the line, there is no going back, the "best practice" is essentially canon – there can be no deviation.  Lesson Learned – try not to call something a best practice unless it applies regardless of context.

So does that mean? No "best practices"? By no means… there are definitely core things to think about from a technical and functional perspective. There is however the distinction that while keeping things in context and consideration of the technical problem at hand, the solution may not always be the same. Design recipes, patterns and practices are approaches for problems, not necessarily pre-baked cookie batter waiting to be dished out.

Needless to say this got my brain cooking on contextual considerations and is the melding of Dean’s thoughts, those of others and my own, intertwined with commentary.  For this post, the primary focus will be just on the “Pre-Deployment Considerations”.

Overall, Dean’s session was informative as he provided information that while common sense to the seasoned SharePoint engineer (though still a good reminder and refresher) a key set of starting points and considerations for the rookies and novices in the crowd.

Prior to the deployment of a SharePoint system in the context of enterprise systems that are rigorous and require change management processes be in place to assist the information worker, several key things should be considered to include:

  • System Quotas
  • Information Policy
  • User and Server Network
  • System User Base
  • Authentication Mechanisms

Each of these should be planned out so as to ensure that the deployment of SharePoint is seamless and that there are no surprises. As an engineer, we might like surprises and problems that require elegant solutions, but for clients, the preference really should be that we find them out prior to deployment in a test bed.  One decent example to make note of in terms of overlooked planning is the use of quotas. Without a quota in place, there is no way to keep a site collection from grow rapidly without oversight. In some instances sprawling uncontrollably causing system failures due to hard disks filling up (you’ll see this often if you’re not using a SAN or DAS). By applying quotas when a system first deploys it provides for greater flexibility and allows all sites with the quotas applied to quickly be updated should you decide to increase the size allowed – similar to the way gMail has a quota for your mailbox.  With quotas initially enforced they can be increased dynamically across your entire web application rather than having to go site to site to site.  For more on this topic, check out Dan Lewis’ recent post on “Managing and Administering Site Quotas in SharePoint”.

Information policy, while not typically touched upon by the novice administrator can come in quite handy when creating internal and external access boundaries. This additionally comes into use when the need for certain personnel within an organization require access to all items within a particular web application, or when it is required that a specific user cannot access a site, regardless of what permissions a site administrator may attempt to grant the user.

Defining and designing the user and server networks within an organization are never trivial unless working with an organization that resides completely on a single network segment without firewalls or any other boundary. For smaller organizations, it might even be ideal to host the environment on something like Amazon EC2, Microsoft SharePoint Services Cloud, or through a hosting company like 1 and 1. Perhaps your organization is looking to have a centralized deployment with a significantly large farm to provide a high performance end user experience – has the farm been load tested from several systems sitting within the network to ensure that the circuits don’t be come saturated?  For most large organizations additional planning and consideration must be taken to ensure that latency is minimal, availability is high and that integration is not degraded.

Defining the System User Base is also a necessary step that should be investigated. Knowing where the users reside, what levels of access they require and the overarching permissions model provides for to include security groups will provide for a more seamless and palatable deployment across an organization. This will cut down on the confusion of how users access sites and what user has permissions which will make your system administrator’s will to live increase significantly 🙂

Authentication mechanisms… figuring out how your users are going to come into the system is key. Are you using ISA server as a proxy in a DMZ to allow for external users or forms authentication? Are you merely using SharePoint on an intranet and don’t require anything fancy so you settle for NTLM? Are you working with integrated systems that require a double hop to occur for credential passing and therefore have to go through the tedious task of setting up Kerberos? All considerations that require diligent investigation based on the context of the environment.

Overall, there are several other factors that should be considered prior to deployment, but I’ll save those for another day.  What are some of the key things that were planned prior to your organizations deployment?

Now Playing: Paco De LuciaPaco De Lucia, John McLaughlin, Al Di MeolaManha De Carnaval

SharePoint Saturday – Virginia Beach – FTW!

This morning started off quite early (around 4:30 AM) as Joel Ward and I headed down from Northern Virginia to Virginia Beach to attend the first ever SharePoint Saturday event. The turnout was tremendous, with numbers ranking up somewhere around 180+ individuals from the greater SharePoint community. It was a pretty laid back day, good to meet some of the other “SharePoint Tweeters” in industry and chat about projects.
If you have a chance to attend one of the SharePoint Saturday events in the future, I highly recommend taking advantage of it.
All in all a long but great day. After the event, Joel and I left around 6:30 PM and after a short stop in Fredericksburg at Buffalo Wild Wings, we ventured back to Northern Virginia – home at last.
More to come tomorrow…

Amazon Web Services Management Console

Amazon has released their Web Services Management console, eliminating the need for plugins and third party products that are one off solutions for managing Amazon Web Services resources.  Primarily, EC2 has been simplified for end users.  No longer are novice users forced to use something like the Elasticfox plugin for Mozilla Firefox for EC2.  The console is completely web based and has the same functionality as that of Elasticfox with a little more refinement.

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The console is available at: https://console.aws.amazon.com

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It’s user interface is simple and easy to get around.  Nice work Amazon!

Windows 7 Beta x64… first thoughts

So after realizing that just using the VMWare Workstation 6.5.1. “Easy Installer” method set to Windows Vista x64 edition, I’ve got my VM of Windows 7 Beta x64 operational and working.  So far I’m fairly pleased in how amazingly snappy it is.  I am curious however why the base image is ~13 GB when it’s extracted.  Overall, thank you Microsoft for releasing it 🙂

Windows 7 x64 Edition in VMWare Workstation 6.5.1

Now onto the real fun of working with this to see what it can do… still amazed how snappy it is even for Beta code.

Windows Server 2008 R2 Beta available on MSDN

Windows Server 2008 R2 Beta is now available over on MSDN for download if you have an MSDN subscription.  Much like Windows 7 Beta, expect that if you don’t hop to it now that it will be a slow download with everyone else hammering the servers for it.

Currently only the x64 edition seems to be available for download though if you read through the resources guide on the Windows Server 2008 System Requirements page, it states that an x86 processor can be used.  Perhaps it’s not ready for release yet.

Now Playing: The Goo Goo Dolls – Let Love In – We’ll Be Here (When You’re Gone)