SharePoint Conference 2014 – Day 3 (Wednesday)

Today has been the most rigorous day of the conference with more than 100 sessions planned. I will try to provide just an overview of various topics as it is very difficult to summarize it in one post. Watch out this space with dedicated post on each topic in near future.

Power Query: Microsoft Power Query for Excel is an Excel add-in that enhances the self-service Business Intelligence experience in Excel by simplifying data discovery, access and collaboration.
PLEASE NOTE THAT CURRENTLY THERE IS NO MECHANISM TO SCHEDULE DATA REFRESH. So if you are planning to implement this in your environment which requires a schedule refresh of your back-end data automatically – hold on as Microsoft is planning to include this in near future. The Power Query add-on has two versions and I would recommend to use 64-bit in relation to your 64-bit Excel. With 32-bit you are limited to 2 GB of machine memory while with 64-bit it can use maximum memory available in the machine. You can access the presentation PPT here.

Authentication & Authorization: Authentication is one of the favorite topics as a few sections of people are little concerned of security with the cloud buzz going around. User authentication is now claim based (actually since 2010 but now it has been improved).
Also Microsoft has done a good job with Federated identity which will help you to connect with third party authentication provider. Window Azure has now second version of Azure Access Services (aka ACS 2.0). ACS 2.0 works as a medium between identity providers and SharePoint application. You can use Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and Live Account to connect to your SharePoint application. The configuration on Windows Azure Management Portal and SharePoint is simple and doesn’t require any custom code. I would like to highlight a few catches here that there is some not-so-good experience with People Picker and extending/adding user profile properties. You need to do some work around to get it working as expected. Overall Claims, OAuth, and S2S (server to server) are three major path in SharePoint Authentication world. Also, there is one important thing to note that App permission is different than User permission.

  • App permissions are granted as all or nothing. 
  • Users can grant only permission that they have (offcourse :-))
  • Cannot be changed after assignment (You need to delete the App to reset the permission
Information Architecture and Search: With so much Information and social overload it has become increasingly difficult to get to the information you want. SharePoint Information Architecture and Search has been geared towards the fact that related information should come to you rather than you looking for it everywhere. With the whole buzz about contextual application delivering content in related manner in single space – new features like OSLO (Windows 8 app, will blog more about it) and improved search give Information Worker (And I say information worker as you don’t have to code for most of the cases :-)) ability to deliver product which is more contextual. Please look at the PPT here to get more details.
Creating Internet facing websites in SharePoint: Microsoft lagged with previous versions in Internet facing websites but they have come up with really cool features which makes SharePoint more internet website friendly (really? :-)). And one of the features is…tick.. tick.. tick… “Friendly URLs”… Yay!!! Also “ViewFormPagesLockDown” feature which basically locks internal pages (layout pages, view all site content, list settings etc) is available in the UI. In 2010 and 2007 you need to do STSAdmin or PowerShell to activate this feature but in 2013 you can do this in UI under site collection feature. PLEASE be careful with search crawling in these scenario as search might not work since it would crawl content with search account under default settings and anonymous users will not see any content after the crawl. There will not be any indication of crawl issue as crawling would still work so it is difficult to troubleshoot. It is recommended to have your site in two zones so that you can manage your search crawl in intranet zone. Click here to get more details around building Internet facing websites in SharePoint. I will also talk about Responsive Web Design aka RWD, Device Channels and Image Renditions in my future blog. Visit http://www.whymicrosoft.com/ to see RWD, Device Channels and Image Renditions in action.
Business Connectivity Services (BCS) and OData: Business Connectivity Services has some improved features however, I feel that it has scopes of improvement as certain features like event receivers are still not directly possible. However, with subscriptions feature in BCS now SharePoint site can be notified when when data changes. But cancel events are not supported. In order to use subscription, you need to have “External System Event” feature activated for your site. OData is the data access protocol recommended by Microsoft to be used. I will be explaining more about this in my future blogs.

Ask the expert: After the end of session, I headed to Ask the Expert booth where we could discuss mostly technical issues with Microsoft Employees (and a few Partners) working in specific field. It was a great learning experience and quite interesting to talk about various existing issues in SharePoint and Microsoft’s road map in providing a better solution. I see that they have headed towards loosely coupled architecture which gives more control and power in integrating various non-Microsoft products and better abstraction to increase availability and performance. Now it is a little difficult to bring down the whole server which a few lines of code :-).

With that I sign off and see you guys in next post where I will provide updates on final day of the conference. Time to hit the casino floor.

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