12 August, 2012

SharePoint Server 2013: Boosting Performance and Support for Real Business Solutions

The Preview of SharePoint Server 2013, which debuted for customer evaluation at the Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto in mid-July, suggests this release will offer extraordinary power for business information-gathering and decision-making. Beyond its widely touted features, such as streamlined user and site experiences and enhanced collaboration (including social networking), SharePoint Server 2013 provides strategic improvements in support of bottom-line business essentials—workflow, business intelligence, business connectivity services, mobile productivity, eDiscovery and more.

Read on for highlights of a few features we think will be important to SharePoint enthusiasts looking for new ways to extend the value of their SharePoint deployment.

Workflow
SharePoint Server 2013 offers a new workflow service called Windows Azure Workflow. It is built on the Windows Workflow Foundation components of.NET Framework 4.5. The SharePoint 2010 Workflow platform is still the default in SharePoint Server 2013, and any workflows created in it will continue to work in SharePoint Server 2013.

However, those who choose to install and configure the new workflow service will benefit from enterprise-grade features including:
  • Activity / Workflow Artifact Management
  • Elastic Scale
  • Fully Declarative Authoring
  • High Density and Multi-Tenancy
  • Instance Management
  • Managed Service Reliability
  • REST and Service Bus Messaging
  • Tracking and Monitoring

 
Business Intelligence
In SharePoint Server 2013, the platform’s business intelligence (BI) tools have been fine-tuned for better performance and integration with business tools including the Microsoft Office productivity suite. Features include:

  • The Business Intelligence Center site template has been updated and streamlined for ease of use.
  • PerformancePoint Services now supports the iPad with BI viewing and interaction taking place thorough the Safari browser.
  • Users can copy entire PerformancePoint dashboards and dependencies.
  • An enhanced PerformancePoint UI facilitates filter viewing and management.
  • Users working with Excel Services reports that use SQL Server Analysis Services data or PowerPivot data enjoy extended functionality.
  • Excel Services now supports calculated measures and calculated members.
  • Timelines in Excel Services now behave in the same manner as if they were viewed in the Excel client.

Business Connectivity Services
With the debut of SharePoint Server 2013, Microsoft has built upon the Business Connectivity Services model introduced with SharePoint 2010. This powerful feature, which enables SharePoint to access information from external data systems such as SAP, ERP, CRM and other data-driven applications, previously supported installation and use of external content types only at the farm level, which presented complications for use of BCS in many situations.
                                           
In SharePoint 2013, external content types can be scoped through “apps,” self-contained, easy-to-use bits of functionality designed for end users. Companies can develop apps that access external data from a variety of sources but do not change or affect the code on any underlying system or platform.

Microsoft has also added support for Open Data Protocol (OData) Business Data Connectivity connections in addition to connections for .NET, SQL Server and WCF. Previously, SharePoint was an OData provider, but now users can connect to an external data source using OData. (Visual Studio 2010 will generate all the Business Connectivity Services operations for all OData operations.)
Mobile Productivity
SharePoint Server 2013 now features optimized viewing capabilities and productivity enhancements across various mobile platforms (Windows; iOS; Android). New features to support mobile devices include:
  • Updated browser UI: A lightweight Contemporary view now joins the previously available Classic and Full-Screen UI browser interfaces.

  • Flexible site rendering: Rather than the single default mobile view used in SharePoint 2010, SharePoint sites can be optimized for different mobile devices and platforms.
  • Geo-location: SharePoint Server 2013 supports a geo-location field type that enables lists to be geo-aware (among other capabilities).
  • SharePoint Server 2013 supports push notifications (to applications that support them) of site updates, such as the addition of a list or an update to an item. Notifications can occur through the Microsoft Push Notification Service or platform-specific notification services.
eDiscovery
With SharePoint 2013, Microsoft is introducing a new eDiscovery solution. Key new features include:
  • Site-based management and collaboration for eDiscovery cases with statistical tracking. Each case has its own site with an “eDiscovery Set”—the universe of search resources and their search filters (as well as action options).
  • All sites are accessed through a common portal (the eDiscovery Center) for search, preservation, query and export of relevant materials. Search results are displayed based on the user’s permissions.
  • Multiple Exchange mailboxes, SharePoint sites/farms and file shares can be associated with cases and then preserved in their entirety or queried to refine the pool of preserved content.
  • Content holds include a new “in-place hold,” a feature that enables users to continue working with the preserved content from Exchange mailboxes and SharePoint sites. Users can change the content, but a content snapshot is recorded at the time of preservation and stays in hold, even if the user deletes the content. All held material is indexed in a preservation hold library visible only to Administrators and other authorized individuals.
  • Query-building enables authorized users to define a scope for searching held resources, with additional filtering by message type or file type. Users can then view statistics about the items, preview results (documents; lists; pages; Exchange objects) and export (into the Electronic Data Reference Model format) the items for separate review, if desired.

Records Management and Compliance
SharePoint Server 2013’s records management and compliance features provide more security for your business. The most significant new feature is site-based retention. Any retention policies created in SharePoint Server 2013 apply to SharePoint project sites and any Exchange Server team mailboxes associated with those sites.

Better Search Architecture and Performance
To provide more powerful search capabilities, Microsoft has integrated more data from Microsoft Research and Bing, implemented the latest version of FAST technology, and incorporated new, extensible index, query and crawl frameworks.

All components and databases related to the search operation reside on application servers and database servers, respectively. No search components are hosted on Web servers.

For more details or to download the SharePoint 2013 Server Preview, visit: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepoint/fp142374.aspx

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