SPBP – My presentation (Part 1)

Reinvigorate the Business Client – Extend your OBA over your Imagination

imageAs I've promised, I'm starting to give a short description about my presentation, and will upload the demos.

Let's start with the presentation. On Tuesday afternoon I was showing to my audience, what does OBA mean, how can Office System and several LOB Systems be integrated in a transparent way, and what are best practices during OBA building. Yes, this process is a building process, because you can play with the OBA components as they would be LEGO blocks…

First of all, let's see the Line-of-Business (LOB) Systems. A LOB System is a software application or a suite of software applications that integrate the core data and processes of a business organization. Every company need its own LOB Systems. Depending on the company's type and size, these LOB systems can be really different. But as more LOB Systems you have, as more tasks you have as well:

  • more administrative tasks
  • maintenance issues
  • scalability issues
  • hard (or almost impossible) to develop and add new LOB Systems to a "spider-web" style architecture
  • hard (or almost impossible) to develop and add new client components

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If you want to have a systematized, ordered organization, you have to… first of all… you have to plan! You have to plan, if you want to survive, if you want to have a well-designed system architecture, if you want to be the first in your business market… Plan, plan, plan! You have to choose the good systems, solutions, the good platforms, the good interfaces, etc. Unfortunately there is no general answer, what is good for you, instead of this the planning is a really-really complex profession.

imageFor example, imagine a company, where you have several LOB Systems: SQL Server, SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS), Dynamics CRM, SAP, Oracle, etc. These systems live their own lives, but you want more: an integrated solution. In a few minutes we'll see why the MOSS is a good integration platform, but before let's see the most interesting LOB System: the SQL Server Data Services (SSDS)!

SSDS is the Microsoft's brand new data service – in the cloud. Remember: Software+Services…
SSDS means, your data is not stored in your own hosted storage. Your data is stored somewhere in the world, in a huge data center, and you can access them via several data access protocols – SOAP and REST. In this environment, you don’t have to waste your time and money to host a full environment; don’t have to worry about the performance, mainteinability, scalability, security, etc. To conclude: you can save a lot of time and money.

Well, let's see a simple SSDS example.

As you probably already know: SSDS is not a classical table-based database (with rows and columns), but entity-based. In my demo I'm using two simple types of entities: companies and users (employees). Both of them contains really simple data (address, e-mail, phone number, etc.), and of course, they don't have fix schema. For example, here are my companies: 

1. SSDS companies on the custom admin page:

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2. SSDS companies in the SSDS Explorer (my entities in XML):

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3. SSDS companies in a MOSS site, imported by BDC (Business Data Catalog):

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As you can see, the same data can be represented in a lot of ways (I'll show you one more example in the next part of this series).

In the following parts, I'm answering the question: when does it worth to integrate your system and when not. Why is it a good choice to build a MOSS based integrated environment? What is OBA and how you can use it in an integrated environment? For example, how you can build a MOSS and SSDS based OBA? What kind of tools you can use during planning, developing and deploying? Etc.

Stay tuned, next parts are coming soon!

SPBP Conference – Sessions

Well, let's see the sessions I've attended on the SPBP Conference. You have to know that it was a really big and well-organized conference: with more than 350 participants (IT Pros, developers, CIOs, project managers, architects, information workers), 35 speakers with almost 80 sessions, and a lot of sponsors/exhibitors. The sessions was going in six rooms paralelly.

imageFirst of all, Keynote by Tom Rizzo. Well, Tom Rizzo is Tom Rizzo… Good presenter with a well-edited presentation to the current audience (IT Pros, developers, CIOs, project managers, architects, infoworkers – everybody who is interested in SharePoint Best Practices). Tom talked not just about the SharePoint in gerenal, but about the importance of Software+Services solutions as well as OBAs too. He mentioned a lot of recent developments (BDC Designer, Silverlight BluePrints, VSeWSS, Community Kit, Administrative Toolkit, Solution Accelerators, Infrastructure Update, Search Federation, GearUp, etc. etc. etc.), and finally here are his best practices:

  • Capacity Planning isn't a suggestion
  • Know thy users
  • Know thy data
  • Know thy developers
  • To Thine Own Self Be True
  • Scale Up or Our
  • SharePoint is an Enterprise Application – an Easy Enterprise Application
  • Support Boundaries Protect You and Us
  • Weeding and Pruning Makes a Beautiful Deployment
  • We all love code, but…

The next one was for me Bradley T. Smith's session: SharePoint as a SOA Platform. He was speaking about the SOA platform itself (what is the SOA), costs and benefits (why/when SOA is good for us and why/when not), and of coure regarding the SharePoint: how can a SharePoint Server realize the SOA Platform? In which terms can we say: SP is a SOA Platform out-of-the-box? In which term we cannot say that? It was a really-really interesting and useful session before my OBA presentation, I think Brad gave really good basics to my thoughts.

I could continue with a lot of really interesting presentations, because I participated a lot of them. Of course, on Thuesday I missed some of them because of mine, but I hope you can understand it :)

But to the end, on Wednesday there were two really-really interesting sessions. In the morning I was attending on "IT Pro Experts Panel" with Ben Curry, Bob Fox, Mike Watson, Daniel Webster and Tom Wisnowski. In the same time there were Developer Experts Panel (James Curry, Maurice Prather, Paul Schaeflein and Paul Stork) as well as IA/PM/CIO Experts Panel (Mark Ferraz, Bill English and Mark Schneider). Well, these Panels were really interesting, I've never seen any sessions like these before. Imagine a few experts and a lot of participants. The experts say: "Good luck trying to find a problem that this team can not fix. Bring your trickiest problems and let these top experts work with you on them." Wow! Unfortunately, on the IP Pro Experts Panel were not too many participants, but I think it was a really-really brave and great session! Congrat, guys!

My last session was Natalya Voskresenskaya's session: "Formula for Success" – Training your SharePoint Staff. This is a really interesting topic as I do this in my everyday work as well: "The SharePoint implementation can be very complex, involving many types of roles and responsibilities within an organization, it's critical that all groups involved are competent enough to take advantage of its functionality." Well, I think, this session was the best to the end, thanks Natalya!

By the way, there were a lot of speakers with a lot of great sessions as well: Paul Galvin, Spencer Harbar, Todd Bleeker, Eugene Rosenfeld – and the others, all speakers. Thank you guys, see you soon!

Just after my presentation at SPBP Conference

Yes, it was today. In the middle of the SharePoint Best Practices Conference I had an opportunity to present about the mistery of the OBAs to my audience. First of all, let me say thank you to Mindsharp because of this huge opportunity!

Well, what is this conference like? Interesting. Colorful. Full with a lot of talented experts and presenters. I feel… how to say? I feel if I would at home in this community. I have friends around me. Although my native language is not the English, we speak the same language, we understand each other – because we're all the members of the SharePoint Community. And that's a really-rellay great thing!

So, you can ask: what about my presentation? I have to say the truth: I was a little nervous, because that was my very first presentation in English. Khhhmmmm… Yes… Everybody has to begin sometimes… The second thing, we have to be faced with a trouble last night: we've had a problem with the SSDS service, and we were able to fix it just a few hours before my session. But finally everything was working! Huhhhh!… (As you know, SSDS is private beta right now.)

After these difficulties I was talking about a lot of things: what is OBA? how you can play with several components? what is SSDS and how can be integrated to an OBA environment? what is OBA Composition Toolkit? how does it help your everyday work if you are a developer / architect / business analyst? what are the best practices to build your complex OBAs?

Oh, yes. Best practices. You should know, what I mean talking about best practices. What the organizers or the other SharePoint folks think about it.

Well, I think you should read Mark Schneider's post in which he explains his and the organizers' opinion.

Well, my OBA Best Practices are going to be published here soon: my slides, demos, codes, etc. Keep tuned!…

OBACT Appsettings

When you install the OBA Composition Toolkit, maybe you have to face the provisioning problem described a few days ago. One more detail about this issue: during OBACT installation these tags will be inserted into the web.config file of SharePoint Server Central Administration's web application:

<add key="OBAAdministration" value="http://spsdemo:21212/CompositionServer/Administration.asmx" />

<add key="OBACompositionInstallerPath" value="C:\Program Files\CompOBARefToolkit\" />

If the last one is missing, the proper database field will be empty, so the provisioning is failed.

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OBA Composition Toolkit – Provisioning error in your custom components

OK, you've decided to use OBA Composition Toolkit v2 – but how to start?

First of all, you can download it with several documents. One of them is the Setup Guide, which describes the system requirements both of server and client side. If you follow these steps, and install the component samples (reference components) as well, you can start your OBA Composition Toolkit (OBACT) immediately.

Ok, this is pretty good, but what to do if you want to create your own components? Of course, you can do that as well, but be aware, because you have to pay attention to a few issues. At the first time, maybe you've got an error: your component cannot be provisioned. We've got this error several times with several type of components (BDC definition, VSTO addin, etc.): the provisioning status delayed in "Queued" status and cannot change to "Provisioned".

The main issue is behind the scenes, in the database. If you dip into the depth, you can find the main cause: the problem probably is that the FileSharePath column in the ComponentProvisioningJobInfo table is not getting set correctly when you submit a new component package using the Administration UI. For fixing it, you can open this table in the OBASERVERDB SQL database and manually specify the FileSharePath for the components that you are attempting to submit (these will be NULL in the table – resulting in the failure). Set the value to the location (full path) of your component ZIP package, and click the Resubmit for Provisioning link on the component information page in the Admin UI to retry the component provisioning.

Well, in the most cases this troubleshooting scenario works. But sometimes it's not enough. My final tip is to uninstall the reference component library, uninstall the OBACT, then install the Composition Toolkit again. Try to provision your component again – in my experiences, this reinstall resolve the provisioning problem in every cases.