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Microsoft SharePoint taking business by storm

Versatile Microsoft server may not be perfect, but it is attracting interest as tool to address anything from collaboration to process management

By , Network World
March 26, 2008 12:03 PM ET

Network World - Microsoft's SharePoint Server is on a billion dollar juggernaut to potentially become the next must-have technology, offering companies tools for building everything from collaborative applications to Internet sites and potentially handing Microsoft its next cash cow.

"I have not seen anything like this since the early days of [Lotus] Notes," says Mike Gotta, an analyst with the Burton Group. In those days, corporate users were enamored with a shiny new technology that seemed to have infinite uses. "The talk [around SharePoint] is getting strategic now and people are talking about it as a middleware decision," Gotta says.

Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007 is the fastest growing product in the company's history and seems to have as many uses as a Swiss Army knife. Its six focus areas are collaboration, portal, search, enterprise content management (ECM), business process management and business intelligence.(Compare collaboration products.)

Just last month, Microsoft added a hosted alternative to fuel adoption. There is a "perfect storm," observers say, around SharePoint in terms of the popularity of Web-based computing, demand for less-expensive ECM and portal tools, collaboration technology and integration around Microsoft's Office suite.

Six faces of SharePoint
Microsoft’s Office SharePoint Server is cutting a swath across IT with its many capabilities. SharePoint has six focus areas, each with its strengths and weaknesses.

SharePoint Strengths Weaknesses
Collaboration   Team workspaces let users
share files easily.
 Easy to set up.
Social-networking computing tools need improvement.
Portal   Application development and integration framework for building composite applications.  Scalability issues need to be resolved with technology advances, not hardware.
Enterprise Search

Extended to line-of-business applications
Access controls across local and remote data stores.

 Still evolving, tighter integration with network architecture needed to compete on high end.
Enterprise content
management

Enhancement to basic features, such as check-in and -out, versioning.
New additions, such as business document processing,
Web content management.

  Compliance, records manage-ment need improvement or partner add-ons.
 Migration issues from Microsoft Content Management Server.
Business process
and forms
 XML-based forms strategy with easy integration to enterprise-application-integration tools including BizTalk.
  Built-in human workflow support, as well as lightweight event handlers.
  Web forms are limited to a subset of full client forms’ features.
  Relatively difficult development experience for moderate and advanced features.
Business intelligence   Server is solid foundation.
  Server-based platform for
Excel documents.
 Business-data catalog awkward in getting information in and out.
CREDIT: NETWORK WORLD; SHAREPOINTSHEPHERD.COM
Click to see: SharePoint's six focus areas

The attention is a wake up call for competitors, especially IBM/Lotus, as SharePoint could pull customers  to other Microsoft software because it is closely integrated with Microsoft's unified communications stack, its e-mail server, Office and Office applications including back-end file sharing repositories for Excel, Word and PowerPoint.

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