Day one of sessions at the SharePoint Conference are generally very overview centric and the first one that we decided to attend was What’s New for IT Pro’s in SharePoint 2013. First important thing to note, for those that don’t have an MSDN or TechNet subscription this morning you can now download an evaluation version of SharePoint 2013 from TechNet here.
The first area of focus was looking at the Hardware & Software requirements which are much of the same from SharePoint 2010. Because of the increased services and memory intensive caching in SharePoint 2013 a development environment that is running all of those services on the same machine should start with 24GB of RAM where a single server with limited services starts around 8GB and separate web and application servers should start with 12GB. The largest change is around the software requirements which, as expected, went up a level and require starting with Server 2008 R2 SP1 or Server 2012. This stays true with the SQL layer as well requiring SQL 2008 R2 SP1 or SQL 2012. The PreReq installer still lives in SharePoint 2013 and will need to install various software components like the ASP.NET 4.5 Framework, Windows Management Framework 3.0 and a specific version of Windows Server AppFabric. For standalone installations it is important to note that Workgroup installations are no longer supported in SharePoint 2013 and installing on a domain controller is only supported for a development environment. Staying true to the support structure for 2010, dynamic memory is not supported for 2013 as well.
Upgrade and Provisioning was the next area of focus during this session which pointed out features such as the System Status Notification bar which plays a large role in Upgrades, Read-Only mode and Scheduled Maintenance. Now understanding that during the upgrade cycle (which there will be other posts on two separate upgrade sessions later this week) that they extracted upgrading the content database schema from the site collection schema. Doing this enables administrators to get up to SharePoint 2013 faster with much less downtime, and upgrade individual site collections when the business requires. Continuing down the upgrade enhancements the introduction of the Site Collection Health Checks moves the PreUpgradeCheck tool that Farm administrators are familiar with when upgrading from 2007 to 2010 into the Site Collection. This enables viewing upgrade issues on a site collection by site collection level and also can help prevent a site collection upgrade if known blocking issues occur. The concept of evaluation site collections enable site collection administrators to see their site collection upgraded but not effecting their existing work environment. The entire site collection upgrade process is the main area of focus on everything upgrade related for 2013 including throttling upgrade and backwards compatibility mode.
A much needed feature now existing in SharePoint 2013 is the enhancement of the self-service site creation utility which enables administrators to enforce information management policy settings on brand new site collections as well as sub webs created through this process. The self-service experience can now also be customized with custom forms.
The next area of focus was on service applications, which the good news here is this is the first time in the products history that they are not dramatically changing the way services are consumed. Areas that they saw needed improvement were items like the User Profile Service. Now in the UPS you can use a friendly way of importing information like you did in 2007 using AD Direct Import which does not require the FIM service which all gave us heartburn initially in 2010. The User Profile Replication Engine (UPRE) is now a native tool in SharePoint 2013 instead of a one-off tool that gets upgraded through a different lifecycle. The last item to mention in relation to the UPS is now all social data is moved from a dedicated database into each account’s personal site. This requires that anyone using social features now NEED to have a personal site.
Other services that were highlighted new or improved in SharePoint 2013 were the App Management Service which enables the use of the SharePoint Marketplace and Corporate Catalog, Business Connectivity Services which now have support for OData and App-Scoped BDC models, the SharePoint Machine Translation service which lets users translate information in a site on the fly, which is also extensible through full trust code, REST and CSOM. The Work Management service provides us with the ability to have task aggregation across SharePoint and Exchange. PowerPoint Automation Services enhancements much like the Word Automation Services in 2010 and the office Web Applications are a separated set of services that need to run on a separate server with SharePoint 2013. Lastly the Web Analytics have been reworked and built into the Search Service Application which uses FAST as a mechanism to determine these analytics.
The last area of focus was around performance and availability where discussions around the minimal download strategy which only refreshes sections of a page where information is changing to shrink the amount of data going over the wire. Things to keep in mind is anyone who is adjusting master pages need to ensure that their customizations support this new framework. Request Routing (another area that will be focused on in a separate session later this week) helps administrators prioritize, block or redirect requests to separate systems based on information from the request.
Improvements with the AppFabric framework also assist many items that are now cached like social data and identity tokens which removes the requirement for affinity on web applications using SAML authentication. Shredded Storage is now available in SharePoint 2013 which only sends the changes of a document into the SQL store which is going to help with storage requirements and bandwidth between SharePoint and SQL. The last item discussed was the ability to now license certain features (e.g. Standard vs. Enterprise vs. Office Web Applications) to users based on claims which now means you can officially allow users access to an Enterprise server with only a Standard CAL and the system will take care of the permissions after you assign the license assignment through PowerShell.
More to come throughout the rest of the day and week… time to move onto the next session.
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