Microsoft draws SharePoint road map

The next update to Microsoft's SharePoint line of portal and collaboration software will integrate the products with the company's .Net framework and more tightly tie them to Microsoft's other server software, Microsoft said Monday.

New versions of Microsoft's SharePoint Portal Server and SharePoint Team Services aren't due until mid-2003, according to SharePoint Product Manager Trina Seinfeld. The company timed the release of its roadmap for the products to coincide with the opening of the Delphi Group's Spring Enterprise Portal and Web Services Conference in San Jose, California. Pricing and licensing details for the new versions are not yet available, Seinfeld said.

First released in April 2001 in conjunction with Microsoft's Office XP launch, SharePoint Portal Server has sold 3 million seat licenses, while SharePoint Team Services has been used for thousands of collaborative Web sites, according to Microsoft.

The next SharePoint versions will natively support XML (Extensible Markup Language) Web services and allow developers to customize portals with Microsoft's Visual Studio .Net. SharePoint Portal Server will be integrated with several other Microsoft products, including its BizTalk Server and Content Management Server (CMS), extending functionality first introduced last week, when Microsoft released a free integration pack to tie together SharePoint and CMS.

Linking SharePoint and CMS allows users to quickly access documents through SharePoint and publish them through CMS, according to Microsoft.

Integrating SharePoint with BizTalk, which is used to connect applications from various vendors, will enable single sign-on to numerous applications and increase levels of personalization for portal users, Seinfeld said. BizTalk Server offers adapters for integrating some 300 applications, including software from SAP AG, Oracle Corp., PeopleSoft Inc. and J.D. Edwards & Co.

The SharePoint product line update will also bolster the software's scalability and robustness, Seinfeld said.

That's an area in which one research firm criticized the initial version of SharePoint Portal Server. Poor load-balancing support was a particularly troubling flaw, Ferris Research Inc. said in an April 2001 report.

With all of Microsoft's product announcements pointing toward an integrated .Net future, the company's SharePoint road map isn't surprising, said Ferris Research analyst Michael Sampson in a research note issued Monday. Nor is Microsoft's move to use the update to bolster the software's reliability. The company traditionally tackles enterprise-user concerns in versions two and three of its products, he wrote.

Customers may not want to wait for Microsoft to catch up to its road map, he suggested.

"Organizations that need to move ahead immediately should proceed with shipping products from others vendors, (such as) Plumtree (Software Inc.), BEA (Systems Inc.), or IBM (Corp.)," Sampson wrote.

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