This is an original post I wrote using Office 2007 Beta 2 which explains some of the formatting. I'm working with some folks to try and get this posted as an official whitepaper.

Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 is the next generation of Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003 and Content Management Server (CMS) 2002 plus a lot more. It is built on top of Windows SharePoint Service (WSS) v3 and provides an extensible platform for Enterprise Content Management (ECM), Portal, Enterprise Search, Forms and Business Intelligence (BI) features and solutions.

By building on top of WSS v3, Office SharePoint Server takes advantages of all the core services and provides a great collaboration platform as well.

Besides Office SharePoint Server providing a lot of great functionality, Office SharePoint Server is different architecturally from SharePoint Portal Server 2003 in the following ways:

1.      It’s all about “Light-up” with Office SharePoint Server. This means that if you install Office SharePoint Server on top of WSS v3, you can now start including “features” in the existing WSS sites; you can essentially “light up” new features in the WSS site. Customers with a broad WSS v3 site investment can now get immediate value with Office SharePoint Server.

 

2.      WSS v3 is built on top of ASP.NET 2.0. With ASP.NET supporting some great features like a web part framework, provider model for authentication and navigation and other rich features, SharePoint developers can really start taking advantage of Microsoft’s latest and greatest development platform. The other important benefit is that web parts become ubiquitous and SharePoint developers are easier to find resulting in a dramatically increased pool of potential SharePoint developers. It’s not a question of building with ASP.NET 2.0 or SharePoint technologies. It’s about developing solutions with ASP.NET 2.0 and SharePoint technologies.

 

3.      Built on Windows Workflow Foundation (WF). WF is a prerequisite for WSS “v3”. Office SharePoint Server provides several out-of-the-box parameterized workflow templates that can be configured. These workflows can be applied to a content type or list. There are several types of predefined workflows for serial and parallel workflows which can be used for different scenarios like web content approval, document routing and digital signatures. It’s important to note that WSS “v3” does not provide out of the box workflow templates like Office SharePoint Server does. However, with WSS “v3” or Office SharePoint Server, workflows can be built using Visual Studio or SharePoint Designer (next generation of FrontPage technology). Information Workers can create team workflows with SharePoint Designer without writing any code.

WSS v3 Improvements

There are a few important things to note about WSS v3. Because Office SharePoint Server is built on top of WSS, the following apply to Office SharePoint Server as well:

Internet Ready

There are several features that really make WSS v3 “Internet ready”. For starters, WSS v3 supports forms based authentication (FBA). This allows you to authenticate users using a web form. Furthermore, WSS v3 supports the ASP.NET Authentication provider model. This means that customers can authenticate to anything – for example SQL database or an LDAP directory. Another important feature is that WSS v3 provides “security trimming”. Actions and features are only exposed it a user has access to them. This is important because “readers” or subscribers to a site won’t see “Site Settings” or “Add a document”.

SharePoint Lists Enhancements and support for Content Types

WSS v3 supports large lists. This means that a SharePoint list can now hold 100s of thousands of items per list vs. the current guidance for 2,000 items per list in a WSS v2 SharePoint list. Office SharePoint Server’s Enterprise Content Management (ECM) features take advantage of this to support very large document and records libraries.

It’s also worthy to note that WSS v3 supports event handlers on lists. In WSS v2, we support document event handlers but not for other lists. WSS v3 also supports single item security and single item restore on any list item, lists are RSS and mobile enabled, folders within any type of list and the ability to host different content types in a list.

There’s a new feature in WSS v3 called a content type. A content type is a classification of content that can define a template, metadata, policy, workflow and custom actions. For example, you can create a Press Release content type that has a specific Document template, certain metadata attributes, an IRM and/or records policy and workflow (has to have legal approval for example).

Office SharePoint Server’s ECM features take advantage of this feature as well. You can apply one of the out-of-the-box workflow templates to a content type; apply a records policy to a content type as well.

Integration with Office 2007

There are rich scenarios that the Office 2007 client enables with WSS v3. Customers who have Office 2003 or previous versions of Office can expect the same integration experience as they do with WSS v2. However, with Office 2007, customers can expect the following additional value:

 

Office 2007 introduces a new XML Format. This XML format is important for a variety of reasons:

Based on our current analysis, office files are on average 50-75% smaller.

Easier programmatic access.

Separation of content and format. You can, for example, replace the stylesheet rather easily.

Integration scenarios are better supported - whether your customer is using BizTalk Server or another EAI system.

 

With Outlook 2007, Information Workers can take document libraries offline. SharePoint folders show up like other Outlook folders and Information Workers can set rules.

With Access 2007, Information Workers can take a SharePoint list offline and use the rich reporting capabilities of Access 2007 to view the data and create rich reports.

Groove allows you to collaborate with Information workers across boundaries.

 

 With Office 2007, Information Workers can enter metadata write within their document. The rules and metadata definitions are stored on the server, but by exposing the content in the client, Information Workers are much more likely to enter relevant metadata. This metadata can then be used within the document. The metadata is eventually saved on the server and then can be used to categorize and search for the content. For example, you can look for all Press Releases with the customer property equal to Contoso.
Another great feature exposed in Office 2007 is workflow. Office 2007 exposes workflow tasks so Information Workers can initiative workflows, approve/decline or view tasks right from Office 2007.

 



PPT Slide Library - With PowerPoint 2007 and Office SharePoint Server, you can create a library of PowerPoint slides that can be shared with other users. These slides can be used to create a PowerPoint presentation. 

 

 

With Excel Services, Spreadsheet authors can save spreadsheets on a Office SharePoint Server server and have them rendered using Excel Web access via a browser. This allows organizations to have “one version of the truth” by securely storing the spreadsheet on the server and providing a read-only version of the data, hiding sensitive formulas and allows anyone to view the data with a thin client with rich features. With Excel Web Services, the models and data are exposed via XML Web Services making for a great developer re-use story.

 

 

Support for XML



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                

Offline

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Workflow and Metadata Submission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reuse PowerPoint Content

 

 

 

 

 

 

Business Intelligence with Excel Services

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 Major Investments

 

Support for Multilingual Sites/Areas/Channels
For starters, SPS 2003 Areas and Channels are just WSS v3 SharePoint sites with certain features turned on. In SPS 2003, you couldn’t have different areas in different languages on the same web server farm. With Office SharePoint Server, you can have different “areas” (simply called sites) in different languages on the same web server farm.

Another compelling feature of Office SharePoint Server, based on customer feedback, is variations feature that orchestrates publishing in different parallel sites. This feature is very useful for multilingual publishing scenarios. In Office SharePoint Server, you can identify a source (for example, Press Releases – En) and multiple target sites (for example Press Releases – FR, Press Releases – JP) and Office SharePoint Server will keep the target in synch with the source. Of course, the workflows for the different sites are respected. So, for example, if someone in the Press Releases – FR site workflow wanted to decline a page, they could. Also, it’s important to note that this feature only coordinate web content publishing not other collaborative elements like document libraries; this should not be confused with replication. Another important note is that this is one way only – i.e. changes made in the target do not get reflected in the source. Lastly, we don’t provide automatic translation out of the box with Office SharePoint Server. This is a partner opportunity where someone could plug into the workflow to automatically translate.

Internet Ready

Above and beyond the Internet ready features provided by WSS v3, Office SharePoint Server provides out of the box publishing tools. With this publishing tool, IT can set up a schedule for publishing content from an authoring environment to a production environment. This allows a corporation to have an authoring environment within the corporate firewall and a production environment outside the firewall. This is especially important for customer facing publishing sites. Furthermore, the publishing feature supports publishing content from one authoring environment to multiple web server farms. Again, this should not be confused with replication since it only works 1-way. Content can include document or web content.

Enterprise Content Management (ECM)
Office SharePoint Server takes advantage of WSS v3 core services for many of the ECM features. Content is stored in WSS document libraries and as a result, Office SharePoint Server takes advantage of content types, single item security, single item restore, RSS, master pages, et cetera.

Web Content Management (WCM)
Office SharePoint Server WCM functionality is CMS 2002 WCM functionality plus more. For starters, Office SharePoint Server provides a lot more functionality than CMS 2002 and it’s on a different architecture that allows organizations to take advantage of the SharePoint foundation. Existing CMS 2002 customers should take a look at the CMS 2002 Migration Guide.

Office SharePoint Server allows information workers to publish web content removing IT from the bottleneck. Information workers create new pages by choosing a page layout[1] and then filling out the editable regions known field controls[2] as defined by the page layout designer. Depending on the Page Layout, an author can also add web parts to the page. The web editing experience is rich with Office SharePoint Server which includes new features like table, stylesheet and spellcheck support[3] as well as the ability to insert reusable HTML fragments – a commonly requested feature.

Page Layouts are designed using SharePoint Designer 2007. Using SharePoint Designer 2007, designers can drag and drop the various field controls. These page layouts live as aspx pages in a SharePoint list. As a result, a workflow can be applied to these page layouts.

Page Layouts define how content is displayed and the look and feel. Another key component for look and feel is the master page setting – an ASP.NET 2.0 feature that is exposed through WSS v3. A master page can be applied to a site and/or its subsites. This allows organizations to apply a specific look and feel to a site (or set of sites).

Depending on the workflow settings, the page then goes through workflow. Office SharePoint Server provides parameterized parallel and serial workflow templates that can be configured and used for web content management. These pages are stored in a SharePoint list and therefore can take advantage of all the features of a WSS v3 SharePoint list.[4]

Another important WCM feature provided by Office SharePoint Server is the out-of-the-box rich navigation provider. This navigation can be configured and by default displays the site hierarchy. Needless to say, it’s security trimmed – that is to say, you only see sites that you have access to.

For organizations that are looking for a rich client authoring experience, Office SharePoint Server supports a Rich Client Authoring feature that allows Information Workers to convert files to other formats. The out of the box WCM feature that is relevant here is the ability to convert XML or DOCX files into Web Pages. Partners or customers can develop custom converters to convert any file to any format and register it to Office SharePoint Server.

Other important features of the WCM investments include a web-based Site Management tool[5] that allows a Site Manager to view all the site content and administer the site content more easily. Very useful aggregation type web parts are also included that allow you to surface web content cross-sites based on certain properties – for example, the Content by Query Web Part[6].

Document Management
Office SharePoint Server builds on top of WSS v3 to provide great Document Management capabilities. Above and beyond what WSS v3 provides, Office SharePoint Server provides an out-of-the-box Enterprise Document Management SharePoint template that creates a site with great navigation controls and web parts. The navigation control provides a great view into a large document repository and the out of the box configurable web parts provide great roll-up views at the content.

Another great feature of Office SharePoint Server is the out-of-the-box workflow templates. WSS v3 hosts the WF engine, but Office SharePoint Server provides parameterized workflow templates that can be configured. These workflows can be applied to a content type or a SharePoint list.

 

Records Management

Records management is another core investment for Office SharePoint Server. Records Management in Office SharePoint Server allows organizations to set up a central records repository and apply specific policies on the content. For example, a records manager can apply a specific policy to all Press Releases (a specific content type) to retain them aftera a certain period of time or based on certain business logic. You can also specify what happens to the content after the retention period - for example, it goes to the recycle bin or initiates a workflow.

Beyond providing rich ECM functionality to Information Workers, Office SharePoint Server provides rich auditing and usage reporting for IT professionals.

Portal

A lot of customers have asked why we dropped the word "Portal" from the product name. We removed the word "Portal" because Office SharePoint Server provides a much richer breadth of functionality above and beyond Portal capabilities. Having said that, we've made some great investments in Portal capabilities allowing Information workers to find information easily and allowing organizations to target information more effectively. The improved capabilities include the targeting of content and applications, like Web Parts, to Exchange Distribution Lists.

Another commonly asked feature are Web Parts that aggregate information across an entire SharePoint web farm – for example, all the documents an information worker is using, all the sites an information worker is a member of and all tasks.

Another new feature of Office SharePoint Server is Site Manager. Site Manager is a web-based drag-and-drop tool for managing a SharePoint site’s navigation, security access, and general look-and-feel.

Site Manager unifies site management tasks for portal and Web sites, including management of areas, pages, listings, SharePoint site lists, and their component parts. Site Manager supports the bulk creation, editing, reorganization, and deletion of areas, as well as the viewing of relationships between pages.

Office SharePoint Server includes an LDAP pluggable provider for authenticating users of SharePoint Servers. This is in addition to the Active Directory provider included with Windows SharePoint Services v3.

Search

Office SharePoint Server provides Enterprise Search for an organization. Office SharePoint Server is a core piece of Microsoft’s Enterprise Search strategy complementing search offerings like Windows Desktop Search (WDS) and Windows Live Search. Microsoft, by working closely with Microsoft Research (MSR) and the MSN teams, has a common full-text search engine that is used with WDS and Office SharePoint Server allowing for a common extensible platform.

Office SharePoint Server Enterprise Search can index SharePoint sites, file shares, Exchange Public Folders, websites and Lotus Notes DBs out-of-the-box similar to SPS 2003. Furthermore, Office SharePoint Server supports indexing Business Data[7] and People.

Relevancy
Relevancy was one of the core investments in this release. Qualitative studies show that Office SharePoint Server relevancy is significantly better than SPS 2003. Microsoft really focused on algorithms to make Enterprise Search more relevant. Enterprise Search is quite different from Internet search (MSN, Google) and the same algorithms that work well for Internet search, don’t work as well in the Enterprise. Investments like security trimming,  metadata extraction, calculating click-distance, et cetera, make Office SharePoint Server Enterprise Search an industry leader.

End-User Experience
We’ve made significant end-user experience enhancements from creating a Search Center to “did you mean?” query correction. The search center allows organizations to very easily deploy and customize search by adding additional tabs as necessary. Search syntax now matches de facto standards that Information Workers are accustomed to with Internet search. Other end-user experience enhancements include duplicate collapsing, query hit highlighting, alerts and much more.

Across Repositories
Office SharePoint Server, like SPS 2003, allows partners and customers to index custom repositories by developing iFilters and Protocol Handlers. iFilters tell the search engine how to index a specific file; protocol handlers tell the search engine how to crawl a specific content source. Out of the box, we ship with several iFilters and protocol handlers. It’s important to note that the iFilter and protocol handler model is consistent on the desktop allowing organizations to reuse the same iFilter, for example, on the desktop.

The Business Data Search feature of Office SharePoint Server makes it easy to index and search any relational database or other information store accessible by ADO.NET or a Web service; for example, data in a Customer Relationship Management system. There is no need to write custom protocol handlers or IFilters, in this particular case, or create searchable HTML representations of information in a database. Search results from Business Data Search can be highly customized and fully integrated with search scopes and other Search Center features.

 

Forms

One of the most commonly requested solutions is business process automation and enable forms-driven processes. Customers want to be able to gather information from partners, customers and employees, quickly and effectively, have the content go through a specific process and workflow and connect to back-end systems when appropriate.

Based on this strong customer and partner feedback, Microsoft is introducing great forms capability in Office SharePoint Server 2007. With the new forms functionality, organizations can design rich forms with InfoPath and then deploy them to a server. Without writing any code, you can access data from different back-end systems via XML Web Services. Also, these forms render in different browser technologies such as Internet Explorer and Firefox.

Business Intelligence & Business Data Search
Excel Services
Excel Services provides a server-based spreadsheet model that complements the rich Microsoft Office Excel® 2007 client, enabling businesses to securely share data across an enterprise with dramatically enhanced control, high availability, enterprise integration, and extensibility. It provides both a web-based UI for browser-based access and a web services API for programmatic access that have robust options for controlling what data is available to users and applications.

Business intelligence in Excel Services enables spreadsheet users to easily implement real-time analysis of enterprise data, including manipulating that data, formatting it with color-coded cues, and providing full fidelity for spreadsheets, as compared to how they would appear in Excel 2007. Both Excel 2007 and Excel Services can access data directly from SQL Server, manipulate it, and rapidly create PivotTables that can easily be converted into cubes for advanced data modeling. Business dashboards let business users easily bring data together to support visualization of data in a highly visual and easily consumable reporting format.

Business Data Connector (BDC)
The Business Data Catalog makes it possible to include data from back-end systems in SharePoint lists, Web parts, pages, and search results.

The Business Data Catalog deeply integrates external data into the SharePoint Servers user experience, allows access to external data exposed by ADO.NET and Web services, and permits the display and analysis of external data through Business Data Web parts and Business Data SharePoint Lists.

External data was formerly used to enhance the information available in user profiles, for example, information from a human resources application or employee skills database. External data added to User Profiles can be automatically indexed and searched in the same manner as user directory information.

External data can also be used in custom applications using the Business Data Catalog runtime and administration APIs.

Report Center
Microsoft Office Server includes out-of-the-box Web sites optimized for report access and management. These sites, hosted by the new Microsoft Office Server Report Center, provide consistent management of reports, spreadsheets, and data connections.

Key Performance Indicators (KPI)
Microsoft Office Server makes it easy to create rich BI dashboards that incorporate dynamic key performance indicators (KPIs), Excel workbooks, and SQL Reporting Services reports.

Business Data Search
The Business Data Search feature of Office SharePoint Server makes it easy to index and search any relational database or other information store accessible by ADO.NET or a Web service; for example, data in a Customer Relationship Management system. There is no need to write custom protocol handlers or IFilters, in this particular case, or create searchable HTML representations of information in a database. Search results from Business Data Search can be highly customized and fully integrated with search scopes and other Search Center features.



[1] Known as a template in CMS 2002

[2] Known as placeholder server controls in CMS 2002

[3] These features are in addition to what the editing experience was like in CMS 2002. It’s also worth mentioning that this control is DHTML control vs. the ActiveX control that shipped with CMS 2002.

[4] Examples include (that wasn’t provided out of the box with CMS 2002): restoring a page using the single item restore feature, securing a single page, RSS enabled.

[5] In CMS 2002, the Site Management tool was called Site Manager and it was a win32 application that had to be installed.

[6] This kind of functionality had to be custom developed with CMS 2002.

[7] This is possible with the Business Data Catalog feature.