I haven't been writing much here, mostly because I've been way too busy but also because I couldn't discuss publicly many of the things I'm doing. Now that SharePoint 2010 has been announced and its feature set published everywhere, I can finally discuss one of the coolest things we've been up to lately.
SharePoint is a repository of resources (list items and documents in document libraries) that are collected and manipulated collaboratively. Resources have a bunch of security and business logic attached to them, such as who can see each item, who gets to change it, or whether a particular column in a list needs to conform to a particular validation formula.
When SharePoint folks said they wanted a RESTful interface this was great news...the system is just a perfect fit. Not only it's a perfect fit for RESTful services in general, but also for Astoria in particular. In the end SharePoint is very data-centric in nature, it already supports queries and business logic as part of the uniform interface.
So we're really excited to announce that as of SharePoint 2010, every SharePoint server is an Astoria server out of the box. No configuration required or anything, just make sure the proper version of ADO.NET Data Services is in the box. For SharePoint 2010 beta, the "right" version is ADO.NET Data Services v1.5 CTP2. We'll put details out there for future iterations as they come.
Official write up in the Astoria team blog.
The SharePoint Data Service head is not just a side integration deal, it's a full-on REST-over-HTTP head for SharePoint. It supports browsing as well as modifying data using regular HTTP verbs (GET, PUT, DELETE, etc.), it does ETags for concurrency control, enforces business logic as part of side-effecting methods, and it handles the full range of Data Services conventions for URLs, Atom and JSON payload formats, etc. It also exposes full metadata like any other Astoria service, allowing Visual Studio and any other metadata-driven client to give you a great experience on the client side. Now if you need to get or manipulate data in SharePoint from any platform in any language, all you need is an HTTP stack.
The other cool aspect is that the SharePoint folks where able to build this entirely on top of public bits, using our new fancy provider model for advanced data sources I discussed here some time ago.
SharePoint joins a growing family of Microsoft products that enable users to share data through the use of a simple RESTful interface that follows the Astoria conventions when needed (e.g. URLs, structured data in Atom). Another example on the server side include SQL Server Reporting Services, which in SQL Server 2008 R2 can now render any report as Atom feed that follows the Astoria conventions (examples here). On the client, in addition to developer-oriented options such as .NET, Silverlight, AJAX, PHP, Java and more, we now also have PowerPivot (f.k.a. Gemini) which can pull data from any data service and do fancy analysis and publishing over it, making it trivial to bring data from Data Services into Microsoft Excel 2010 among other things.
I find this to be extremely important. A simple, uniform way of sharing data at the protocol level, and in a way that truly enables the lowest possible bar of entry, is key to enable broad integration across products and break data silos that form around applications.
I'll be talking about this at the SharePoint conference 2009 in Las Vegas this week, and at the Professional Developer Conference (PDC 2009) in late November. If you're attending any of these and this sounds interesting, these sessions will drill into plenty of details.