Why developers like SharePoint 2010

Integration with Visual Studio is one change that makes SharePoint much easier to develop collaboration apps, developers say

SharePoint 2010, the newly announced upgrade to Microsoft's popular Web and collaboration platform, is receiving a thumbs-up from developers pleased with the product's capabilities, including its use of Visual Studio as a tool for building SharePoint applications.

A feature-completed version of SharePoint 2010 was detailed by Microsoft late last month.

"It's getting better and better" for developers, says Serge van den Oever, a specialist software developer with Macaw, a systems integrator. Previously, Macaw created its own solutions "factory" to provide tools for building with SharePoint 2007 (officially named Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007). With the SharePoint 2010 version, Visual Studio integration will let Macaw bypass having to use a lot of its own tools, van den Oever says.

Overall, the full breadth of capabilities in SharePoint 2010 is on the rise, van den Oever says: "One of the things [improving] is the whole hosted platform, where you can run sandboxed applications."

"The Visual Studio integration is wonderful," says Navid Falconer, a software engineer at Arctic Slope Regional, an oil field services firm. While he did not do that much development in SharePoint 2007, Falconer notes, "I did enough to know how painful it was."

"I think [SharePoint 2010 is making it] easy for developers to come through and help progress SharePoint further, " says Jesse Backof, a desktop applications specialist at the Miles & Stockbridge law firm. "Visual Studio is definitely being more refined now" for use with SharePoint, he says.

The Visual Studio integration removes obstacles in deploying systems, says Benjamin Bach, a staff development consultant at General Mills: "[Visual Studio integration] provides a much more complete and easy system to actually package up and deploy and debug and work directly with SharePoint. The integrated feeling of being able to work with that is a huge plus."

SharePoint 2010 offers a better development platform and probably faster search capabilities as well, says Bert Sandie, director of technical excellence at games maker Electronic Arts. Visual Studio appears "to be much better integrated by the looks of it," he notes.

Improvements in capabilities such as connectivity to data sources are anticipated in the SharePoint 2010 release, Sandie says. Overall, SharePoint offers an economical development solution, he adds: "For us, from a development perspective, developing on top of [SharePoint], it's actually pretty cheap" with Electronic Arts using ASP.Net code.

"I think [Microsoft is] doing a lot of good stuff around social collaboration" in SharePoint 2010, Sandie says. Electronic Arts has an estimated 2,000 SharePoint sites for 9,000 employees, with about 1,000 active sites.

SharePoint 2010 also aids integration with CRM systems, says Michael Fry, a technical specialist at Dow Jones, who foresees the new release resolving issues that SharePoint 2007 had around building sales process documentation. The Dow Jones Enterprise Media Group, which is responsible for services such as the Dow Jones news wire and indexes, has been using SharePoint since 2001.

Independent SharePoint developer Becky Bertram applauds the Visual Studio integration and says the 2010 release of SharePoint does not present a complete paradigm shift as had been required in the "difficult" shift from SharePoint 2003 to SharePoint 2007. "What I like about [SharePoint 2010] is the fundamental components haven't really changed that much, which means I don't think it will be as painful to upgrade clients to the new version," says Bertram, who formerly worked at Microsoft and builds mostly public-facing SharePoint sites.

Development capabilities will make it easier to customize SharePoint apps, Bertram says. "You won't have to have as many developers. You can have more businesspeople" able to customize the platform, she says.

Despite the resounding approvals given SharePoint 2010, some developers cite problems. One is SharePoint's confusing licensing model, which makes it difficult to gauge user numbers when SharePoint is being accessed via an extranet, Bertram says.

SharePoint 2010 could also use some work on Web content management, particularly in publishing, says Macaw's van den Oever. "All the sites that you see created from the SharePoint platform all look alike," he says. "There should be some improvements there."

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