Thursday, 20 May 2010

My Quest SharePoint 2010 Virtual Expo notes

Yesterday I had the pleasure of “attending” the Quest Virtual Expo for SharePoint 2010. Many thanks to Quest for hosting a very useful expo and to the presenters for answering almost every one of my questions. For those of you that attended, the slides and presentations are still available at unisfair.

Amongst the various presentations, I found these two particularly useful:

  • A Practical Guide to Managing SharePoint ( Joel Oleson)
  • Are you sure your deployment is ready for SharePoint 2010? (Rick Taylor and Joel Oleson)

Below are the notes I made from both of these sessions along with the Q&As that followed:

Presentation Notes:

  • In SharePoint 2010, each service application has its own database as opposed to the per-SSP model in MOSS. Spencer Harber wrote a good post about service applications which I encourage you to read through. My first thoughts on this are that while additional databases should mean greater flexibility and scalability, it may also mean additional storage requirements and administrative overheads. One benefit that springs to my mind is the ability to place service applications on different spindles based on predicted usage patterns which should mean better SQL performance.
  • The health monitoring and management capabilities in SP2010 look very useful for administrators. Joel showed us the automated password management capability within Central Admin which effectively means SharePoint can ensure password strength and renewal with no user intervention. This was a headache in MOSS and with new service applications I can imagine this will be a welcome new feature to ease administrative burden. Another new feature is a set of health rules which can be modified – these encourage Microsoft best practises to be followed and can be configured to send alerts through email or SMS. Not sure I would appreciate a text from our SharePoint farm alerting me to a best practise being broken but it’s a nice feature to include.
  • PowerShell allows management of SharePoint to be scripted – therefore allowing common administrative tasks to be repeated with less chance of human error. Joel mentioned that STSADM is still present in SP2010 but emphasised that PowerShell includes over 500 commandlets and should prove very useful.
  • Joel described the Microsoft SharePoint team’s “do no harm” upgrade planning philosophy in relation to PreUpgradeCheck and also mentioned that he is writing a book on migrations to SP2010.
  • Database upgrade methods were discussed – the general message was that in place upgrades are only really appropriate for small environments and even then should only be performed where a fall-back is possible. We certainly won’t be upgrading our physical servers using the in place approach any time soon! The DB attach method allows for a gradual upgrade process – and less downtime – making it (or a close hybrid) the approach we will be going with.
  • Separation of binary and visual upgrades in SP2010 mean that MOSS look and feel can be retained (2010 ships with MOSS master pages)
  • List throttling includes a “happy hour” feature that allows limits to be exceeded at a certain time of day. This should be useful for running intensive list item operations out of hours whilst retaining high performance during peak hours. Joel mentioned that “5000 is the new 2000″ (regarding the limit on the number of items in a list) – something that has been echoed in the Twitter community (e.g. @MirjamvanOlst). This is the maximum number of list or library items that a DB query can process at one time – more info here.
    Sandboxed solutions are disabled by default
  • The dev dashboard includes an “ondemand” setting that allows it to be switched on and off. Enabled it displays debugging information at the bottom of a page that should be useful for identifying the cause of slow performance (e.g. SQL delay, rendering issues).
  • The OOB reporting capability in Central Administration allows the slowest pages across the entire farm to be identified, as well as “top users”.
  • Joel finished up by emphasising the benefits in running the PreUpgradeCheck tool that is available in MOSS SP2 and onwards, and mentioned that SP2010 Beta 2 VHD is available now for download.

Q&A Notes:

  • It is possible to exceed the 2 million user profile limit
  • It is not possible to migrate straight from SPS 2003 to SP2010
  • Virtualisation for SharePoint should start with WFE servers – you should hold off on virtualising SQL and index servers for now
  • The Microsoft recommendation of 16GB RAM per production server is recommended for Enterprise deployments but not necessarily a requirement for smaller farms. Rich Taylor gave an example of a 30,000 user deployment, predicting that 4 WFE servers each with 8GB may well be sufficient. The key message was that estimating hardware requirements is not straightforward and should be based on actual usage data (number of users, requests per second etc). Joel mentioned that there are performance and capacity case studies on TechNet – I believe he was referring to this information.
  • IE 6 is not supported for SP2010 but may be usable for a publishing environment with primarily read only content. A quick Google afterwards revealed this link that quite clearly depicts what various SP2010 sites look like in IE6 (awful!).
    Rick and Joel gave no indication as to when SP2010 SP1 would be released but referred to the historical trend of “around every 9 months”. We were assured that there definitely will be an SP1
  • Licensing was briefly discussed – unfortunately it gets no easier with SP2010 and Joel mentioned that there are new SKUs with 2010 (I heard “Internet Standard Edition” mentioned but couldn’t confirm this online). Prices should be released next month.

I hope these notes are helpful – let me know if you have any feedback or queries.

Benjamin Athawes

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