DMS Facets

Relating several topics, including IT, Microsoft Access, sports administration, and micro-ISV business.

What is SharePoint

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… from the Access developer’s point of view?

Ropescourse We’re moving towards the release of SharePoint 2010, and with it a new stage in the life cycle of Microsoft Access.

In a nutshell… we will be able to build a database  application, right in Access itself, using tools entirely native to Access.  And then we will be able to publish that application to a SharePoint site, and use the application in a browser.

This is causing some Access developers to start to look at SharePoint in a new way.  And it is causing some SharePoint people to look at Access in a new way.

Perspective

I might write some more about this in future posts.  But for now, let’s just say 2 things.

1.  From the Access angle, here’s an absolutely critical point to remember…  The new web application functionality is additional.  Nothing is being removed or replaced.  If you don’t have a use for this new stuff, then you don’t have to use it, and you can just ignore it.

Desktop database solutions are not going away in a hurry.  VBA continues to be enhanced too, and VBA is not going away any time soon.  We will still be able to build good database applications using Access, just like we have always done.

2.  From the SharePoint angle, Access Services is a tiny corner of a huge product, and most SharePoint developers and users will probably blithely proceed with their work, totally oblivious to our existence.

Facets of SharePoint

Because SharePoint is such a big pool, it can be a bit tricky to grab hold of its meaning, depending on your perspective.

In a video from the recent SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas, you can hear Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer say that SharePoint is:

  • a collaboration system
  • a business insight system
  • a social networking system
  • workflow
  • document management
  • search
  • a platform for business intelligence
  • a platform for a whole big set of scenrios
  • kinda magical, in a certain way

In fact, SharePoint is trying to do so much, in a holistic, integrated, comprehensive way, that it is easy to get bamboozled.

As well, it is also becoming more clearly a part of the Office family.

So it seems to me that one’s understanding of SharePoint will depend on which particular bits of it we have contact with. Which, unless you are a dedicated SharePoint consultant/developer, is likely to only be a small part of the overall picture.

Keep It Simple

I have referred before to Ishai Sagi’s book, and quoted his opening sentence: “SharePoint is a platform that allows users to build websites.”

In the talk about SharePoint, this is a simple truth that is often left out.  We come back to the baseline that SharePoint is a platform for building websites.

Websites for many different purposes. The tools provided by SharePoint to allow those sites to be used for document management, and team collaboration, and social networking, and all the other points mentioned by Steve Ballmer, are impressive.

Enter Access

Well, as I understand it, from SharePoint’s point of view, an Access web application is just another website – one of a number of different types of sites it supports.

In the same talk, Steve Ballmer listed Access Services (along with SharePoint Designer, and InfoPath Form Services), under the heading of “Composites”.  So maybe we will start calling ourselves compositors rather than developers. 🙂

But here’s the key thing… Access 2010 is coming with some unbelievable new functionality, specifically to allow database applications to be run in SharePoint sites.  And SharePoint 2010 is coming with some fantastic new functionality, specifically to allow Access web applications to be supported and integrated.

The aspect of Access Services is just one corner of the pie – a corner that is presently getting a lot of attention because it’s new and surprising, but nevertheless still just a corner of Access’s overall place in the world. But if Access developers want to take advantage of the expanded range of applications that we will soon be able to offer, then I really think we will eventually be very happy to have SharePoint as one of our closest buddies.

So, what do you think ?