Microsoft's Sharepoint Picking Up ISV Support

Despite slowing IT spending, Sharepoint is growing into larger deployments.

By Richard Adhikari | Posted Oct 15, 2008
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Independent software vendors are flocking to fill the various gaps in functionality in Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS).

Although it is a billion-dollar business with 100 million users, MOSS lacks several capabilities, according to Tony Byrne, founder of analyst group CMS Research.

"Now that SharePoint 2007 has been out for nearly two years, enterprises are getting savvy about what it doesn't do or doesn't do very well, and Microsoft now says that it has this whole network of independent software vendors who provide what 'Microsoft' does not in SharePoint," Byrne told InternetNews.com.

That ecosystem around SharePoint is necessary because of the many functionalities SharePoint lacks, Craig Roth, senior analyst at the Burton Group, told InternetNews.com. "I love looking at third party add-ons to SharePoint because it's the best way of seeing what SharePoint doesn't do," he added.

In response, a Microsoft spokesperson e-mailed InternetNews.com to say that MOSS 2007 gives customers "an integrated, flexible set of tools on one platform, all of which are integrated with the Office applications customers are already using."

MOSS "meets needs that are critical to the business of our customers," and "over 3,300 certified partners are able to create niche technologies that expand on the already rich set of core features the SharePoint platform offers customers," the spokesman added.

Some of the Add-Ons

Epok, Liquid Machines, Vitrium and Open Text have all recently unveiled products that extend MOSS's capabilities in security and archiving.

Epok offers a server-based authorization product, Epok Edition for Microsoft SharePoint that let business users authorize access to data and applications on MOSS 2007. This provides a means of securely controlling collaboration and access to documents on MOSS.

"SharePoint can be controlled by businesses users who can put up their own documents, shared calendars, task lists, project management and all that stuff, and with those extra capabilities come a bunch of security and compliance issues," Nigel Simmons, Epok's vice president of product management, told InternetNews.com.

Enterprise rights management vendor Liquid Machines's solution to that is the Liquid Machines Gateway for SharePoint, which protects files opened or downloaded from SharePoint even when they are no longer on the server.

Liquid Machines is part of the Secure Information Sharing Architecture (SISA) Alliance, which also counts Microsoft, Cisco Systems and EMC among its members. SISA is designed to protect and share sensitive government information, and was set up as a response to the events of 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and the explosion of data breaches.

Vitrium Systems also offers document security, with custom browser-based deployments of its Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology for Microsoft SharePoint users to protect files in Adobe's PDF format. This is unusual in that users do not need to download and install a plug-in for Adobe's Acrobat Reader or a third-party proprietary viewer.

Another area in which MOSS is lacking is archiving, CMS Watch's Byrne said. Enterprise content management vendor Open Text addresses this problem with Open Text Storage Services for SharePoint.

Open Text's solution minimizes storage requirements by ensuring users store only one copy of MOSS content in external storage devices, automatically detecting whether it has already been saved. This will cut storage costs, critical at a time when the demand for storage is exploding while companies are tightening their purse strings because of the global financial crunch.

Bad economy or not, the market for MOSS is still growing, according to Burton Group's Roth. "A lot of conversations I've had are with companies trying to figure out how to use it from an enterprise point of view," he said. "They've suddenly grown from one site in a department to 10 to 100 in the enterprise."

That's because the barrier to entry is low; Windows SharePoint Services, the basic product, is available free for users of Windows Server, and because it makes collaboration easy at the basic level, Roth said. But, he adds, "Don't just get into SharePoint assuming that its capabilities will get you where you want to go," he warned.

Article courtesy of InternetNews.com

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