PLM and SharePoint Technical Definition

by Oleg on April 30, 2012 · 14 comments

I’m off to Detroit, MI this week for Aras PLM user conference - ACE 2012. Microsoft .NET and MS SQL are two important elements of Aras infrastructure. For many enterprises these days, Microsoft IT based technology is no-brainer decision. It runs everywhere.

It is near impossible to talk about PLM and Microsoft’s technologies without talking about what potential role Microsoft SharePoint can play in establishment of scalable PLM solutions. Usually, Microsoft SharePoint and PLM are over-hyped by lots of marketing slogans. I decided to take off marketing and get down to SharePoint technical definition that can help PLM and IT managers in organization to decide about how to position PLM and SharePoint in their strategies and implementations.

The following article – Making Sense of SharePoint 2010 by Tim Anderson provides a very good foundation for my post today. Have a read and make your conclusion. The following quote is the best introduction to what is SharePoint in a nutshell:

So what is SharePoint really? Technically, it is an ASP.NET application which runs on Internet Information Services (IIS), Microsoft’s web server, and which stores most of its data in a SQL Server database. Conceptually, it is the outcome of Microsoft’s efforts over many years to create a web storage system, a document repository accessible via a web browser.

SharePoint is extremely good if you are working with Office documents. It provides a very tight integration with Microsoft Products. The majority of companies today are running Office. I was able to see some companies taking off to Open Office or Google lately, but not doubt – Office is mainstream even after of public web 2.0 disruption. The following passage explains clearly your advantages of working with Office in SharePoint – seamless integration.

SharePoint is designed to integrate with the Microsoft Office client applications such as Word and Excel . If you do not use Office, SharePoint is unlikely to be worth running. When used with Office, a key feature is that users can open a document from a SharePoint site, edit it, and save it, without being presented with a Save As dialog. This is one reason SharePoint works better than simply storing documents on a web site with download and upload features.

I want to add few words about multiple versions of SharePoint. There are three versions – Foundation, SharePoint Server 2010 and SharePoint Enterprise 2010. Here is the summary:

Foundation includes document management, discussion forums, wikis, and support for applications including workflows. SharePoint Server 2010 extends this with search, compliance features including document retention policies, server-side Microsoft Word automation, social media features including status updates, ratings and tagging, individual profiles and content sites, video and audio media support, templates for workflows, improved scalability, and more. SharePoint Enterprise 2010 adds server-side support for Access databases and Excel automation services, business intelligence integration, support for forms applications using InfoPath (part of Microsoft Office), more scalable search and more.

PLM and SharePoint

I think, the overall hype of SharePoint replacing PLM solutions is over these days. Nevertheless, SharePoint became practically ubiquitous these days if you think about enterprises. The infrastructure provided by SharePoint is well-known by IT and service organizations. As soon as it approved to be used in organization can provide a backbone for collaborative applications. You need to take into the account the cost of SharePoint.

The base Foundation product is surprisingly rich, considering that it is a free add-on. SharePoint involves licensing for three products, each with separate CALs (Client Access Licenses). These are Windows Server, which is always required; SQL Server, which is required unless you use the free SQL Server Express, and SharePoint itself, which is required for editions other than Foundation. Since SQL Server Express is limited to single-server installs and 10GB per database, some organisations which can get by with Foundation will still need SQL Server and its CALs.

You can consider SharePoint as a platform for customization.

SharePoint is an application, but it is also a platform. Since it is built on ASP.NET, code that runs on ASP.NET will generally run in SharePoint too. Office services for Word and Excel enable applications that parse, manipulate and create documents.

What is my conclusion? SharePoint is stable Microsoft based infrastructure. If your company is running on Microsoft products you can consider it as an option to develop additional applications. Check your PLM provider on how flexible PLM platform and applications can be integrated with SharePoint – you can save a lot of service money and people resources in the future by doing so. Reading from Aras website:

Our application framework is implemented on the Microsoft .NET and Microsoft SQL Server platform. And Aras technology has built in security from the ground up and a world-class professional services and support team to meet your unique design, development and infrastructure needs.

I’ll pay a close attention understanding how Aras keep following integration with SharePoint and Microsoft technological foundation. Follow my blog and twitter later. this week.

Best, Oleg

Disclosure: Aras paid my registration and traveling expenses to ACE 2012. Microsoft wasn’t involved. Both Aras and Microsoft are in no way influenced the content of this post.

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