Microsoft Corp.s plan to bring its SharePoint portal line and its .Net application server together is facing skepticism among customers.
The Redmond, Wash., companys strategy, announced last week, doesnt address performance issues in SharePoint Portal Server or the market confusion sown by the companys multidirectional collaboration strategy.
SharePoint comprises SharePoint Portal Server, or SPS, a stand-alone product for document management, and SharePoint Team Services for collaboration, which is available only as part of Project Server or FrontPage 2002. Despite the common names, however, the products come from separate development groups.
That will change by the middle of next year, when both products will be built on the .Net application server and SharePoint Portal Server will include Team Services. In addition, Team Services will be included in future versions of Windows at about the same time, Microsoft officials said.
But customers of SharePoint Portal Server said they expect the move to .Net to do little to improve the performance of the server, which they said has been an issue since its inception.
"Theres nothing about .Net that will help [performance]," said Richard Jones, vice president of technology at CommerceHub, a Clifton Park, N.Y., software developer that uses SharePoint Portal Server internally for document management. "In fact, introducing XML-based Web services usually implies a performance overhead that isnt otherwise present."
"I think Microsoft will have to address [performance] in future releases," said Kevin Hexley, IT administrator at Cairn Energy plc., in Edinburgh, Scotland. "I am worried .Net may be too large a jump in technology."
Hexley said .Net will limit the choices developers used to have with different versions of Windows, but it could bring benefits as well. "A strength of .Net and SPS will be the total collaboration aspect of all products and one delivery method for the user—a digital dashboard," Hexley said.
Even otherwise-satisfied customers of SharePoint said the product strategy is becoming confusing.
Dustin Miller, president of FuseWerx Ltd., which develops custom applications for SharePoint Team Services and uses the technology internally, said that Microsoft has separate dashboards for SPS, SQL Server and Exchange, each with its own method of storing data. "That does tend to confuse integrators and potential customers," said Miller, in Downers Grove, Ill.
Microsoft officials said SharePoint Team Services will likely leverage the peer-to-peer capabilities of Groove Networks Inc.s collaboration software, in which Microsoft has invested heavily. Officials would not say how or when that integration would happen.
"It would be nice to feel confident that Microsofts internal product groups were working to some overall game plan," said Geoff Coupe, chief technology adviser in the Products and Solutions division of Shell Technology International, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, "instead of giving the impression that its driven by who happened to make a good pitch to Bill or Steve on a particular week," Coupe said.