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How SharePoint works

How SharePoint works

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Published by: api-19972266 on Dec 03, 2009
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How SharePoint Works
How SharePoint Works (Barracuda .NET)
A Technical Whitepaper for Software Developers and System Architects
Written by Jason Masterman and Ted Pattison of Barracuda .NET

Over the last few years, Microsoft has made a significant investment in collaborative
technologies, Windows SharePoint Services and SharePoint Portal Server are two flagship
products positioned to dominate this space. This whitepaper is written to introduce
SharePoint\u2019s fundamental architecture and to discuss the opportunities that SharePoint
provides to you as a software developer using the .NET Framework.

Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) is a free product that runs on the Windows Server

2003 operating system. WSS supplies a framework for building collaborative Web sites which make it possible for a company to share information and documents across the members of teams, departments and large organizations with unprecedented levels of ease and reliability. Any user can access a WSS Web site using a Web browser or through the new collaboration features built into Microsoft Office 2003 products such as Word and Excel.

WSS also provides the underlying infrastructure for generating user interfaces through the
inclusion of Smart Page and Web Part technology. Smart Pages and Web Parts are a very
powerful aspect of SharePoint because each WSS site provides a browser-based user interface
that is extensible and fully customizable. Web Parts can also be used to store personalization
information on a user-by-user basis. We will discuss Web Parts in greater detail later at the end

of this whitepaper.
SharePoint Portal Server 2003 (SPS) is a product for building enterprise-level portal sites
that is part of the Microsoft Office 2003 System. It is important to note that SPS is built on top

of WSS. SPS compliments WSS by adding manageability features designed to assist users
navigating through vast amounts of information and documents. SPS also supplies additional
functionality to enhance portal sites using indexing, searching, audience targeting and single


There is a fundamental difference in the roles played by WSS and SPS. These differences are
shown in the table in figure 1. WSS is based on a collaboration theme in the sense that it\u2019s
designed to store and share list-based data and documents. SPS, on the other hand, is based
on an aggregation theme. An SPS portal site is useful for aggregating information and
documents from many different places. SPS adds value by providing users with a quick and
easy way to find information and documents that are spread out around a private network or

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How SharePoint Works (Barracuda .NET)
scattered throughout the Internet.
Figure 1: WSS focuses on collaboration while SPS focuses on aggregation.
In essence, WSS gives you a place to put all your content while SPS provides the means to
navigate and search through your content when you need it. These two roles are quite
complimentary to one another. WSS allows an enterprise-level company to create and maintain
tens of 1,000s of collaborative Web sites, while one or more SPS portal sites allows users to
search through all this content and find what they're looking for.

You should understand that SPS depends upon WSS to provide many essential services. For
example, WSS provides SPS with the capacity to track members and share lists and
documents. Furthermore, SPS doesn\u2019t supply any code for generating the user interface for a
portal site. Instead, SPS leverages the WSS Smart Page and Web Part infrastructure to

construct the user-interface for an SPS portal site.
Windows SharePoint Services Architecture
WSS is a free product to any individual or company that has purchased the Windows Server
2003 operating system. The WSS installation files can be downloaded using the Windows
Update service or from the following URL:
http://www.m icrosoft.com /windowsserver2003/technologies/sharepoint/default.m spx.
The WSS framework is built on top of Windows Server 2003, IIS6 and ASP.NET. Figure 2 shows

how the fundamental pieces of the WSS framework fit together. Note that before you can
successfully install WSS on Windows Server 2003, you must first configure the host computer
as an Application Server by enabling IIS6 and ASP.NET 1.1.

Figure 2: Windows SharePoint Services Architecture
Learning about WSS is easier once you know a few facts about its history. WSS is part of the
second generation of SharePoint products and technologies. The first generation was built on
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How SharePoint Works (Barracuda .NET)
an earlier IIS-based framework named SharePoint Team Services (STS) . The STS

framework is similar to WSS in that it provides a collaborative framework for sharing list-based
data and documents. However, STS was not built upon on the .NET Framework or ASP.NET.
Instead, it was built using a proprietary ISAPI extension.

Customizing and extending STS Web sites has always been relatively difficult due to limited tool
support. Site customization is much easier with WSS and the second generation of SharePoint
because of WSS-compatible Web designers such as Microsoft Office FrontPage 2003. WSS also
offers a much better extensibility model because you can write custom applications and Web
Parts for WSS sites and SPS portal sites with Visual Studio .NET using either C# or Visual Basic

. NET.

STS and the first generation of SharePoint products and technologies have also suffered from
scalability problems. The scaling limitations of STS are due to an underlying architecture that
runs a stateful design on front-end Web servers. This flaw makes it impossible to scale out STS
Web sites using a Web Farm environment. When Microsoft engineers started to design WSS
and the second generation of SharePoint products and technologies, they made it a primary
design goal to fix the scaling problems of STS. Consequently, they designed their architecture
to support WSS and SPS deployments with tens of 1000s of users and tens of 1000s of Web


WSS architecture is based on stateless front-end Web servers. Their architecture is founded on an integrated storage strategy where all the list-based data and documents associated with a Web site are stored within a SQL Server database as shown in figure 3. A key objective of this integrated storage strategy is that it allows a deployment of WSS Web servers to effectively scale out in a Web farm environment.

Figure 3: A WSS deployment requires a configuration database and one or more content databases.
WSS relies on two different kinds of SQL Server databases; configuration databases and
content databases. As you might suspect, the configuration database holds deployment-
specific configuration information for each physical Web server, IIS virtual server and WSS Web
site. Content databases, on the other hand, hold data associated with WSS Web sites.
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