What’s New in Office Web Apps 2013

With the Wave 15, Microsoft has decided to extend Office Web Apps architecture to their other premier server product lines like Exchange 2013 and Lync 2013 along with SharePoint 2013. Recently I had a chance to watch Ignite training video posted on TechNet for the Office Web Apps in Wave 15 and chance to review Office Web Apps session at SPC12.

This post contains high level notes and quick overview of what’s new regarding Office Web Apps 2013 every SharePoint & Microsoft architects should expect and why they should be excited for.

Office Web Apps Overview

  • Office Web Apps are browser based Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote applications
  • Office Web Apps in SharePoint 2010
    • Office web app was hosted as service application in SharePoint 2010
    • Lync & Exchange was using their own proprietary methods to render office documents over the web, Exchange was using third party product called Stellant, and Lync was using Office 2007 ActiveX controls
    • Multiple SharePoint Farms means multiple version of web apps, You can’t federate Office web apps across multiple SharePoint farms
    • Patching SharePoint required patching of Office web apps
  • Office Web Apps in SharePoint 2013
    • It’s no longer service application in SharePoint 2013, it’s a separate product
    • Unified platform – Lync & Exchange uses Office Web Apps for office documents
    • Multiple SharePoint farms can use single Office web apps farm
    • Managing scale & performance of Office web apps independent of the SharePoint environment
    • Easier upgrade & maintenance – not dependent on SharePoint patching or service packs
  • Terminology
    • WOPI Protocol – Web Application Open Platform Interface – Direct file operations interface between a WOPI app and a WOPI host
    • Office web apps divided into two parts:
      • WOPI App or WOPI Clients – Office web apps server to render documents, Also called WAC – Web Application Companions
      • WOPI Host or WOPI servers – SharePoint, Exchange, Lync to host documents.
      • You can create custom WOPI components. TechNet should have resources to create custom WOPI Hosts and WOPI clients.
  • Major features
    • UI Options
      • SP2010 ways – Full Screen
      • SP2013 improvements – Document Preview web parts, Document Embedding in Page etc.
    • Collaboration Features
      • SP2010 ways
        • Web Viewing and Editing of Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and OneNote
        • OneNote & Excel Co-authoring
        • PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote has auto save feature, Word doesn’t have auto save.
      • SP2013 improvements
        • Change Tracking, Commenting  of Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and OneNote
        • PowerPoint & Word Co-authoring
        • Create OneNote, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents from browsers
        • Office web apps can be used as source for creating documents
    • Licensing
      • Office Web Apps in wave 15 is completely free for viewing. Just download bits from MS and install/configure farm, this updated licensing policy for scenarios without office client installation requirements
      • Creating and editing of documents from Office Web Apps requires licenses for end-users, it requires Office licenses for end users
    • Backward Compatibility
      • You can’t use Office web apps 2013 with SharePoint 2010

Office Web Apps Deployment & Configuration

  • Office Web Apps Software Requirements
    • Windows Server 2008 R2 x64 and later
      • All servers must be domain joined
      • AD to manage server identity
    • Microsoft.NET 4.5 framework
    • IIS 7.0 (web server role)
    • PowerShell 3.0 (office web apps has no UI, requires PowerShell to manage farm configuration)
    • No in-built load-balancer for multi-server farm, needs to use external windows/hardware load-balancers
  • Browser Requirements
    • IE 8 and later is supported, IE 9 and later recommended, IE 7 is not supported
  • Server Requirements
    • Requires dedicated server, Must be dedicated server with no other Microsoft server applications installed that are using ports 80 or 443 (e.g. SharePoint and Office web apps can’t be installed on same box)
    • Office web apps can be virtualized
    • Office web apps farm can run on single server, add servers to meet more performance, high availability demands
    • Never any reason to have separate farms except security (e.g. for extranet SharePoint farm, you want to have dedicated office web apps server running in DMZ)
    • Office web apps can server about 20K typical users per server
  • Office Web Apps Server Roles
    • Each office web apps server has all roles installed to it
    • In rare scenarios, Office web apps servers can be dedicated to role for large deployments (e.g. front-end, excel backend, work backend, PowerPoint backend etc.)
  • Topology Scenarios
    • Single Office Web Apps Server – Simple Intranet
      • No high availability
      • Use in conjunction with SharePoint small farm
    • Multiple Office Web Apps Servers – Large Intranet
      • High availability
      • Use in conjunction with Medium or Large SharePoint farm
      • Use NLB for load-balancer in SharePoint and Office Web Apps farm
    • Extranet with Reverse Proxy with Office Web Apps farm
      • Use same topology as previous option + UAG in DMZ for reverse-proxy
      • Plan to have Office web apps farm & SharePoint farm in Corporate Zone
    • Complex Office Web Apps farm
      • High Scale, extremely large deployments, Extreme scenarios
      • 2-3 Front-Ends, Hardware load-balancer required for serving requests
      • Dedicated PowerPoint Back Ends, Excel Back Ends, and Word Back Ends
      • Hardware load-balancer required for backend machines to redirect rules from front-end servers to back-end servers
  • Farm Creation, Configuration, and Maintenance
    • Office Web Apps has no Database or SQL Server requirements
    • Run the Office Web Apps Setup to Install Bits
    • No UI to configure Office Web Apps, Use PowerShell Command to configure Office web apps
    • Configure master/first Office web apps server using New-OfficeWebAppsFarm command, All farm settings stored in Master/First Server file system
    • Add additional Office web apps servers using New-OfficeWebAppsMachine command, farm settings are replicated to both master & child servers file systems
    • If master server is down, since farm settings are replicated to child servers, office web apps will function properly. You can reassign master server roles to other child servers if needed. Master Machine can be changed using Set-OfficeWebAppsMachine command
  • Connecting Office Web Apps to SharePoint
    • No additional installation required on SharePoint farm
    • No GUI available in SharePoint to configure connectivity to Office web apps farm, Run PowerShell command from SharePoint farm
    • Send discovery request by running New-SPWopiBinding -Server <serverUrl> command to bind Office Web Apps with SharePoint farm
    • You need to set only once for the whole SharePoint farm, removing it is easy as well

Managing Office Web Apps

  • Flexible & Fault-Tolerant Management
    • Every single machine in a server farm is identical
    • All machines can play any role required at any time
    • Any machine in the farm can be dedicated to specific role to improve performance, MS doesn’t recommend for most scenarios, this might be applicable to only large scale scenarios
    • You can reconfigure the farm without removing machines or reassigning roles, machines will be synchronized & retain status locally to individual servers from master server as local copy of farm settings
  • Patching and Version Upgrades for Office Web Apps
    • Office web apps can be patched independent of SharePoint
    • Server has to be disconnected from Office web apps farm to be able to patch it, Use PowerShell command Remove-OfficeWebAppsMachine, Patch the machine, and rejoin the farm by running New-OfficeWebAppsMachine command
    • In-place major version upgrades are not supported, previous office web apps server installation has to be removed before new version can be installed
    • Schema will be kept intact within major version but not necessarily with cross major versions, Upgraded office web apps server will work with older WOPI host for backward compatibility
    • Farm availability during upgrade – minimal downtime
      • Upgrade during low-demand period
      • Start removing servers from live Office Web Apps farm and patch them as needed and start creating patched Office web apps farm.
      • Once you have enough patched Office web apps servers, redirect traffic to patched servers from load balancer.
      • Once user requests are redirected to newly patched servers, patch remaining Office web servers and join to the patched farm.
  • Security Considerations
    • User Credentials are passed on every request, Using SSL to encrypt requests are highly recommended
    • Credentials are limited to permissions for a single file and for a single user per request
    • Each office web app document editing or viewing session times out every 8 hrs. User must refresh the page to work with document again.
    • SharePoint and Office Web Apps have a trusted connection to communicate through WOPI protocol
    • Admins has to have login local rights & access to the servers for configuration tasks, assign roles, & run PowerShell commands
    • Additional Office Web Apps specific settings for traffic
      • AllowHTTP – Is HTTP traffic allowed from browsers? Always use HTTPs – since access tokens are passed around in HTTP request
      • FarmOU – Can be used for limiting servers which are valid for farm
      • IntraFarmEncryption – Use HTTPs for internal traffic between servers
  • Load balancing Tips
    • If you have more than 1 Server in the farm, you will need load balancer
    • Make sure you enable server affinity for performance and cached informatio
    • Offload SSL to your load balancer – Configure your servers with HTTP and set the SSLOffloaded flag in New-OfficeWebAppsFarm or Set-OfficeWebAppsFarm command
    • Use Layer 7 load balancing to specialize front-end and back-end roles, Microsoft is using F5 load balancer for their dog food.
  • Troubleshooting Tips
    • Default logging folder can be found at %ProgramData%\Microsoft\OfficeWebApps\Data\Logs\ULS, it can be changed using PowerShell
    • Ensure that Wopi zone is set properly in SharePoint side compared to Office Web Apps setting – You can check wopi zone by requesting https://officeappsServerName/hosting/discovery or update SharePoint according using Set-WopiZone command
    • SharePoint system accounts don’t work with Office Web Apps. This is by design due to security model. If you demonstrate Office web apps, use standard accounts.
  • Office Web Apps Programmability Capabilities
    • Primary API is RESTful – used for all data querying and manipulation
    • JSOM for applications that do embed the Office Web Apps applications
    • JS object model geared towards exposing information for client for some actions like save
    • Supports Office Apps (Agave) in Office 2013 in the viewed documents with some of the apps

Additional Resources

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One Response to What’s New in Office Web Apps 2013

  1. Pingback: What’s New for IT Pro in SharePoint 2013 | Nik Patel's SharePoint World

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