What’s New for IT Pro in SharePoint 2013 – Major Architectural Investments

Ever since Microsoft has released Public Beta of SharePoint 2013 in July 2012, many of us are really interested in some of the major investments in Apps Model, Social workload, Search workload, WCM workload, Office Web Apps, Sharing Model, and new developer APIs for CSOM and REST based interfaces. All of these features itself would make a great case for upgrading your current SharePoint 201o environments to SharePoint 2013. But, I have been really impressed with some of the key new investments and underlying architectural improvements for IT Pro in SharePoint 2013.

Every new release Microsoft takes huge leap towards making SharePoint as one of the most robust enterprise level products out there for IT Pros. In 2007, it was Shared Services Provider. In 2010, there were Service Applications Framework, SAML Claims Support, and Remote Blob Storage. In 2013, there are impressive list of new features which got mixed responses from seasoned SharePoint professionals.

Microsoft recently released refreshed version of TechNet IT Pro Ignite Videos for SharePoint 2013 RTM. Last winter and this spring, as I was reviewing Preview version of these videos along with SPC12 videos, I had posted various articles for What’s New in CSOM and REST API, What’s New in SocialWhat’s New in Office Web Apps, and What’s New in WCM for SharePoint 2013. It seems like with refreshed version of TechNet Videos, it would be nice to post some of my new favorite investments for IT Pros.

Here are the highlights of major IT Pro investments and architectural improvements in SharePoint 2013.

Request Management

  • Disabled by default
  • Request Management is implemented as a service instance named “Request Management”. There is no associated service application.
  • The Request Management service instance should be provisioned on every Web Server in the farm. That is, every machine that runs the SharePoint Foundation Web Application Service (SPFWA), Request Management is scoped and configured on a per Web Application basis, for each Web Application configured, there is a Request Manager. The Request Manager runs within SPFWA under SPRequestModule.
  • It is a Reverse Proxy implemented in SharePoint 2013.  It is defined by the SPRoutingReverseProxy class.  Request Management is implemented in the Http Module of SharePoint -Microsoft.SharePoint.ApplicationRuntime.SPRequestModule.
  • Request Management manages routing requests based on rules and health, Prioritizes and routes incoming requests at application level to healthy machines, routes requests for specific types like search, block requests or send request to another farm or specific server in farm
  • It’s not replacing load-balancer, trying to solve load-balancer problem of routing route requests despite web server health, it sits behind load balancer in HTTP request management
  • Resources

Distributed Cache

  • Enabled by default
  • Distributed Cache is implemented as a service instance named “Distributed Cache”. There is no associated service application. It is based on Windows Server AppFabric Cache (configured as windows service called Appfabric Caching Service), runs on all web and application servers by default where SharePoint bits are installed
  • Leveraged by Authentication Token, Task Aggregations & Work Management Service, and Social feed caching, SharePoint 2013 is so dependent on Distributed Cache that it is virtually not recommended to disable Distributed Cache.
  • Redundancy is complicated, timer job needs to run to repopulate cached content
  • You must use SharePoint shipped “Velocity” version of cache engine, You can’t independently upgrade it, Cloud based cache services like Windows Azure Cache is not supported at this time, only local cache hosts can be used
  • Resources

Shredded Storage

Licensing Model

  • Introduced flexibility on licensing model, this is based on similar model designed in SharePoint Online
  • Licenses and licenses check are per user, no longer per farm. it means, you can two different users in same farm, same web app, same site collection with 2 different licenses for 2 different user experience based on license
  • Licensing enforcement is applied to web parts, web part gallery, web templates, document libraries
  • Requires Claims Auth – claims token contains licensing info, Uses claims architecture to determine licenses structure e.g. assign enterprise CAL to AD group
  • Allows you to reduce licensing cost and able to turn on & off features based on licensing in single farm
  • Licensing Enforcement and Assignment accessible through PowerShell, Enables licensing attributes to AD security groups e.g. Enterprise CAL Users, Standard CAL Users, Office Web Apps Users AD Groups can be mapped to specific licensing CALs, This would enable mixing multiple CALs in same environment
  • Resources

Minimal Download Strategy

  • Enabled by default, MDS is SharePoint feature and scoped at the web level, Can be disabled on per SPWeb level, just set SPWeb.EnableMinimalDownload to 0
  • The Minimal Download Strategy is by default enabled on Team sites, Community sites and a few others in SharePoint 2013. Once this feature enabled, all pages for that site is rendered “through” the /_layouts/15/start.aspx page
  • Provides an new smooth navigation framework on client side, significantly improves page load performance and user perception, downloads only delta between page requests
  • OOB master pages, quick launch control, XSLT list view supports MDS, Chrome/master page area should stay static while content flickers while refreshing page, Custom controls & master pages needs to support framework
  • The MDS is not enabled on publishing sites and not compatible with publishing sites. If you enable publishing features, you don’t have to worry about MDS.
  • MDS not supported in Sandbox Web Parts
  • MDS may have adverse performance implications if some of custom coded web parts is not adhere MDS architecture.
  • Resources

Upgrade and Site Provisioning

  • System Notifications
    • Upgrading SP2010 to SP2013 shows System Status Notifications
    • Available during upgrade, read-only mode, and scheduled maintenance
    • Enables customizable integrated system status notifications
  • Improvement on Upgrade Architecture
    • Separation of Schema and Site Collection Upgrade
    • IT admins upgrades schema when they attach databases – SP2013 still runs with SP2010 experience at this stage
    • Deferred Site Collection – Anything site collection and below will be upgraded later in deferred site collection upgrade step, Once site collections are upgraded, SP2013 will run with SP2013 user experience
    • You can’t force both schema & site collection upgrade in 1 step, it has to be done separately, site collection upgrade can be done by end user or automated with PowerShell
    • SP2013 has all the SP2010 bits required to run SP2010 user experience
  • Site Collection Health Checks
    • Rule-based health checks and validation
    • Site collection level scoped tool
    • Helps addressing post-upgrade issues – missing features & templates, known issues etc.
    • Exposed to site collection administrators via site collection settings page, cmdlets for farm administrators
    • Prevents upgrade if blocking issues detected
    • Runs automatically before site collection version to version upgrade, does not run before any built to build upgrade
  • Evaluation Site Collection
    • Allows site collection admins to preview SP2013 without upgrading production site collection
    • Requesting evaluation site collection triggers “Create Upgrade Evaluation Site Collections” timer job which typically runs once a day by default
    • Enabled through a copy of production site collection, causes no read-only outage as source is snapshot
    • Takes advantage of SQL snapshots when available, uses site collection backup process if SQL snapshots are not supported
    • Available only in SQL Enterprise and SQL Developer editions
    • By default, they runs only for 30 days
  • Upgrade Throttling
    • By default, only 5 concurrent web apps and 10 concurrent content databases can be upgraded. You can change this setting for faster hardware, you can trigger 10 web apps upgrade from 2 WFES (5 web apps per 1 WFE and 10 max content databases)
  • Site Provisioning
    • Supports both SP2010 and SP2013 Site provisioning using both central admin or PowerShell, Allows users to choose experience version while selecting site collection template
    • In SP2010 backward compatibility modes, only SP2010 site templates available, all the new SP2013 features like news feed, new performance improvements like MDS are not available in SP2010 mode
  • Self-Service Site Creation
    • Enabled custom forms that should be used to create a new site, form can be in same web app or entirely in different web app even in different farm
    • Enables choice between new site collection or new sub site creation
    • Settings are scoped at the web application level
    • Allows users to select information management policies like retention policies, auditing policies etc. while creating sites or site collections, decide these policies during your internal governance framework

Service Applications

  • Review this article for recommended locations for Service Applications – http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj219591.aspx
  • Same service application framework as SP2010, You still have service applications, proxies, proxy groups, instances, databases, and federation support
  • Service Federation –  Any farm can publish, as a general rule, as long as service application has database, it can be federated, LAN Federation supported in BCS, Managed Metadata, Search, Secure Store, Machine Translation, and User Profile, WAN Federation supported in Search, Managed Metadata, and User Profile. BDC is supported but you shouldn’t do it, Machine Translation and Secure Store not supported in WAN
  • Access Services
    • Use Access 2013 to create SharePoint Apps
    • Supported only on SQL Server 2012
    • Recommendation is to use dedicated SQL instance for Access services database backend
    • SQL will hate you – It uses SQL Authentication, It uses Named Pipes, Each app creates its own database
  • App Management Service
  • Business Connectivity Services
    • Added OData Support, Now we have BDC Connections support for OData, WCF, SQL Server, and .NET assemblies
    • Added support for SharePoint Apps and new App-Scoped BDC models
  • Machine Translation Service
    • Provides programmatically translate sites, documents, pages from one language to another
    • Provides automatic translation of content using cloud based free MS translator solution, Needs Microsoft account to sign up, Supports word, HTML, and TXT
    • Cloud based machine translation service based on WAS architecture
    • Supports sync, async, and streaming data access process
    • Full extensible – full trust solutions, CSOM and REST support
  • Managed Metadata Service
    • Creation and configuration is same
    • Managed Metadata driven Navigation & WCM Integration
  • Office Web Applications
    • No longer service application, separated into new server product
    • Provides services to multiple SharePoint farms, exchange, Lync, Url accessible file servers, or 3rd party document stores
    • Improved WAC Urls – No longer very long complex URLs for sharing, Append ?Web=1 to display documents in web apps
    • Office web apps can’t be installed on SharePoint box, it’s blocked on SharePoint server
  • PowerPoint Automation Service
    • Similar service as Word Automation Service
    • Programmatically converts PPTXs to HTML, Image, or PDF read only format or Converts old PPT to PPTX
  • Search
    • Creation and configuration is same but underlying architecture is vastly different, runs six noderunner.exe with heavy dependency on RAM usage, changes how you architect your application tier
    • FAST and Enterprise Search is unified, Same UI but FAST is no longer separate product
    • Additional crawling option – continuous crawl
  • Subscription Setting Service
    • Used to manage only for multi-tenant,  Now handles App Management
  • User Profile Service, User Profile Sync Service, My Sites, and Sky Drive Pro
  • Web Analytics
    • No longer service application, new analytics platform based on search platform
    • Based on views, click through in search relevance, Use this popularity info to populate views through the Content By Search or Search Results web part e.g. Popular Communities etc.
    • Extensible for 3rd parties to build into the platform
  • Work Management Service
    • It’s task aggregation across work management systems like SharePoint, exchange, project, or Lync
    • Aggregate tasks from all SharePoint sites to your my site – My Tasks list
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