Planning and Designing Service Application Architecture – Part 1

In the 2nd SharePoint Saturday Vietnam, I was honored to speak about how to plan and design Service Application Architecture in order to meet business requirement. This topic focused on the new capabilities of Service Application, which kicked Share Service Provider out of SharePoint 2010 and then “attacked” the design of logical Service Application architecture. I had intended to write  the basic of this process after finished speaking there, I haven’t had time to do what my expectation is calling me until now.

I’m humbled to say that the topic is level 100 ITPro and also I recommend that you should learn from great resource that I will put at the last topic.

I want to split my topic into 4 parts:

  • What Share Services Provider made SharePoint administrator dizzy.
  • Adventuring Service Applications in SharePoint 2010.
  • Planning Service Application for business requirement
  • Designing logical Service Application Architecture.

Share Services Provider made SharePoint administrator dizzy

I would like to invite you to go back in time  to 4 years ago when we were welcoming the new capabilities and improvement in MOSS 2007 as well as hearing “good-bye SharePoint Portal Server 2003” from IT enthusiasts. I spent around 30 minutes in order to rummage information of Shared Service in SharePoint Portal Server 2003 through Internet which is indispensable to IT geeks. I know that you were happy after you heard about the release of MOSS 2007, which had a number of great improvements in comparison to  those of SharePoint Server Portal 2003. Did you want to forget Shared Service at that time? It looks as if we were Italia football fanatics, who loved Juventus FC as well as Del Piero, Pavel Nedved, Buffon until one event, which was Calciopoli, created a stir among football folks. Then you would want to forget the players and then switch to Premium League? “Farewell, farewell, fare well Shared Service….” Just kidding…Am I reminding you of Shared Service Provider in MOSS 2007? Of course, I want you to think of it again. Take your time in order to revise Shared Service Provider again.

How does SSP make SharePoint administrator dizzy? Ok, nothing is perfect. I mean that there are pros and cons in SSP. Maybe, I should say that pros are what you like as well as cons are what you dislike. As you know, MOSS 2007 provided the SSP to deploy a number of productivity services, such as Business Data Catalog, which allows you to connect to external system, or Excel Service, Office SharePoint Server Search etc.  Do you think that SSP is monolithic? I mean that all your productivity services must be available to all Web application. In other words, you can’t have a separate service for one Web application. For example, if your Finance department wants access your financial analysis, revenues by using Excel Service and Marketing department needs to access to BDC in order to connect Dynamic CRM, you must provide each department employee with access to both in the farm. This wastes resources and limits the security functionality in your organization.

You are beginning to be uncomfortable after listening what I mentioned. But let me keep showing what SharePoint administrator should know and acknowledge the truth of SSP. You only have one SSP for each farm, which means you manage a single of failure. If your SSP fail, all users will lose all functionalities of SSP. It’s a truth that you should acknowledge.

What’s elseeeeee?”  Please calm down!!! The last one is that you can’t deploy granular services to individual business group, thus you will give services to users who do not need.

Adventuring Service Applications in SharePoint 2010

In previous section, you knew what SSP made SharePoint administrator dizziness. In this section, I will give you tranquillizer, which will cure you of dizzy. Would you like it?

Above all, SharePoint 2010 provides more Service Applications than SSP and a set of great functions for your organization regarding business solutions. The following information will help you to define functionality in order to put it into planning worksheet, which I will share later. However,  I recommend that you should learn it cautiously because  I only give you a brief summary as follows

  • Access Services: it allows you to view, edit and interact with Microsoft Access 2010 database in a browser.
  • Business Connectivity Service: you can use it in order to connect your SharePoint system to external system, such as Dynamic CRM, Dynamic AX, Oracle.
  • Excel Service: Viewing and Interacting with Microsoft Excel files in a browser is one of benefits, which needs to be used when you go out of office.
  • Manage Metadata Service: this new service application allows you to manage Term, Keywords. Also, Manage Metadata Service is used to publish Content Type across site collection. In short, Manage Metadata Service is actually service application for your Enterprise Content Management solution.
  • PerformancePoint: Presenting interactive and visual dashboard are what your boss would expect. Also, PerformancePoint allows you to implement KPI (Key Performance Indicator), Scorecard and report, which are necessary to operate your organization effectively.
  • Search: Implementing Search in order to find your content is a part of Enterprise Content Management solution. Also, Search allows you to find people inside organization.
  • Secure Store Service: it provides single sign-on authentication to access multiple applications or services.
  • Usage and Heath Data Collection: collects farm wide usage and health data and provides the view various usage and health reports. As a SharePoint administrator, it is  actually service application that you must consider.
  • User Profile: It allows you to implement Social Network by using My Site, Profile page, Social Tagging and other social features.
  • Visio Graphics Service: you can view Microsoft Visio diagram in Web browser by using this service application.
  • Web Analytics: it provides Web Service interfaces.
  • State Service: provides temporary storage of user session data for SharePoint Server components.
  • Word Automation Services: performs automated bulk document conversions.
  • Microsoft SharePoint Foundation Subscription Settings Service: this service application tracks subscription IDs and settings for services that are deployed in partitioned mode. This is a new functionccalled Multi-Tenant, which allows you to configure to share data across Tenants or to partition data for each tenant. It is only implemented through Windows PowerShell.

SharePoint Foundation 2010, which is free version, only has 2 available Service Applications: Usage and Health Data Collection and Business Connectivity Service.

Before deploying Service Applications, you need to understand components of Service application. There are 3 components that you should document once planning your Service Application architecture.

  • Service Application Connection (aka Proxy): When you create a service application, you create a service application connection, which is known as a proxy. I mean that a proxy is automatically created for a service application while the service application is created via Central Administration. One thing you should know is that a proxy is a virtual link used to connect Web application to Service application.
  • Service Application Proxy Group: The benefit for SharePoint administrator is that Service application is grouped together through proxy group. There are two types of proxy group including Default and Custom. By default, all service applications you create are in Default group. I mean that all users in Site collections  of Web application that consume services from this group. Otherwise, you can create Custom group in order to select your service that you want for a specific Web application.
  • Database: In MOSS 2007, each SSP has 2 databases including SSP database and search database. Because of its inflexibility, SSP database seems to reduce administrative tasks for DBAs, however you can’t use separate database in case you need to implement security policy for your organization.  One of the big challenges for DBAs, who are familiar with MOSS 2007, is the larger number of database that are created and associated with each Service Application.  However not every Service Application stores its data.

Right now, it’s time for me to give you the tranquillizer. Is Service Application better than SSP? I would like to compare Service Application with SSP but let me do it later. You will be amazed at my comparison. Firstly, you can deploy granular services, delivering only the services that are requested for each Web application. For example, you have 2 department Web applications that are using the same Default group. However, the Finance department needs to secure their information, such as revenue, exchange rate, financial analysis and so on, you definitively can do it by creating new instance Service Application and then associate it with Finance department.

Administrators will be happy if their infrastructure or something is centralized in order to manage effectively. SharePoint 2010 provides effective local management by delegating administration of Service Applications via Central Administration. I mean you can delegate a specific user as Service Application administrator in security scenario as  the following demonstration image. I’m just permitted to access Application Management namely Managed Metadata Service.

To improve performance, you can deploy multiple instances of a service application for the same Web Application. For example, your manager want to improve Excel render in Web browser, you can create new instance of Excel Service in the same Web application that is connected with existing Excel Service connection.

SharePoint 2010 allows you to share Service Applications across farm. Using this new functionality is to reduce your resource and centralize solution in one place. For example, suppose your organization belongs to Enterprise group, thus you have 4 farms for different goals, such as publishing content solution, Collaboration or Department. If you create new instance of Service Application for each farm, you will find it difficult to manage Service applications effectively. As I mentioned, you can centralize cross-farm capable Service application.

Not all Service Application can be shared across farm. When do you share Service applications across farm? Please consider the following reasons:

  • You want to minimize management.
  • You want to centralize Service application to manage easily.
  • Some Service applications need to be shared because of organization-wide policy, such as you want to centralize term, information by using Managed Metadata Service, which should be shared across farm regarding various farms.

The last one thing you should know is extensibility that you can utilize in order to deploy third-party Service Applications on SharePoint environment, such as Microsoft Project Server 2010.

It still remains new functionality that is Multi Tenancy. You can refer to great resources:

Summing up

Service Applications is like a buffet that you can select what you want to eat in dining-table. SSP is monolithic while Service Application is clay. It’s hard to model monolithic things but you can shape a clay depending on you requirement.

Personally, I think that releasing Service Application is one of Microsoft’s strategy because you, who are SharePoint 2007 Administrator, will be interested in functionality of Service Application that not only resolve your issues but also leverage businesses for your organization. Now, I know that you will consider it carefully and then upgrade to SharePoint 2010.

Next part, we will discuss together how to plan Service Application architecture as well as design in order to meet business requirement.


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