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Microsoft draws SharePoint road map

The next update to Microsoft's SharePoint line of portal and collaboration software will integrate the products with the company's .net framework and tie them tightly to Microsoft's other server software, Microsoft said yesterday.

New versions of Microsoft's SharePoint Portal Server and SharePoint Team Services are not due until mid-2003, according to SharePoint product manager Trina Seinfeld.

The company timed the release of its road map for the products to coincide with the opening of the Delphi Group's Spring Enterprise Portal and Web Services Conference in California. Pricing and licensing details for the new versions are not yet available.

First released in April 2001 in conjunction with Microsoft's Office XP launch, SharePoint Portal Server has sold 3 million seat licences, while SharePoint Team Services has been used for thousands of collaborative Web sites, according to Microsoft.

The next SharePoint versions will natively support Extensible Markup Language (XML) Web services and allow developers to customise portals with Microsoft's Visual Studio .Net.

SharePoint Portal Server will be integrated with several other Microsoft products, including its BizTalk Server and Content Management Server (CMS), extending functionality introduced last week, when Microsoft released a free integration pack to tie together SharePoint and CMS.

Linking SharePoint and CMS allows users to access documents quickly through SharePoint and publish them through CMS, according to Microsoft.

Integrating SharePoint with BizTalk, which is used to connect applications from various vendors, will enable single sign-on to numerous applications and increase levels of personalisation for portal users, Seinfeld said.

BizTalk Server offers adapters for integrating some 300 applications, including software from SAP, Oracle, PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards.

The SharePoint product line update will also bolster the software's scalability and robustness, Seinfeld said.

Ferris Research had criticised the initial version of SharePoint Portal Server in a report last April, saying poor load-balancing support was a particularly troubling flaw.

With Microsoft's various product announcements pointing towards an integrated .net future, the company's SharePoint road map is unsurprising, according to Ferris Research analyst Michael Sampson.

Nor is Microsoft's move to use the update to bolster the software's reliability. The company traditionally tackles enterprise-user concerns in versions two and three of its products, Ferris wrote.

"Organisations that need to move ahead immediately should proceed with shipping products from others vendors," said Sampson.

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