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Multi Tenancy with SharePoint 2013 Hosting : What’s new and changed

clock November 29, 2012 19:14 by author Administrator

SharePoint 2013 Preview introduces a number of new elements and additional considerations for multi tenancy deployments. This article is intended as a companion to my Rational Guide to Multi Tenancy with SharePoint 2010 article series and will cover what’s new and changed in this release with respect to configuration and functionality. It is assumed you are familiar with the material in the article series.

Please note that this article applies to the SharePoint 2013 Preview release. Things are likely to change between now and the final release of SharePoint 2013. I will update this article shortly after RTM.

Fundamentally not a great deal has changed. The majority of the configuration, operations and core functionality are the same as with SharePoint 2010. However as SharePoint 2013 introduces changes to existing services along with brand new ones, these services’ degree of multi tenant awareness also changes. We must also factor in the new functionality in the core SharePoint offering as it pertains to a multi tenant deployment.  


New and Changed Service Applications

Three new Service Applications are introduced in SharePoint Server 2013, along with substantial changes to two existing service applications. Here’s a summary of how these changes impact multi tenant deployments.

App Management Service

The App Management Service is the key infrastructure enabler for the new SP Apps platform. App Management allows the configuration of the App Store, Licences, App Purchases, App Catalog, App URLs and App Permissions.

Whilst the App Management Service is not required, as SP Apps are the future of customisation within multi tenant deployments, the App Management Service should be considered a pre-requisite core service, like the Subscription Settings service application. Indeed for the App Management Service Application to function there must be a Subscription Settings service application provisioned.

The App Management Service is inherently Subscription aware and does NOT need to be provisioned in Partitioned Mode (there is no option to do so anyway).

Appropriately most of the Apps configuration “moves” to the Tenant Administration site, allowing each tenant administrator to configure their individual settings from the Marketplace section:  

The configuration of App URLs and Monitoring of Apps remains at the Farm scope, and appears exposed via Central Administration. However these pages are useless when in a multi tenancy environment! For some unknown reason Apps get it’s very own top level section in CA. Anyway the configuration of App URLs must be done via Windows PowerShell cmdlets, just like the other main tenant specific settings for MMS, BDC and UPA. This can be done at the time of provisioning or at a later date.

There’s quite some kerfuffle in the developer community about SP Apps since the release of SharePoint 2013 Preview. Ignoring all of the discussion about the new model’s strengths and weaknesses from a customisation perspective, SP Apps are a huge piece of the multi tenancy model in SharePoint 2013 and should not be underplayed. I will probably post more about SP Apps specifically over the coming months.

Translation Service

The Translation Service, also known as the Machine Translation Service, supports multi tenancy by means of its service application being created in Partition Mode. Similar to the Word Automation service application, there is no tenant specific configuration, and the service is managed at the farm level. However just like the Word Automation service, its database is effectively a queue and therefore needs to be partition or tenant aware.

Work Management Service

The Work Management Service does not store any data, and therefore does not need to be created in Partition Mode.

Search Service

The Search Service in SharePoint 2013 is completely re-architected. The provisioning of the service application and it’s constituent components changes significantly, however from a multi tenancy perspective all we need to do is create the service application in Partition Mode as we did with SharePoint Server 2010. What is brand new and you should like this, is that unlike SharePoint Server 2010 which did not expose any tenant specific configuration, Tenant Administration now provides access to all of the key settings. It’s a beautiful thing!

Many of the *.EnterpriseSearch* Windows PowerShell cmdlets also are partition aware and can be used to automate some of the above configuration. Note the Export and Import Search Configuration options above.  

User Profile Service

The User Profile Service hasn’t changed at all with respect to multi tenancy, however it is important to note some of the critical aspects once again. The related bug where a UPA created with a Windows PowerShell session not running as the Farm Account prevents provisioning of the UPS service instance, has NOT been fixed. We still need to use the workaround here. There is also no change to the support of only a single OU per tenant for Synchronization. Furthermore it appears as if Active Directory Import mode does not understand Subscription IDs and therefore cannot be used with a Partition Mode UPA.

All other service applications remain unchanged in terms of their configuration for multi tenancy. Of course where features and functionality have changed (e.g. MMS and BDC) those changes are naturally also available from Tenant Administration. Indeed some of the Search configuration above takes you to the Tenant Manage Term Store page.  


Additional Functional Elements

Feature Packs

Feature Packs provide the ability to constrain the Features available for a given tenant. The fundamental capability isn’t changed in any way here, but of course the Features in the product have. Thus the old Feature Pack definitions for SKUs are no longer valid. A new set of feature pack definitions are required encompassing all of the new Features in SharePoint 2013.

Information Rights Management Integration

Information Rights Management (IRM) integration can now be configured to be tenant aware, thus providing the ability for each tenant to have different IRM settings. This will be incredibly useful especially in federated IRM scenarios. At the Farm Level we can configure multi tenant support, and we then can add tenant specific settings as part of the tenant provisioning or at a later stage. IRM will then be available to our tenants within Library Settings.  



The good news here is that the large majority of configuration remains unchanged. With the exception of the creation of the Search service application, all of my previous Windows PowerShell scripts can be used as is, with no modifications. The other changes are simply additions to those scripts.

Configuring the App Management Service

Nothing exciting here, we simply start the service instance and then create the service application and it’s proxy. This is the exact same pattern as used in my previous Windows PowerShell scripts for the other services. We do not need to provide a –PartitionMode parameter.

Configuring the Translation Service

Again, using the same pattern, we simply start the service instance and then create the service application and proxy. This time we add the –PartitionMode parameter. However, there is an “interesting” aspect to this guy. Creating the service application automatically creates a proxy, but it does not allow you specify a proxy name. It just uses the same name as used for the service application! If you care about consistent naming in your farm (and you should!) you have to delete that proxy and create another one, this time with the name you desire. This continues the trend of wildly inconsistent cmdlet behaviour in SharePoint!

Configuring the Search Service

As the Search service has had a complete overhaul, the old script is no longer valid. The good news is that the Windows PowerShell for working with the Search service and it’s constituent topology elements has been refined. The following script replaces the old version for deploying on a single server farm. Of course we would need to do more work in the topology arena if deploying in a real farm with articulated search roles. The only multi tenancy aspect here is the use of the –Partitioned parameter when creating the service application and proxy.

Configuring (or not) Feature Packs

I don’t currently have a set of Feature Pack definitions corresponding to the SKUs of SharePoint 2013. I am not entirely sure I will actually produce them. The use of feature packs to represent SKUs is really only useful from a demonstration perspective, and it’s likely I would make mistakes. I am not the guy to be defining which of the vast number of features included are part of individual SKUs. Obviously if you are running multi tenancy in the real world and are using Feature Packs, you will already have a Feature Pack management toolset, and that will work with no changes for SharePoint 2013 Preview.

Configuring Information Rights Management (IRM)

IRM support for multi tenancy can be enabled via Central Administration or the updated Windows PowerShell cmdlets. In Central Administration, simply navigate to the IRM settings page as normal:

Central Administration –> Security –> (Information Policy) Configure information rights management

Then select the RMS server as normal and check the Check this box in multi-tenant configurations to allow tenants to configure tenant level IRM settings check box.

In Windows PowerShell we can use the updated Set-SPIRMSettings cmdlet:

There are no configuration options for IRM within Tenant Administration, so this configuration must be applied using the new Windows PowerShell *.SPSiteSubscriptionIRMConfig cmdlets. We could also build this into the tenant provisioning function of my previous scripts.



This article covers a number of new elements and considerations for multi tenancy deployments introduced with SharePoint 2013 Preview along with the necessary changes to the configuration and Windows PowerShell scripts from my Rational Guide to Multi Tenancy with SharePoint 2010 article series. To the cloud, baby!

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SharePoint 2013 Hosting :: Things to consider before Upgrading to SharePoint 2013

clock November 22, 2012 14:21 by author Administrator

SharePoint 2013 certainly has some great new functionality and features that you may find enticing, and it may tempt you to expedite the deployment of SharePoint 2013. A few of those temptations include the FAST search technology integrated into the out-of-the-box (OOB) SharePoint search functionality.

SharePoint 2013 also includes several enhancements to the social computing environment, such as status updates, newsfeeds, mentions, as well as improvements in mobile device integration and e-Discovery.

Upgrade Methods for 2013

Another big change is in the upgrade methods for SharePoint 2013. The in-place upgrade option no longer exists for SharePoint 2013 so the only upgrade method, which was always the preferred upgrade method in SharePoint 2010, is the database attach upgrade.

However, there are several improvements in the SharePoint 2013 database attach upgrade process. These improvements include: upgrading service applications, a Site Health Checker feature for site collections, and the option to upgrade site collections after upgrading the database that contains the site collections.

These enhancements streamline the upgrade process and provide a more flexible upgrade process. However, the decision to upgrade to SharePoint 2013 and the process used to upgrade will depend heavily upon your current version of SharePoint and whether or not you are already planning an upgrade from SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010.

Getting Up to Speed

If you are running SharePoint 2007, you will have to perform a two-step process to upgrade to SharePoint 2013. The first step is to upgrade to SharePoint 2010, and the second step is to upgrade from SharePoint 2010 to SharePoint 2013. At this point you may be wondering, “What is it going to cost to perform the interim upgrade to SharePoint 2010?” The answer is, “It depends.”

If you already have the required hardware for SharePoint 2010, then you will most likely meet the hardware requirements for SharePoint 2013, although I would suggest you beef up the RAM for SharePoint 2013. The core software requirements are slightly different: Server 2008 R2 SP1 or Server 2012, and SQL Server 2008 R2 SP1 or SQL Server 2012. If you already have these, you are set for both the SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013 installations.

You may be thinking, “But wait! That means I need to obtain the SharePoint Server 2010 software to create the interim farm? I certainly don’t want to buy SharePoint 2010 just to upgrade to SharePoint 2013.” The good news is that you can locate a standard or enterprise trial copy of SharePoint 2010 from the Microsoft Download Center, and use this to build the interim SharePoint 2010 farm.

After you have upgraded your databases to SharePoint 2010, you can then copy them to your SharePoint 2013 farm and upgrade them to SharePoint 2013. By default, when you upgrade your databases to SharePoint 2013, the site collections contained in the databases remain in a true SharePoint 2010 format, not just visually, but functionally as well.

Identify Issues

This is where the Site Health Checker comes into play; you can run the Site Health Checker on the SharePoint 2010 site collections contained in the SharePoint 2013 databases to determine if there are any issues with the site collection prior to upgrading it to SharePoint 2013.

However, I think something even more helpful is that you have the option of creating a SharePoint 2013 evaluation copy of your SharePoint 2010 site collection. You can now see how the site collection will look and perform in SharePoint 2013 without disrupting your SharePoint 2010 environment. After resolving any issues discovered in your SharePoint 2010 site collection, you are then ready to upgrade it to SharePoint 2013.

These two options make the upgrade process from SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2013 quite easy, and the options help you perform the upgrade at a pace that is comfortable for your users, yet it still allows the farm administrators to complete the farm upgrade to SharePoint 2013 when they are ready.

For organizations that are close to upgrading from SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010 in the next few months, consider pausing the rollout of SharePoint 2010 and waiting for the SharePoint 2013 release. This will allow you to take advantage of all the new functionality when using the upgrade process mentioned above.

While You Wait

With that said, you may be asking what you can do during the few months that you are waiting to upgrade to SharePoint 2013 from SharePoint 2007 or SharePoint 2010. How about building a governance plan or improving an outdated governance plan? You could also take some time to clean up your SharePoint data so only current and relevant data is migrated to SharePoint 2013. This time could also be used to review and update the organization of your SharePoint information to ensure a user-friendly environment in SharePoint 2013.

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SharePoint Foundation 2013 Hosting - SharePoint 2013 workflows in Visio

clock November 12, 2012 17:12 by author Administrator

Visualizing processes is at the heart of Visio's DNA and in Visio 2010 we took a big step forward in that area by including support for SharePoint workflows. This lets users create a workflow in Visio, import it into SharePoint Designer, and make it an executable workflow on SharePoint.  In the new Visio we've added SharePoint 2013 workflows and made SharePoint Designer an even more integral part of creating workflows visually.

What are SharePoint workflows?

If you're not familiar with SharePoint workflows, they are process flows that use pre-defined common activities (such as send email) that can be executed as an automated process on a SharePoint server. This workflow could represent any of a number of business processes, such as a credit approval process, document review feedback, document approval, etc.  In Visio 2010 we added a template that would allow you to design a workflow visually, then export your workflow to SharePoint Designer, where you could add parameters to your workflow and publish it.

The new Visio still includes SharePoint 2010 workflows that you can use as you have in the past, but it adds the new Microsoft SharePoint 2013 Workflow template.

Some major changes

Once you create a new SharePoint 2013 workflow, instead of a blank canvas you'll see that every new workflow starts with an empty container called a "stage". Support for stages was a highly requested feature that allows you to simplify complex workflows. Each stage contains all of the actions that make up that logical section of the workflow. Simple workflows might be only a single stage, while complex workflows could have many stages. Within stages, "step" containers allow you to further organize actions. While all actions must be within a stage, decision shapes can determine the flow both within and between stages.

With Visio open, if you look at the stencil pane at the left, you'll see all new shapes.  These are not just a visual update; SharePoint 2013 workflow actions and conditions have been updated to support .Net 4.0 workflows.  We've also added a new stencil, Components, where you'll see the shapes to support stages and steps as well as loops, another new highly requested feature.

Along with adding new workflow elements, we've eliminated the export step to save workflow for use in SharePoint Designer.  SharePoint 2013 workflows you have saved as new Visio Drawing (VSDX) files can be opened in either Visio or SharePoint Designer with no export step needed.

Let's take a look at how this all works together.

An example of creating a workflow

Imagine that your team wants to create a workflow to track credit approvals of your customers.  As a first step you decide to rough out the high-level process.  To make this easier, after creating your new workflow you first go to the Process tab and click Stage View on the SharePoint Workflow section.  It creates a Default Stage View page that uses Simple Stage shapes to represent each stage. Since you hadn't added any additional stages, all you have is a single, unnamed stage, which looks like this:

Now you can add additional Simple Stage shapes and Conditions to flesh out your workflow until you have the overall flow of the workflow designed.  Then, by selecting the shapes and typing, you can edit the names to reflect the actual stage and condition names and add "yes" and "no" labels to the decision branches.  When you're done, it looks more like:

If it's a complex workflow, at this point you would probably want to review the workflow with your team, so you could use the new collaboration features to get feedback on the workflow and make sure you have correctly defined the major stages.

Once you're sure that the diagram is as you want it, you can go back to the Process tab and click Create Workflow and Visio builds you a diagram where empty stage containers replace your stage view shapes, which gives you a framework for your workflow.

Now you'll need to flesh out each stage by adding the proper workflow actions and conditions.

If you look at the Actions stencil you'll see a lot of different possible actions, such as "Send an email" and "Create list item".  Each of these actions represent an action that can be part of the steps that are executed on the SharePoint server when the workflow is running.  You can combine these actions to determine what happens in each stage of your workflow. Let's focus in on one of the simpler stages, the Bankruptcy Check to see how building a stage works.

Since our stage view had the names of each of the stages, the generated workflow already has a stage called "Bankruptcy check".  We can zoom in on that stage to make our work simpler.  The first step we want is to assign a task to the person who will do the research into possible bankruptcies.  This is as simple as dragging the "Assign a task" shape onto the stage and dropping it on the line you see running across the stage.  Connector splitting will break the connector where you dropped the shape and reattach connectors on each side.

You can then rename the action so that it's more meaningful.  The bankruptcy check has several other steps in it, including a condition that changes the execution of the workflow depending on whether there has been a bankruptcy or not.  You simply add the additional shapes to reflect the flow of the decision, add the names, add labels to indicate which decision connector is "yes" and which is "no", and you're done.  You'll end up with a stage that looks like this:

Hint:  If you design your workflow so that "yes" decisions go to the right and "no" decisions go down, your diagram will be more consistent and Visio's routing engine will do a better job whenever automatic layout occurs.

Once you've filled out the entire workflow, used collaboration to get comments and make any adjustments, and you have a workflow that you all agree properly models the steps you want your SharePoint workflow to execute, then you can make the workflow executable.  For that you use SharePoint Designer.

In Visio 2010, workflows had to be exported using an intermediate file format that was used only to interoperate with SharePoint Designer.  Once the file was opened in SharePoint Designer, adding parameters was a matter of editing text in a programming interface. We've simplified both steps in this version.

Since there's no export step, you simply need to open your saved workflow in SharePoint Designer; Visio's new Visio Drawing (VSDX) file format lets you seamlessly move between Visio and SharePoint Designer.  

SharePoint Designer also now hosts Visio as an ActiveX control, which lets you use the familiar Visio interface to visually edit workflows in SharePoint Designer and add parameters using action tag dialogs if both the new SharePoint Designer and the new Visio are installed on your computer.

First you use the action tag dropdown to select the action you want:

Then you set the properties using the Action Designer.

After you do this for each of the actions, you can then set the conditions for each of the decision shapes:

When you're done, the finished workflow can be published so that it will run on the SharePoint Server.

For more information on how you add parameters and publish a workflow in SharePoint Designer, take a look at Sam Chung's blog post, Introducing the new Visual Designer.

In summary

The new Visio lets you design a SharePoint 2013 workflow from an outline to a finished diagram using simple drag and drop and basic editing.  You can share and collaborate on the diagram to work with your team to perfect and finalize the workflow.  Since SharePoint Designer now supports visual design using the Visio diagramming engine, editing and parameterizing can now be done with a visual interface.

If you haven't already, download the Visio Preview and try out the new SharePoint 2013 template



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Sharepoint 2013 Hosting

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