Why SharePoint 2016 Needs to Address Integration Shortcomings

Loraine Lawson
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SharePoint integration must be really hard, judging by this new infographic, “Seven Alcoholic Drinks to Imbibe as Your SharePoint Integration Project Fails.”

In fairness to Microsoft, I don’t actually know how hard it is or isn’t, since I don’t usually cover integration for individual solutions. But, this is the first time I’ve ever received a list of alcoholic drink recipes to accompany an integration project.

Adeptia made this download available ahead of the upcoming SPTechCon SharePoint Developer Days on June 24-26 in Burlingame, California.

“Unless your company has standardized on SharePoint portals and ASP.NET applications across the board and NEVER needs to connect to external partners, you are at some point going to need to integrate different types of portals and web applications,” the download begins. “SharePoint integration can be quite the painful journey, so we’re doing a public service and providing you the list of cocktails you can knock back along the way.”

Obviously, this is a fun read with what look to be real drink recipes for the Screwdriver (stage 2: Reality sets in) and Mudslide (stage 6: Down for the count). But it also highlights some of the real integration headaches for SharePoint, including:

  • Regular revisions in SharePoint’s API framework.
  • Integration problems with non-Microsoft products.
  • The necessity of writing your own point-to-point integration due to a lack of simple connectors.
  • A shortage of Microsoft.Net developers.
  • No documentation of existing code — which, to be fair, is always a problem with custom integration work.

Of course, Adeptia proposes that you avoid complete failure by investing in its solution, which is a set of pre-built connectors. It did make me wonder, though: Why is SharePoint so hard to integrate?

There’s the obvious reason, of course: Microsoft’s built it for Microsoft ecosystems with little concern for heterogeneous environments. Still, that’s not the only reason it’s a pain. In fact, SharePoint had integration problems even with other Microsoft solutions, as this 2012 post by an application architect shows.

Originally, SharePoint had a small, simple scope. It was designed to share documents (which, one might safely assume, would be Microsoft Office documents) within departments, according to Mike Mahon, CEO of Zia Consulting. It quickly evolved into a content management and repository, with many companies now using it as a primary content management system, Mahon added.

What that’s created is a situation where organizations do not actually know what typos of documents, data or information are stored on SharePoint, said author and consultant Jonathan Hassell in a TechTarget column. And that’s a big problem as organizations explore other solutions, SharePoint Online, or even the coming update to SharePoint Server 2016.

Hassell is hopeful that the release of SharePoint 2016 will address some of the current pain points, including SharePoint’s hybrid environment integration problems.

“It is a bear to set up a hybrid deployment -- and that is putting it charitably,” Hassell writes. “There are multiple directories and security tools to configure and if you change your administrator password, you have to manually sync everything again. It is a beast.”

Integration with external data sets is also a persistent problem with SharePoint, he adds. It can expose lists and simple queries, but won’t list results from BSC sources through a search.

“Limited to OData sources, other systems have to support OData endpoints,” he states. “And there are confusing Azure-based data services options that all seem to want to do things a different way. This gap should certainly be closed in the 2016 release.”

Additionally, he suggests that Microsoft add more capabilities to support how people use it — as an enterprise content management system.

Thus far, none of those have been mentioned in Microsoft’s discussion about SharePoint 2016, he adds. I’m sure he’s not the only one hoping that this is merely a talking points oversight and a true indication of what to expect in the final release.

But, just in case, you might want to keep that list of drinks handy for your SharePoint upgrade.

Loraine Lawson is a veteran technology reporter and blogger. She currently writes the Integration blog for IT Business Edge, which covers all aspects of integration technology, including data governance and best practices. She has also covered IT/Business Alignment and IT Security for IT Business Edge. Before becoming a freelance writer, Lawson worked at TechRepublic as a site editor and writer, covering mobile, IT management, IT security and other technology trends. Previously, she was a webmaster at the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and a newspaper journalist. Follow Lawson at Google+ and on Twitter.

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