I love working with SharePoint Server because there is never a dull moment on the job; the product is so rich and varied, and requires considerable knowledge of other systems and services, such as Active Directory, DNS, networking, SSL, SQL Server, etc. Working with SharePoint Server is a guarantee of learning something new nearly every day. On this day I discover a truly unique SharePoint error message.
I am performing routine maintenance on a SharePoint 2016 farm, cleaning up deprecated service accounts, to bring the farm into alignment with our project’s platform architecture security model. Using Central Admin (running on port 2016 of course!) at one point I need to refresh a page like so many times in a day but this time it comes with a little surprise, the page returns completely blank, with the bare minimum possible HTML. Whoa, what is going on?!
Well, I think, maybe it is just transient, so I hit the F5 refresh to get a clearer sense of the status of my SharePoint farm. Ooo ee, HTTP 404 Not Found. Eek, Central Admin is DEAD!
How CloudShare has enabled me to contribute to SharePoint community projects
Until recently if you wanted to contribute to an open source or community-based software project in your spare / volunteer time it often meant having to build a full-scale software development environment on your home / personal computer, including substantial CPU cores / RAM / disk hardware and numerous software licenses, with a potential cost of thousands of dollars. Fortunately the recent rapid growth in cloud-based IaaS / PaaS offerings such as CloudShare, Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services to name but a few, has dramatically changed this situation. Now the software hobbyist or software engineering professional volunteering their time can contribute to nearly any project with no more equipment than a modern web browser.
These cloud-based IaaS / PaaS offerings are a huge boon especially for community projects targeting enterprise software systems such as Microsoft SharePoint Server and Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Both SharePoint Server 2013 and the upcoming 2016 versions have hardware requirements that generally exceeded the specs of most home office computer equipment, for example a single server farm with all services requires 24GB RAM. Furthermore, when your focus is on rapidly enhancing a community project then the time and effort to install, configure, tune, and patch server software such as the operating system, database server, and SharePoint Server is an overhead cost that does not directly advance the project.
Two important consideration when I’m volunteering my spare time on an open source or community project are:
- Ready availability of a pre-configured virtual machine suited to the community project’s technology stack – so I don’t have to spend hours or days building up a standard development environment before I can even begin making my volunteer contribution
- Rapid provisioning and resumption of the virtual machine – which allows me to eke out useful contributions in spare moments of 20-30 minutes at a time
For my cloud-based custom software development platform I chose the CloudShare Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) product because it offers the best fit for me as an independent software developer.
Like any savvy Internaut I am vigilant to identify and delete spam email so I always carefully review any unexpected item that lands in my inbox before clicking on it. I was suspicious when this email appeared the other day as I am not an Instagram user:
I’ve blacked out personal identifying information in these screen snaps.
My first thought was this item is not a legitimate email from Instagram but I couldn’t find any obvious indication of this. The structure and format of the email and all the links seemed to indicate it was legitimate. I even looked at the message source; the headers and delivery routing all seemed to be appropriate given my limited knowledge of such things:
A CloudShare hosted environment is a great way to quickly and easily provision virtual machines for demo and testing. In order to present realistic demo and test scenarios you will want a variety of Active Directory user accounts and SharePoint user profiles including My Sites profile information.
A brand new CloudShare environment virtual machine comes with only a few system accounts defined, eg Administrator. You can certainly develop and provision additional user accounts and profiles yourself, along with the scripts to repeat the provisioning each time your environment is refreshed. However, this will take time and effort, which you would probably rather spend on your core business activities. So why not leverage and re-purpose a ready-built alternative from Microsoft.
Microsoft publishes “content packs” to provision several of its popular demo environments (WingTip, etc) that you may have seen at the SharePoint Conference and in other training and demo presentations. These content packs generally include all the installers, scripts, and user accounts data files necessary to fully automate deployment, configuration and provisioning of the various bits of server infrastructure.
In our case we have the server infrastructure already deployed and configured thanks to CloudShare. So we are going to cherry pick out of the content packs just what is necessary to provision a predefined set of user accounts into Active Directory and user profiles into SharePoint. This will save us quite a bit of time over developing similar capability from scratch.
Before starting, download the required content packs from CodePlex. From the SharePoint 2013 Business Intelligence Demo Builds with SQL Server 2012 SP1 CodePlex project,
download the following two content packs and extract their zip archives:
Don’t be confused by the name of this CodePlex project. The various content packs in this project can be used somewhat independently of one another, for our purpose to provision Active Directory user accounts and SharePoint user profiles in a CloudShare environment SharePoint farm.
Come out to hear me present at the IIBA Ottawa-Outaouais Breakfast Roundtable this coming Thursday, May 1 at 7:30am on the topic of “Is a Business Analyst required on SharePoint projects?”
SharePoint offers the promise of instant functionality for all sorts of business needs: collaboration, document management, Internet/intranet web content management, search, business intelligence, etc. In addition there are seemingly endless possibilities for configuration and customization, much of it easily accessible to business and power users. Do SharePoint deployments and customizations need formal requirements gathering, business modeling, and functional analysis as part of the project plan? Or is it all about the technical infrastructure and IT configuration? Let’s discuss some real-world project scenarios and share our experiences to answer this question.
This is an informal, interactive event, the first 30 minutes is for open networking, followed by the structured roundtable at 8:00am. The event is free and open to everyone whether or not you are a member of IIBA, the International Institute of Business Analysis.
Come out to hear me present at SharePoint Saturday Ottawa 2013 this coming Saturday, November 23 at 8:30am on the topic of “Practical SharePoint 2010/2013 for the .NET dev: Crash course on coding in SharePoint for the .NET dev, what is different and what tools you need to have.”
In this session you will learn how to transfer your .NET experience into effective designing and coding for SharePoint 2010/2013. Learn what tools and tips will help make the transition easier.
Some topics we will cover:
- 2013 app model vs packages & features
- APIs – client-side, server-side, OData/REST,
- getting data & documents into and out of SharePoint
- LINQ in & for SharePoint
- managed metadata vs code tables vs lists
Come out to hear me present at the Ottawa IT Community on Thursday, November 7th at 5:45pm on the topic of “Cloud-based development for .NET / SharePoint using CloudShare and Team Foundation Service.”
Cloud-based developer environments are a hot topic these days. Why bother hosting, managing and licensing dev project VMs and software yourself when they are often only required for a few months. Explore the possibilities with CloudShare for your .NET / SharePoint development environment and Team Foundation Service for your TFS infrastructure.
CloudShare is offering a door prize for this event: a free one (1) year subscription for an 8GB environment. Be sure to attend for your chance to win.
The presentation will take place at the Microsoft Canada office in Ottawa at 100 Queen Street, Suite 500.