A recurring question among my students and some of my clients is the mysterious relationship between WSS 3.0 and MOSS 2007: when might you choose one product over the other?
Popular Misconception #1: “I can’t have MOSS and WSS. They’re mutually exclusive.”
Simply put, MOSS is a superset of WSS.
WSS 3.0 – Windows SharePoint Server – is the core site provisioning engine and development framework which is licensed at no further cost if you have Windows Server 2003/2008.
WSS provides the main site provisioning functionality – the engine for turning templates and definitions into a new instance of a site. This allows you as an administrator to download, design or buy a site definition or template, and then create sites based on those on demand.
WSS also provides the feature framework. This allows developers to package up reusable components as units called Features. As an administrator, you can once again download, design or buy suitable Features from various different vendors. Features wrap up things such as Web Parts – the composable on-screen unit of functionality that you can rearrange and place on different WSS pages within a site.
There are a number of brilliant features that WSS has out of the box. Wiki, Blog, Document Libraries, Calendars, Tasks and Lists to name but a few.
From a developer perspective, WSS is ASP.NET with a whole load of useful framework add-ons (such as being able to create Lists and Libraries without writing code) that enables me to deliver useful collaborative web applications quicker and more reliably.
Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 – MOSS – on the other hand, is the product with a separate SKU and price tag. It can cost a few thousand per server for minimal functionality, all the way up to £30K and above for other features such as an public-facing Internet site.
MOSS, at its heart, is just a collection of really cool features. Some more valuable than others:
Business Data Catalog – this allows a “zero coding” solution to republish existing line of business apps (Siebel, SAP, etc – or even any home-grown app) and expose it in new ways through SharePoint. It also allows you to configure how you’d like to make that data searchable.
Excel Services – everything from Excel Web Access :- server controlled, HTML only, browser friendly, read only access to your Document Library of corporate spreadsheets; through to Excel Web Services:- a fantastic way of scalably running business logic tied up in spreadsheets on the server, even using “grid” computing (the HPC initiative from Microsoft).
InfoPath Forms Server – InfoPath forms rendered as ASPX (HTML) in the browser with pretty high fidelity. InfoPath is a great environment for less technical users to create extremely functional forms using the InfoPath Office 2007 client. It’s also a great platform for developers to use to via Visual Studio 2008. These can be used for data capture, interacting with workflow and driving business processes.
Records Center – a fully featured records management server complete with a routing engine for documents. You only need one of these in your organisation (unless your taxonomy demands different) but documents can be sent to it from an WSS/MOSS server on your estate.
My Sites – Web 2.0 features for the Enterprise; lets users create a profile page for themselves that can make visible a user’s colleagues, documents they’ve created, free-busy information and a whole load more.
Audiences – You can also target content to specific audiences, showing different content for different types of user. An audience is a set of rules that define things like “member of the Sales group in AD” or “users with ‘Marketing’ in their job title”. A timed job turns these rules into lists of real people, and the Web Part framework allows you to specify target audiences for content.
The list of features goes on…
Popular Misconception #2: “I only need one feature from MOSS, so I need to buy it all.”
Only some of these features are so ground breaking that you couldn’t build them yourself. In theory, you could write them as Features yourself on top of WSS 3.0 – but I find that Microsoft has more Research & Development dollars than I have, so it often makes sense to go with MOSS features where appropriate.
If you genuinely only require a subset of these features, then it comes down to a cost-benefit analysis. If you could write a feature yourself for substantially less than the cost of MOSS, it may be worthwhile to build the functionality you require as a bespoke, custom software development.
Popular Misconception #3: “If I need any degree of functionality out of the box, I’ve got to go with MOSS.”
While you’re investigating, it’s worth checking out a few giveaways from Microsoft:
The Core Application templates from Microsoft –
The “Fantastic Forty” / “Fantastic 40” WSS templates from Microsoft –
The “Splendid Seven” / “Splendid 7” MOSS templates from Microsoft –
These give you a lot of functionality; some require WSS only, some require MOSS. A couple of screenshots follow.
|Business Performance Reporting template in WSS||Sales Account Manager My Site Template in MOSS|
If you’d like to see some of these in action, the Fantastic Forty are installed live at www.wssdemo.com for you to play with.