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Exploring SharePoint 2013 Part 8 : BI – What’s New?

Business intelligence (BI) in SharePoint 2013 provides comprehensive BI tools that integrate across Microsoft Office applications and other Microsoft technologies. These BI tools are: Excel 2013, Excel Services in SharePoint 2013, PerformancePoint Services in SharePoint Server 2013, Visio Services in...

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Exploring SharePoint 2013 Part 8 : BI – What’s New?

Posted by Kevin Coetzee | Posted in 1. SharePoint 2013, 3. Business Intelligence, Powerpivot / Excel | Posted on 21-01-2013


Business intelligence (BI) in SharePoint 2013 provides comprehensive BI tools that integrate across Microsoft Office applications and other Microsoft technologies. These BI tools are: Excel 2013, Excel Services in SharePoint 2013, PerformancePoint Services in SharePoint Server 2013, Visio Services in SharePoint, SharePoint 2013, and Microsoft SQL Server.

  1. Excel BI

Excel BI provides the capabilities to analyze and visually explore data of any size, and to integrate and show interactive solutions. In SharePoint Server 2013, Excel BI offers certain new features to support business intelligence applications.
These include the following:

  • In-Memory BI Engine (IMBI): The In Memory multidimensional data analysis engine (IMBI), also known as the Vertipaq engine, allows for almost instant analysis of millions of rows and is a fully integrated feature in the Excel client.
  • Power View Add-in for Excel: Power View (“Crescent”) enables users to visualize and interact with modeled data by using highly interactive visualizations, animations and smart querying.. Users can present and share insights with others through rich storyboard presentation capabilities. PowerView is powered by the BI Semantic Model and the VertiPaq engine.
  • Decoupled PivotChart and PivotTable reports: Users can now create PivotChart reports without having to include a PivotTable report on the same page.

2. Performance Point Services

PerformancePoint Services enables users to create interactive dashboards that display key performance indicators (KPIs) and data visualizations in the form of scorecards, reports, and filters.

In SharePoint Server 2013, PerformancePoint Services offers certain new features to support business intelligence applications. These include the following:

  • Dashboard Migration: Users will be able to copy entire dashboards and dependencies, including the .aspx file, to other users, servers, or site collections. This feature also allows the ability to migrate single items to other environments and migrate content by using Windows PowerShell commands.
  • Filter Enhancements & Filter Search: The UI has been enhanced to allow users to easily view and manage filters including giving users the ability to search for items within filters without having to navigate through the tree.
  • BI Center Update: The new BI Center is cleaner, and easier to use with folders and libraries configured for easy use.
  • Support for Analysis Services Effective User: This new feature eliminates the need for Kerberos delegation when per-user authentication is used for Analysis Services data sources. By supporting Analysis Services Effective User feature, authorization checks will be based on the user specified by the EffectiveUserName property instead of using the currently authenticated user.
  • PerformancePoint Support on iPad: PerformancePoint dashboards can now be viewed and interacted with on iPad devices using the Safari web browser.

3. Visio Services

Visio Services is a service application that lets users share and view Microsoft Visio Drawing (*.vsdx) and Visio 2010 Web drawing (*.vdw) files. The service also enables data-connected Visio Drawing (*.vsdx) and Visio 2010 Web drawing (*.vdw) files.to be refreshed and updated from various data sources.

  • Maximum Cache Size: A new service parameter, it is located on the Central Admininstration Visio Graphics Service Application Global Settings page. The default value is 5120 MB.
  • Health Analyzer rules: New corresponding Health Analyzer rules have been added to reflect the new Maximum Cache Size parameter.
  • Updated Windows PowerShell cmdlets, Set-SPVisioPerformance: This cmdlet has been updated to include the new Maximum Cache Size parameter.
  • Commenting on drawings supported: Users can add meaningful comments to a Visio Drawing (*.vsdx) collaboratively on the web via Visio Services in full page rendering mode.

Exploring SharePoint 2013 Part 7.2 : Mobile – optimised mobile browser experiance

Posted by Kevin Coetzee | Posted in 1. SharePoint 2013, 8. General, SharePoint Mobile | Posted on 15-01-2013


SharePoint Server 2013 offers improvements to the mobile browser experience with the introduction of a new contemporary view. Depending on the mobile browser, users have one of the following browsing options:

  • Contemporary view – This view offers an optimized mobile browser experience to users and renders in HTML5. This view is available to Mobile Internet Explorer version 9.0 or later versions for Windows Phone 7.5, Safari version 4.0 or later versions for iPhone iOS 5.0, and the Android browser for Android 4.0 or later versions.
  • Classic view – This view renders in HTML format, or similar markup languages (CHTML, WML, and so on), and provides backward compatibility for mobile browsers that cannot render in the new contemporary view. The classic experience in SharePoint 2013 is identical to the mobile browser experience of SharePoint Server 2010.
  • Full screen UI – There is also the ability to have a full desktop view of a SharePoint site on a smartphone device.

The classic and contemporary views are only rendered for smartphone mobile browsers.


Exploring SharePoint 2013 Part 7.1 : Mobile – What’s New

Posted by Kevin Coetzee | Posted in 1. SharePoint 2013, 8. General, SharePoint Mobile | Posted on 14-01-2013


SharePoint Server 2013 offers new, optimized viewing experiences across different mobile platforms. Additionally, several new features were added to help improve both worker productivity and usability on the device. This functionality includes the following:

  • Optimized mobile browser experience – For smartphone mobile devices SharePoint Server 2013 provides a lightweight, contemporary view browsing experience for users to navigate and access document libraries, lists, wikis, and Web Parts.
  • Device channels – You can render a single published SharePoint site in multiple designs to accommodate different device targets.
  • Push notifications – A push notification service on a SharePoint site can be enabled to send device updates such as a tile or toast notification to a Windows Phone device.
  • Location – SharePoint Server 2013 supports a new geolocation field type that can be used for mobile application development.
  • Business intelligence content – Certain devices are now able to view business intelligence content such as PerformancePoint Web Parts, Excel Services reports, and SQL Reporting Services reports.
  • Office Web Apps – You can view Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents in mobile browsers with additional functionality in SharePoint Server 2013.

Over the next couple of posts , we’ll delve in a little deeper on each of these…

Exploring SharePoint 2013 Part 6.3 : BCS – Support for apps

Posted by Kevin Coetzee | Posted in 1. SharePoint 2013, 5. BCS / BDC, BCS Configuration, Business Data Connectivity | Posted on 07-01-2013


SharePoint 2013 introduces apps for SharePoint. By using apps for SharePoint, you can add functionality to a SharePoint site by using the self-contained app for SharePoint. When installed, apps for SharePoint do not make any changes to the underlying code on the computer that is running SharePoint Server. Therefore, each app for SharePoint is isolated from the rest of the system. Because apps for SharePoint contain all the resources that they need to function, they are very safe to use and also can be uninstalled cleanly. This post focuses on Business Connectivity Services support for apps for SharePoint. Business Connectivity Services supports apps for SharePoint in two ways. First, BCS models can be scoped to apps for SharePoint. Second, connection information is defined and stored separately from the app-scoped BCS model in BCS connections.


SharePoint 2013, developers of apps for SharePoint can package BDC models in an app for SharePoint. The Business Connectivity Services runtime then creates external content types that are scoped to the app for SharePoint. This limits use of the external content type to the app for SharePoint. Connection properties can be specified in two ways, either in the BDC model that is contained in the app for SharePoint or in a Business Connectivity Services connection settings object that is created and stored in the Secure Store. Otherwise, if you connect to a data source that requires authentication, the connection must be defined separately in the Business Connectivity Services layer by a developer. Also, an OData connection must be used to connect the app for SharePoint to the external data source. By defining the connections separately from the BDC models that are packaged within the app for SharePoint, administrators can more easily manage connections to external systems. A Business Connectivity Services connection settings object is a combination of the following:

  • A name for the connection.
  • The endpoint URL of the data source.
  • A declaration of the credential type and authentication method that will be used to authenticate with the endpoint URL of the data source. You must use a credential type and authentication method that is supported by the external data source. For example, you can declare that the connection will use the credentials of the user that is logged in or a different set. Certificate details can be included also.

When an administrator installs an app for SharePoint that needs to access a data feed through Business Connectivity Services, the app for SharePoint must use a BDC connection. During installation, the administrator must grant permission to the app for SharePoint to use the appropriate BDC connection. Note that external content types created from an app-scoped BDC model are scoped to only the app for SharePoint that contains the model. However, multiple apps for SharePoint — each of which contains an app-scoped BDC model — can all point to the same Business Connectivity Services connection settings object. In this way, connection settings can be reused across different apps for SharePoint

Exploring SharePoint 2013 Part 6.2 : Business Connectivity Services – Event Listeners

Posted by Kevin Coetzee | Posted in 1. SharePoint 2013, 5. BCS / BDC, 8. General, BCS Configuration | Posted on 04-01-2013


SharePoint 2013 provides an event listener. The event listener includes an event subscriber on the SharePoint 2013 side. The subscriber receives notifications from the event publisher (on the external system side) on changes to the data and then initiates predefined actions when changes occur. This enables SharePoint users and custom code to receive notifications of events that occur in the external system. The users and custom code need to explicitly subscribe to events on entities for which they want to receive a notification. The external system can use any of the supported connections (OData, SQL, or WCF) for transactions with the external system.

However, to support eventing, the external system must implement interfaces that allow users to subscribe to events and it must send the notifications back as ATOM feeds or JSON objects to the SharePoint 2013 endpoint.

SharePoint 2013 supports a pull model for getting data from an external system and it introduces a subscription model. In this version, developers can create BCS models that subscribe to published events from an event publisher in the external system. The developers can target a particular entity in the external system, such as the Customer entity, and receive notifications about events that are published on that entity. This enables developers to write custom code for external lists that trigger SharePoint events when data is changed. SharePoint users can also subscribe to alerts on external lists that are associated with a BDC model in which a developer has defined a subscription. For example, you can create a custom event on an external list that sends an email message to an employee when a customer account is assigned to that employee in the external system. You can do this by subscribing to a particular event (or alert) on a particular view of an external list. Note that users can subscribe to an event the same way that they did in SharePoint Server 2010.


Exploring SharePoint 2013 Part 6.1 : Business Connectivity Services – OData

Posted by Kevin Coetzee | Posted in 1. SharePoint 2013, 8. General | Posted on 03-01-2013


SharePoint 2013 introduces support for OData Business Data Connectivity (BDC) connections. This is in addition to data connections for WCF, SQL Server, and .NET assemblies. The Open Data Protocol (OData) is a web protocol that is used to query and update data. OData applies web technologies such as HTTP, Atom Publishing Protocol (AtomPub), and JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) to provide access to information from a variety of applications, services, and stores.

For years, SharePoint has been an OData provider, which means a SharePoint list can be consumed by using OData. In SharePoint 2013, you can now connect to an external data source by using OData.
Business Connectivity Services supports Anonymous, Basic, Windows, and Custom authentication to OData services when it is used with the Secure Store Service. If you want to apply permissions at more discrete levels, use OData connections.

OData connections provide an easier way to create BDC models that work for both SharePoint 2013 and Office 2013 client applications. In SharePoint 2013, you can connect external lists that are surfaced through OData to Office 2013 clients and you can work with the data when you are offline. When the Office 2013 client reconnects, it performs bidirectional synchronization with the OData source.

Before SharePoint 2013 or SharePoint Online can be used as an interface to external data, they must understand what kind of data source it is, how to talk to it, and what kind of authentication the external system expects. These items — and also which tables to read, which items from those tables are of interest, and which operations to perform on them — are all described to Business Connectivity Services in a BDC model.

In SharePoint 2013, you must use Visual Studio 2010 to create BDC models for OData data sources. To make the BDC model creation process smoother, Visual Studio 2010 will be able to connect to the OData endpoint through Business Connectivity Services and read the OData source. Visual Studio 2010 will then automatically generate the BDC model based on the available metadata. The BDC model can then be either imported into the Business Data Catalog as a farm-scoped external content type, or be included in an app for SharePoint. Farm-scoped external content types can be used in external data lists, business data Web Parts, or business data in lists anywhere across the SharePoint farm.
The BDC model will not contain any filters because it is not possible to know what these would be beforehand. By default, Visual Studio 2010 will generate all the Business Connectivity Services operations for all the OData operations (Get, Put, Post, and Delete).

Exploring SharePoint 2013 Part 6 : Business Connectivity Services

Posted by Kevin Coetzee | Posted in 1. SharePoint 2013, 8. General | Posted on 03-01-2013


Continuing from Part 1

The SharePoint 2013 and the Office 2013 suites include Microsoft Business Connectivity Services. With Business Connectivity Services, you can use SharePoint 2013 and Office 2013 clients as an interface into data that doesn’t live in SharePoint 2013 itself. It does this by making a connection to the data source, running a query, and returning the results. Business Connectivity Services returns the results to the user through an external list, or app for SharePoint, or Office 2013 where you can perform different operations against them, such as Create, Read, Update, Delete, and Query (CRUDQ). Business Connectivity Services can access external data sources through Open Data (OData), Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) endpoints, web services, cloud-based services, and .NET assemblies, or through custom connectors.

The next couple of blog posts will lists the new and enhanced capabilities of Business Connectivity Services in SharePoint 2013.

Exploring SharePoint 2013 Part 5 : App Authentication

Posted by Kevin Coetzee | Posted in 1. SharePoint 2013, 8. General | Posted on 20-12-2012


Continuing from Part 1

SharePoint 2013 uses OAuth 2.0 to authorize requests by apps in the SharePoint Store and App Catalog to access SharePoint resources on behalf of a user. The user grants permission to apps in the SharePoint Store and App Catalog to access SharePoint resources on the user’s behalf when they are installed. For example, a user installs an app from the SharePoint Store. A SharePoint site contains an embedded HTML inline frame (IFRAME) that the app renders and that requires the app to access a user list. When a Web browser displays the site, the app then calls back to the server running SharePoint 2013 to access the list on behalf of the user. After the app obtains the data from the list, it displays the contents of the IFRAME.
The app authentication process in SharePoint 2013 uses OAuth to verify a claim that an app makes and assert that the app can act on behalf of an authenticated user. In SharePoint 2013, an instance of the Windows Azure ACS acts as the app identity provider. You can also use app authentication without ACS. The authorization process verifies that an authenticated app has permission to perform a defined operation or to access a specified resource.

Exploring SharePoint 2013 Part 4 : Server-to-Server Authentication

Posted by Kevin Coetzee | Posted in 1. SharePoint 2013, 8. General | Posted on 19-12-2012


Continuing from Part 1

SharePoint 2013 extends OAuth to implement a server-to-server authentication protocol that can be used by services such as SharePoint 2013 to authenticate other services such as Exchange Server 2013 or Lync Server 2013 or services that are compliant with the server-to-server authentication protocol.

SharePoint 2013 has a dedicated local server-to-server security token service (STS) that provides server-to-server security tokens that contain user identity claims to enable cross-server authenticated access. These user identity claims are used by the other service to lookup the user against its own identity provider. A trust established between the local STS (the SharePoint 2013 server-to-server STS) and other server-to-server compliant services (the Exchange Server 2013 or Lync Server 2013 server-to-server STS) is the key functionality that makes server-to-server possible.

For on-premises deployments, you configure the JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) metadata endpoint of the other server-to-server compliant service to establish this trust relationship. For online services, an instance of the Windows Azure Access Control Service (ACS) acts as a trust broker to enable cross-server communications among the three types of servers.

The new server-to-server STS in SharePoint 2013 issues access tokens for server-to-server authentication. In SharePoint 2013 (and also in SharePoint 2010 Products), trusted identity providers that are compliant with the WS-Federation protocol are supported. However, the new server-to-server STS in SharePoint 2013 performs only the functionality that enables temporary access tokens to access other services such as Exchange Server 2013 and Lync Server 2013. The server-to-server STS is not used for user authentication and is not listed on the user sign-in page, the Authentication Provider UI in Central Administration, or in the People Picker in SharePoint 2013 Products.


Exploring SharePoint 2013 Part 3 : Improvements in the claims infrastructure

Posted by Kevin Coetzee | Posted in 1. SharePoint 2013, 8. General | Posted on 18-12-2012


Continuing from Part 1

SharePoint 2013 also includes the following improvements in claims authentication infrastructure:

  • Easier migration from classic mode to Windows-based claims mode with the new Convert-SPWebApplication Windows PowerShell cmdlet. Migration can be run against each content database and each web application. This is in contrast to SharePoint 2010 Products, in which the migration was run against each web application. For more information, see Migrate from classic-mode to claims-based authentication.
  • Login tokens are now cached in the new Distributed Cache Service. SharePoint 2013 uses a new Distributed Cache Service to cache login tokens. In SharePoint 2010 Products, the login token is stored in the memory of each web front-end server. Each time a user accesses a specific web front-end server, it needs to authenticate. If you use network load balancers in front of your web front-ends, users need to authenticate for each web front-end server that is accessed behind the load balancer, causing possible multiple re-authentications. To avoid re-authentication and its delay, it is recommended to enable and configure load balancer affinity (also known as sticky sessions). By storing the login tokens in the Distributed Cache Service in SharePoint 2013, the configuration of affinity in your load balancing solution is no longer required. There are also scale-out benefits and less memory utilization in the web front-ends because of a dedicated cache service.


  • More logging makes the troubleshooting of authentication issues easier. SharePoint 2013 has much more logging to help you troubleshoot authentication issues. Examples of enhanced logging support are the following:
Separate categorized-claims related logs for each authentication mode
Information about adding and removing FedAuth cookies from the Distributed Cache Service
Information about the reason why a FedAuth cookie could not be used, such as a cookie expiration or a failure to decrypt
Information about where authentication requests are redirected
Information about the failures of user migration in a specific site collection

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