SharePoint (mis)Information, again...

Much like the ballyhoo that started when Mr. Drips posted the 5 things wrong with SharePoint, a company called Ferris Research isn't quite doing their research. They've released a post called SharePoint is not good for enteprise content management and since I'm in a mood tonight and it's my blog I'll get up on my soapbox and rant if I want to.

Despite having a title that just sets off bells in my simple brain, I have to first off say that SharePoint isn't content management anyways. Never was sold that way. That's what Content Management Server (CMS) is for. Okay, the next version of SharePoint will elevate to some kind of Enterprise level as it collides with CMS and provides some very cool content management features. All of this will come in due time of course, but to say that SharePoint isn't ready for Enteprise CM today is like saying it's not ready for high performance workflow transactions either (and can't run your latest XBox game for that matter).

The article goes on with a few points that are kind of like an alien autopsy where the patient is all blurry and unrecognizable and it's hard to tell if it really is an alien or not. You know, the show where they got Commander Riker to narrate it thinking that this would provide some level of credibility to an already cruddy video that looks like it was shot in the Star Wars Kids basement. Oh right, the article.

"Limited Database Scalability. The default database for SharePoint Services is the Microsoft Data Engine. Its storage capacity is limited to 4GB for all content managed on a given server instance. Go beyond this and you need SQL Server, which gets expensive."

Sigh. Yes, we all know the 4GB limitation on the database and it's pretty clear to most humans (at least those that take a minute to read the Administrators Guide) that you wouldn't use MSDE (or WSMDE which is what ships built-in with WSS) for anything other than development or a small team site. And SQL Server being expensive? I don't know about you, but the standard edition is about $800 USD (prices vary) which isn't that bad if you want to service a few thousand users (which you could on a single decent box, as in a $2000 desktop running it, I know, I've done it). If you have a company of 50 employees and you're not using SharePoint to store the universe, then 4GB is enough but I can't say I've ever seen a company that wouldn't lay out a couple of thousand dollars for hardware and software to serve up databases for the all it's employees applications. I don't see that as limited, but that might just be me. Yes, SQL Server can be expensive if you're talking about a multi-cluster box with hot swappable failover but then what isn't?

"Weak Searching and Navigation. It's difficult to find information spread across different workspaces."

Hmm. Search my name in Portal Server at the last company I was at and all documents and list items I authored or was mentioned in come up. If you're only talking about running Windows SharePoint Services, then yes, the cross site search is weak. Why is it weak? Because it isn't there. It's not a designed feature (although there are add-ons that you can get to do it). Okay, Portal Server isn't Google when it comes to searching (yet) but when a company the size of Microsoft shifts all of it's internal search projects to use SharePoint as the search engine, that says something. Again, I wouldn't call it weak but it depends on how you're looking at it.

"Lack of Security for Regulatory Compliance. There's no built-in means to apply security or manage the document lifecycle at the individual document level."

Agreed but again, it wasn't made for that. If SharePoint was pitched as "Your Enterprise needs for Regulatory Compliance in a box" and didn't deliver then you have every right to bitch and complain that it isn't there but stop asking a pig to fly. This all changes with vNext so stay tuned. I know that doesn't help today but there are products on the market (free as in beer) like the 80-20 compliance server and the SOX accelerator that make up for this.

"Software Licenses Costly. Windows SharePoint Services is usually free. However, organizations will most likely have to buy SharePoint Portal Server and SQL Server and, potentially, third-party records management software. Based on retail pricing, a typical SharePoint-based ECM environment will cost $270 to $320 per user to acquire."

Not sure what's meant by "Windows SharePoint Services is usually free". It's always free. Here's the download if you don't believe me. Yes, you need a Windows 2003 Server (and licenese and CALs to run it) but the software is free. As for Portal Server, I don't recommend people go out and buy it if they don't need it. For some reason, the community at large immediately thinks they need Portal Server and, more often than not, they don't. WSS usually is more than enough if you're doing something like departmental team sites or project sites. Also I don't know of any company that pays retail for Microsoft software. Either you have a Volume License agreement or something else where you pay an agreed amount. I don't of any company that pays retail unless you're two people and a small dog. The last company I was at had 7000 seats so licensing was pretty minimal as far as cost went (a users desktop which included Windows XP and CALs for servers [including SharePoint] ran about $50/user. When you get up in those numbers, cost is a bit of a wash compared to other software (take a look at Oracle's price gouging for example). Costly? Sure, if you're dumb enough to fire up a SQL cluster and a Portal Server for 10 people.

A lot of this just boils down to getting what you need and being smart about it. Too many times I hear the same kind of thing about SharePoint (or any other MS product) and how it fails at this and fails at that and is costly blah, blah, blah. When you have about a hundred employees, a couple thousand dollars isn't much for say a Windows Server, SQL, and a WSS site. With a couple of hundred users, Small Business Server is a good option and priced well (and based on WSS for it's document and collaboration features). With a few thousand users, another SQL Server and even Portal Server isn't that costly IMHO. And yes, I've lived and breathed these situations so I'm not just blowing wind out my butt (although I'm sure people will say otherwise in response to this post).

One more thing about cost, I just checked the Ferris page and they now have an entry on Oracle's Content Services and how's it's ECM ready. Of course it's by the same author as the SharePoint one, David Via. Wonder if he'll go on how amazingly cheap economical the Oracle solution is (not!). Of course when you factor in the Oracle database licenses (SQL Server), then there's the Oracle Portal product (SharePoint Portal Server), the BEPL process manager (BizTalk), the Oracle Collaboration Suite (WSS), and the other add-ons you need to get the full potential of it. Well, come back to me and we'll do cost comparison for the full stack and see who comes out on top.

So I don't know who get's paid at Ferris Research for their research, but I think they need to look at some research basics before diving into my territory again.


  • The Drip article deserved to be bashed. It was drivel at best.

    So, I was telling AC just two weeks ago that I still want to publish my SharePoint platform busters (I have a dozen to share with some cleaver work arounds to some) but I am weary that the community may see my post as "negative SharePoint press rather than contributing community commentary".

    My fears just went up again...

    <Todd />

  • Sure about the 4GB limit, Bil ?

    WMSDE used in WSS is always advertised as not having limits on the size of the databases.

    whereas MSDE used in SPS 2003 does (but I thought they were max 2GB there as in the old MSDE used in STS - but you'd know better)


  • Sorry, yes the 4GB limit is on MSDE only. The WMSDE doesn't have it so if you install WSS there's no limit but SPS has it. As always, confusing.

  • Licensing costs do get higher the smaller the organisation. I'm thinking off the top of my head before I collapse into my bed, but I recall a number in the multiple hundreds per seat for all the CALs I need in my organisation with just under 150 people.

    Still it was good to see your refutation that WSS may be more than sufficient for most SharePoint needs.

  • Great blast Bil!

    I get sick of people who public rubbish about Microsoft's cost structures without any basis of comparison with competing products.

    Or even better, the favorite one for bashers when they claim a Microsoft product does not do what its supposed to do, but they don't offer any other product that does.

    I challenge anyone to produce an objective cost comparison between Microsoft's SharePoint offering and Oracle's CMS suite that shows Oracle to be cheaper... you know it can't be done!

    Then again, maybe Mr. Via should do "research" on the meaning of the word "objective"... it's in the dictionary... under O...

  • Nice one, Bill.

    But could you please go to the doctor now and check your blood pressure? We don't want you to get a heart attack from those ignorants at Ferris Research, do we? :-)

  • Great post Bill, could not have said it better

  • Hi Bil,

    Good post. About the WMSDE: as far as I know there is no data limit and no connection limit. The only limit as far as I know is that no additional tables may be created, and that tables cannot be modified.

  • All good points.

    I concur with "Ken" about SQL CALs

    We found the Processor license made more sense given that our database "of choice" is Oracle

    (not my idea, and another story for another day).

    Our incremental software cost to impliment Oracle Applications Server (inc Portal) would have been next to nothing, but we chose WSS because it offered more out of the box

    I also concur with the statement about SPS.

    Not needed here. As to search, well, in all honesty I cannot find much to recommend about it, but life gets better in the future, right.

    In short, a well thought out WSS implimentation can be the bargain of the century. A poorly planned one can be a nightmare, but that could be said of any technology.

    And we have not even begun to talk about relative support costs between Oracle (unbreakable?) and Microsoft.

  • Thanks for saving me the time to react to the Ferris posting... ;)

  • If you think SQL is cheap, then you need to ask MS to show you the costs again.

    30% price hike in our current renewal negotiations. Couple that, with the sales guy telling us, we can offset the cost (in our minds) of SQL and SPS against using it in 12 months for ECM.

    So MS, seem to think Sharepoint and SQL = ECM. Whose right?

  • wah wah, sharepoint sucks.

  • 'atta boy Bil! SharePoint a CM app? What about my CMS? Ok Ferris... now you got to deal with me! In the words of John Belushi... "who's with me?!" <charging out the door> Where's my CMS crew?

  • I might agree with you, if I hadn't just set through a 2 hour pitch by MS trying to sell SharePoint as a CMS software

  • ...and I understand TWC isn't alone. The Ferris post was clearly aimed at folks who were considering SP for enterprise content management, and telling them that this is a mistake. That'll be why it says "Many organizations are also considering it for enterprise content management. That's a mistake..."

    [Full disclosure: Ferris Research is one of my clients]

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