Microsoft SharePoint ‘ill-suited’ for traditional Web publishing


Despite its strengths in collaborative document management, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007 falls short as a Web content management tool, according to a recently published report by analyst firm CMS Watch.

MOSS, the report says, is “ill-suited for managing many traditional Web sites.”

Olney, MD–based CMS Watch evaluates enterprise content management (ECM) technologies and strategies with the objective of helping enterprises making quicker and better buying decisions.

The Web CMS Report – published semi-annually by CMS Watch – is based on scores of interviews with content management system (CMS) customers across the world.

The most recent report, which compares 30 vendors across 18 product categories, critically evaluates MOSS 2007.

SharePoint, the report acknowledges, has always been a good product for managing Office documents “and the new version is even better at that.”

However, it notes that managing Web content represents a very different challenge. “Here Microsoft has not hit the mark.”

It cites several reasons why MOSS 2007 falls short as a Web content management tool. These include:

Non-standard code generation – This is a feature, MOSS shares with most portal software.

The generation of non-standard HTML code with extraneous JavaScript and table-based layouts can be a hassle for enterprises that want to employ standards-based design and code conventions, the report says. “Licensees must pro-actively strip this extra code from their own Web sites.”

A Microsoft Canada executive, however, doesn’t see this as a major issue.

“The code is SharePoint related and can be turned off when pages are destined for delivery,” said Elizabeth Caley, senior product manager, SharePoint and enterprise content management with Microsoft Canada. Navigation structure issues – By default, the report says, MOSS 2007 uses a folder-based navigation structure – one that has to be re-coded or replaced by optional controls for more traditional Web site navigation schemes.

In response, Caley says the navigation adheres to a site structure based on user rights.

“Navigational elements can be reordered, styled, hidden or added as needed through an easy to user Web user interface.” She says users with custom requirements can build their own navigation control.

Lack of strong native support for translation workflows – This limitation restricts the product’s effectiveness out of the box for multinational Web publishing efforts, according to the CMS report.

Caley said in lieu of out-of-the-box translation services, MOSS 07 provides the framework for orchestrating the process, “whether that [is] manual or using third party software.”

She said a feature known as “variations” supports the orchestration process for translating Web pages. Steep price – For public-facing Web sites, MOSS lists for US$41,000 per server, making it “one of the most expensive licenses in its mid-market class”, the report notes.

Caley responds to this critique by contrasting Microsoft’s pricing model, with that of other vendors.

“Microsoft pricing is per server while most competitors price per CPU,” she said. She said Microsoft pricing scales better with usage, not requiring additional fees if servers are expanded to meet additional user load. On the positive side, the report notes that MOSS 2007 can be heavily customized and extended using traditional .NET approaches.

The overall conclusion of the CMS Watch report is that while it may be acceptable for document-heavy intranets, MOSS is really more of a development platform.

“Prospective customers should not assume that its ease of deployment for simple file sharing will equate to ease of implementation for managing complex Web publishing operations,” said Tony Byrne, CMS Watch founder, in a statement.

The report lists four criteria buyers may want to consider when selecting a vendor.

These include: Size – the relative size and importance of the vendor in the broad technology marketplace; Focus on ECM – this is a measure of how much the firm’s efforts are focused on ECM; Vendor evolution – this relates to the vendor’s current status – is it evolving as the marketplace changes? Product development – the status of the vendor’s ECM offering (is it set to undergo a major revision, is the company trying to consolidate disparate modules and so on.

ECM is “not a major area of focus for Microsoft as a whole” notes Alan Pelz-Sharpe, a principal at CMS Watch. Despite the publicity surrounding SharePoint, he points out that the product is “nowhere near complete or mature, even if it is progressing well.”

In addition to Microsoft, other CMS vendors whose products are analysed in the report include: EMC|Documentum, Interwoven, Oracle/Stellant, IBM, Open Text/Red Dot, WebSideStory, Day, Mediasurface, Drupal and more.


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